How Android and Windows 8 Are Transforming the Second-Screen Experience

February 20, 2013 Boris Chan

Around a year ago, Gary Vaynerchuk predicted that Superbowl 2012 commercials would make much greater use of viewers’ second (and third) screens. That is, brands will extend beyond just 30-second commercials and, using Twitter hashtags or Facebook URLs, connect with viewers and users socially online. The second screen represents a shift in the way we consume content; that is, if we are watching TV, we very likely have another screen or two in front of us (it could be a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or other screen). It’s very real today: as Business Insider reported recently, 85% of smartphone users reported second-screen behavior at least once a month.

Windows 8 and Android are both about to change the way we consume content, on both screens. There are two primary forces driving this change: the first is the growing use of the Android OS on TVs, appliances, non-mobile screens, and other screens. The second catalyst is the emergence of Windows 8 and its use on devices in many different form factors. Windows 8’s modern UI also allows for the use of always-on companion apps, which is different from the typical get-in and get-out context of mobile devices.

Here are three ways that I think second screens will be used in the near future:

In-Device Companion

Our work with Viggle helped us realize that mobile devices can be used as companions for television. Viggle is a program that rewards users for watching TV. In a Shazam-like manner, it identifies TV shows that users are watching and incentivizes user check-in with points. The app allows Viggle to know who is watching the show from the audio projected by the TV.

Windows 8 allows for two apps to be run on the same screen simultaneously. One app can always be running in the background, or on the side, which means that it can serve as an active companion to both your television and mobile screen. It means that you can run the app ubiquitously in the background as you’re doing something else on that screen, so you don’t need to switch into that companion app on your mobile screen.

New form factors, such as Samsung’s dual screen flip phone, also make simultaneous apps much more appealing to developers and designers. Companion apps can now run in the background while another app is running, which makes the companion all the more ubiquitous and influential.


Windows 8 is available in many form factors, from tablets and mobile devices, to powerful desktop PCs. One such form factor is a tabletop computer. This concept exists not only in the Sony VAIO Tap 20, but also in the original Microsoft Surface coffee table (someone ported Windows 8 to it).

In this case, mobile phones running the same platform could open up another dimension for collaboration opportunities on the bigger screen. The same app could be running on different screens, and people could work on the same project simultaneously either in-room or remotely.


Devices and displays running the same app on the same platform would become an interoperable unit, with a system that is capable of being controlled from each device.

One example of the rise of interoperable devices is that there are several emerging technologies that mimic Apple’s Airplay, but for all mobile devices; among these are MHL, DLNA, and Miracast. These technologies allow you to beam full-HD, 1080p, video data from your phone to your television.

Just as how Windows 8 is already available on many devices, Android is also spreading into many devices, which means there’s a lot more demand to enable these experiences. These technologies allow mobile devices to connect to a second screen limited not only to TVs and projectors, but into appliances like refrigerators, automotive displays, and other home automation.

The data connection also means that the mobile device can almost act as a remote control for the other types of hardware. For example, a mobile phone can connect to a television and run a Netflix app. The film or show will be displayed on the television, but what should appear on the Netflix app running on the phone screen?

For example, enter the Xbox SmartGlass companion app: the second screen can display a map instead of having the map on the bottom-left corner of the screen. Additional information can also be displayed such as backstory information, character bios, and the such.

Final Thoughts

Companion apps and devices are becoming much more intricately enhanced by the emerging connections. As Android and Windows 8 devices emerge in various form factors, apps can be run on the same platforms simultaneously on different devices. These much more intricate connections enable much further enhanced information synchronization, and extremely different ways of using technology as we know it.

Connect with Boris Chan on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About the Author


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