Microsoft’s SideShow-enhanced PC gaming concept confirms hunch you can never have enough displays


Windows SideShow‘s reception in the marketplace since the launch of Windows Vista has been lukewarm at best, but they haven’t given up. Now Microsoft is trying to breathe new life into Windows SideShow by illustrating some interesting applications of the platform to PC gamers.

A research study conducted by Microsoft earlier this year shows gamers are keen on a small Windows SideShow-powered touch-enabled and rotatable widescreen display to the tune of about 6.4-inches attached to the side of a monitor. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also suggested the display be connected via WiFi or Bluetooth so you could place it wherever. Since, Microsoft has ran with the idea showing how such a screen can benefit gamers.

One and perhaps the most obvious implementation of SideShow for a game, illustrated above, is to move the menus and on-screen controls of the game to the SideShow display, freeing up the primary display to show more of the game. This I’m sure captures the interest of RPG and strategy players who might find a third of the screen today dedicated to controls.


In another scenario, the auxiliary display could also be used to provide a more immersive gaming experience. In this example, the auxiliary display acts like wing-mirror of a racing game, but is suggested could act as an instrument panel for a flight simulator game. Of course prior art is due as Sony first demoed the same concept between a Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable for a racing game, however has since failed to realize.


Furthermore, the auxiliary device could display secondary information when a gamer would normally otherwise have to pause the game to display, for example a map in a flight simulator game. Anyone who’s played GTA4 probably comprehends how frustrating it was to pause the game every time you needed to review the large map.

Last but not least, the auxiliary display could also provide information outside of the game but useful to the player, for example walkthroughs, game guides or chatting applications. Of course, like a standard SideShow device, it should also allow you to control music, read emails and check the weather, and we all know how well that caught on.

As an avid PC gamer, this definitely captures my interest but of course is still nothing more than a Photoshop mockup (as seen by the Gamespot watermark). If a hardware vendor can produce such a device for under $100, I think it could sell like hotcakes.

35 insightful thoughts

  1. I’d like to see one of these under my laptop’s touchapd.

    Having only to look down to see my unread mail, notifications… would be great.

    And im sure with some manoeuvring they could actually make these buttons, so when I press my unread mail icon on my touchpad, it opens my mail

  2. SideShow will go into trashcan quite soon given current economic climate. It’ll happily share space with other wonders of technology from MS, like ‘Smart Displays’. MS Surface will be there next – the only question is when.

    Just let it die, please.

  3. Of course, any serious flight simmer is already using 2 (or more) displays anyway. Where else would I put my charts and various instrument panels, primarily the FMC-CDU, which I like to have visible at all times; especially in the Level-D 767, where the virtual cockpit FMC-CDU doesn’t show the actual data so you have to use the 2D version, this is crucial. I suspect I’ve thoroughly lost everyone who’s not an expert on either Flight Simulator or real aircraft. 😛

  4. I had seen an article in a computing magazine of how to extend an old Dell/HP palm-style device to be used as an extra, external display for similar, but rather less responsive purposes (such as chat, email, etc…). If I can find the article I’ll either retype it with credit to the source, or a link to an online version if I can find one.

  5. Why go the SideShow route rather than just another display? The wireless aspect of the connection sounds interesting, though (albeit limiting, especially if we’re talking Bluetooth). Small quibble, also, but I think $100 (USD?) is still a bit high regarding the ideal price point for mass adoption. Maybe it’s just me? I think under $75 would be a better sweet spot to aim for, though.

    Personally, I would love to see the Office Communications Server/Communicator folks run with this–particularly if it had some sort of failover or “offline” if your computer was not booted up. Priced around $75… wow. Sign us up for a fleet of these.

  6. Meh, this is only good if it costs less than just adding a second monitor. Why pay more for a smaller screen?

    AFAIK, Supreme Commander supported multi monitors, where you could have the map on a second screen.

  7. @MD: It definitely needs to be a cheaper than a second monitor, but remember this would also be a touchscreen so you could interact with it.

  8. Well its a good thing Ensemble is still around to make Age of Empires work with it! =/

  9. This will be pretty amazing technology if it allows Forza 2 to run on a PC. 😛

    (LOL, that game is 360 only. They could’ve at least faked screenshots using games that area actually out for the PC.)

  10. …or maybe I’m being a bit harsh. I mean, Forza 2 could be released for the PC when this technology comes out, I suppose…

    It’s just that the combination of using screenshots with the Gamespot logo and screenshots from 360-only games make me think this idea is kinda vapourware, not something that’s being seriously considered or worked on in conjunction with any serious partners or game developers.

    Maybe it’ll grow into something serious, though.

  11. Sorry to be the kill joy but games developers wont support it, you can add this to a variety of other features (tray & play etc) that game developers just aren’t interested in anymore because the PC SKU is going to be the lowest seller hence they will not actively develop any stand out features for it.

    Microsofts own commitment to its GFWL group is on shaky ground already, after the closure of Ensemble and the Flight Sim group, very few third parties are interested in putting PC gaming first anymore (Blizzard and Valve both being the exception but both companies have their own agenda and not likely to support anything MS proposes).

  12. There needs to be an influx of great PC games. Console ports and simplified games that are cross platform are plaguing the market.

  13. Sideshow? You mean the display that isn’t a display?

    To say it got a cold reception would infer that a product was offered to the public. So far, I have never run across one. There is a website dedicated to sideshow devices. Mostly, it is a graveyard of products in development that never got anywhere.

    I would not hold my breath.

  14. Actually, I missed the touch screen part first time around, and that makes it a lot more interesting. Interacting with an FMC-CDU with the mouse is cumbersome (most support keyboard lock but that’s not very convenient either).

    If I could put the CDU on a touch screen side panel, it would make a good alternative to getting a full-fledged hardware FMC-CDU, which tend to be very, very expensive, e.g. see here:, they’re over €1000 incl. VAT.

  15. While I see the SideShow as an interesting technology, it will be very hard to get this into the marketplace. Using RPG game as an example for it’s usage is a failure, the action- and statusbars is important and vital information in an RPG, the graphics not so much.

    It was interesting with the early concepts for laptops as an indicator for status on email and playback of media, but this is not a premium that users wants to pay for. The exact same functionality and information is available on our mobile phones. Most people store their email online and access it using any device they use.

    To me, there is no consumer market for SideShow devices. Surface on the other hand, has a much bigger potential in the corporate and consumer space.

  16. Speaking of SideShow, there seems to be an Outlook gadget for SideShow in the leaked Office 2010. I wonder if it shows email on the aux display when your comp is off.

  17. i loves the idea for map viewing in games like GTAIV, having to pause the game to view your map is very annoying…


  18. It’d be much easier to extend the Sideshow experience onto a mobile phone (with a relatively large touchscreen.

  19. so.. are they selling the peripheral or the software to run it?… coz nearly everyone these days has a cellphone, which if current trends continue a majority of which will contain large touch screens. BRING THIS SOFTWARE TO WINMO!!

  20. Wouldn’t work on the RTS example.

    You’d have to move your mouse farther to reach the buttons. You’d be positioning the cursor in a box way away from the units you’re performing actions on. Anyone who plays RTS hardcore enough to consider the display already knows most of the hotkeys; they’d be getting it only to see more of the map without the HUD. Game developers know that this would give certain players an unfair advantage, so they likely wouldn’t support it. Heck, none of Blizzard’s RTS games even support widescreen.

  21. guess ms replaced this with Microsoft Courier

    its kind of funny logitech really didnt mention their gamer lcd tech api’s run off of sideshow

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