This week, both Sony and Microsoft have moved forward with plans to integrate their console's online networks with handheld devices. Thing is, they're doing it wrong.
While Microsoft's WM7 interface looks amazing, the way it's making use of Xbox Live is wasteful. Counter-productive. Same goes for Sony; while it's admirable the company wants to allow PS3 and PSP users to access the PlayStation Network from Sony Ericsson phones, the execution is lacking.
Why? Because both companies, crippled by an inflexible corporate structure, are hung up on the word "exclusive".
How mobile access to your console accounts should work is via a universal app. A common program you can install on an iPhone, an Android phone, a Nexus One, a Windows phone, a Sony Ericsson phone. Because that's the variety of phones we, as console owners, possess. While every 360 owner has a 360, they don't all own the same phone, nor can they be reasonably expected to. The phone market is a larger, more complex one than the one for home video game consoles.
It's a philosophy certain sections of these giant companies are in tune with. Microsoft, for example, has an application for competitor Apple's iPhone, for its Bing search engine. It also releases Office software for the Mac, despite Apple's computer being, in many respects, a rival to Microsoft's own ambitions in the personal computing space.
Microsoft does this because, to the people working on Bing and Office, it makes business sense. It's catering to a market, and in doing so, making money. The problem is, not all sections of these companies employ such common sense. They're cut off, operating in isolation (and in some cases even competition), so what may seem a logical idea to one area seems like heresy to another.
Clinging to outdated notions of "exclusivity", then, both Microsoft's Xbox Live Mobile and Sony's PlayStation Network will be available only to people owning phones sold by those companies. Own a 360 and an Android phone? You're shit out of luck, you can't use the new Xbox Live features (or play its games). Own a PS3 and an iPhone? Same deal.
It's just so... disappointing. Here, years after the release of these consoles and the dawn of the smartphone era, and the first officially-sanctioned services to bring consoles and smartphones together are dead on arrival, rendered useless by the fact that the world's most popular phones - a list that does not include anything running Windows Mobile or anything made by Sony Ericsson - are cut out of the action.
Sure, there are home-made options - 360Live on the iPhone is particularly good - but in 2010 we shouldn't be relying on fan-made projects. I should be able to pick up my iPhone, and while way from home, be able to check my friends list, my Gamerscore and my PSN trophies on something supported by the console manufacturer. Hell, that's just for starters. I can do that stuff with Twitter and Facebook already. In a perfect world, we'd be able to send messages (both text and voice) to other users and queue up our downloads as well.
But we can't. And probably never will. Instead, one day in the future, we may actually meet a person that was able to take advantage of all these neat new services. And they'll say how neat they were. And how it was such a shame he was the only person he knew that ever used them, since all his friends already owned iPhones or Androids....