Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox SmartGlass initiative at E3 2012. Designed to push relevant game and entertainment content to whatever screened device users have at hand — smartphones, tablets, PCs running Windows 8 — SmartGlass is a major pillar of Microsoft’s Xbox strategy going forward, and all future first-party games will support it.

A fair question to ask is whether Xbox SmartGlass, when it launches this Fall, will be so compelling that it actually manages to drive sales of companion hardware to players who already own Xbox 360s — and there is reason to believe that Microsoft expects it to. Rumors are flying that we are just days away from the unveiling of a Microsoft-branded tablet, designed to compete head-on with Apple’s ubiquitous iPad and Amazon’s successful Kindle Fire.

According to Hollywood-focused website The Wrap, Microsoft is promising a “major” announcement during an event scheduled for Monday, June 18th. The company has given no indication of what the announcement will be, and has even taken the precaution of withholding the event’s location. Nevertheless, it is widely expected that the event will mark Microsoft’s entry into the tablet race.

The Microsoft tablet itself is rumored to run Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 designed for ARM processors, but otherwise details are currently nonexistent — screen size, storage, price, Internet connectivity (Wi-Fi only or 4G?), even specific branding remain open questions. This tablet rumor follows closely on Microsoft’s sizable investment in Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader, which runs Google’s Android OS, and the release of Nokia’s aggressively priced Lumia 900 Windows Phone.

Xbox 360 may have the reputation of being the console of choice for hardcore gamers, but in truth the system’s audience is much broader than that. Microsoft has successfully transformed the Xbox 360 from a purely games-focused machine to an all-purpose entertainment hub, thanks to innovations like Kinect and a wide variety of movie and music apps, soon to include Xbox Music.

Indeed, Xbox 360 is now used more for “entertainment” than it is for playing games. With SmartGlass poised to extend the Xbox experience across multiple devices, a Microsoft tablet potentially makes a lot of sense  — particularly for individuals (or families) who already have an Xbox 360 at the heart of their home entertainment set-ups (and who don’t already own an iPad). Then again, Apple currently commands 68% of the tablet market — would a Microsoft tablet be any real competition? What do you think?

Microsoft’s “major” announcement takes place Monday, June 18. Keep your eyes on Game Rant for more on this story as it develops.

Xbox SmartGlass is due this Fall.

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Source: The Wrap [via CVG], VentureBeat