Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Workflow Oriented Apps for Connected TV Devices...with Pizza!

Traditional media apps that live on consoles and connected TV devices typically focus on allowing browsing and playback of video content at their core.  Makes sense - that's the entire reason you bought your Roku/Smart TV/etc!  

The recent launch of the Xbox Live Tournaments app powered by Virgin Gaming marked an important milestone for applications on consoles/connected TV devices, in that it was not a traditional media app.  Instead, it was a workflow-oriented application that focused on leveraging the 6-foot TV/couch/living room experience as a primary vehicle for productivity in a situation where using a PC or a tablet would be more interruptive and lose context.  If you've signed in to your Xbox Live profile and want to play games against other users of Xbox Live, maintaining that context has a tremendous amount of value when you want to browse for games, opponents, and tournaments, and that's the biggest value proposition of the Xbox Live Tournaments app.

Where else does the TV itself beat out a tablet, phone, or PC in terms of workflow/productivity apps?  It's hard to imagine Kinect's gesture and voice commands or an Xbox controller providing a faster or richer browsing experience for productivity applications like checking my bank account or browsing email.  However, one compelling use case that jumps out is a multi-user experience.  When a family in a living room needs to make a decision on what to consume, or when a group of coworkers in a board room needs to collaborate to provide input to accomplish something, the TV provides a great interface for viewing, browsing, and acting on content.  

It's in this space that I see a wave of workflow applications for connected TV devices coming in the near future.  

With that in mind, my colleague Keith Craig pointed out that Microsoft and Pizza Hut had launched a Pizza Hut app for the Xbox today.  At first, I reminded him that April Fool's Day is April first.  Sure enough though, this is real!  Pizza Hut's app features a "Create Your Own" pizza tool that users in a living room can use to come up with pizza toppings on which they all agree.

Most of the reaction I've read online shares my initial sarcastic response - see Doug Aamoth's "You can FINALLY Order Pizza Hut Using Your Xbox 360".  This sarcasm is somewhat well deserved: the app appears in the "Social" section of the apps in Xbox Live even though it isn't a social app - a growing pain of being the first in a new category of apps that doesn't yet have a real category.  Furthermore, the value proposition of downloading and setting up an account for a dedicated app to order food from one restaurant is dubious for most users.

However, these reactions may miss the long view of what this type of app represents.  There's a real need for non-media applications in a lean-back experience, and I'm convinced that future apps will come along with very compelling value propositions for connected TV users.

As an example, my wife and I recently had a baby, and as such we've increased the frequency that we use GrubHub to browse menus of local restaurants and have food delivered to our home.  When we do so, my wife often browses menus on her phone, and then calls out restaurants she's interested in to me, at which point I'll often use my own phone or my laptop to separately browse the content.  Accomplishing this task on a shared, large screen would represent a vastly improved multi-user experience.  A single GrubHub app would allow us to order food from ANY local restaurant in a consistent shared experience, and the improvement in the experience would only grow if we had friends or a larger group over.  

I'd love to see a GrubHub app on the Xbox, building on the Pizza Hut concept.  It would provide a fantastic amount of utility for the living room environment!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Virgin Gaming Xbox Live Tournaments App

I'm excited to announce that the Xbox Live Tournaments app powered by Virgin Gaming has just launched!  Our team at Vertigo partnered with Virgin and Microsoft to design and develop a way for Virgin Gaming's community of over 2 million gamers to find and compete in gaming tournaments without having to leave the Xbox console.

Most Xbox 360 LIVE applications are media applications but Virgin Gaming broke new ground by building a feature rich Xbox gaming application with sophisticated workflows and payment system.  It was a lot of fun to be part of the team that brought this unique application to life!

To kick off the new app, Virgin Gaming has decided to host a $100,000 tournament rewarding users for playing on the app. 

Time for me to brush up on my Madden skills...

Video and screenshots appear below, and see the official Vertigo news post and the Virgin Gaming blog for further details.