Is it time for an Apple game console?With all of the Apple buzz lately, you may be wondering if the company has anything else up its collective sleeves. It seems pretty likely. After all, what's next, once a company already has a strong presence in categories like desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, and media players? Well, we think there's one place it's yet to dominate, and that's the living room. However, Apple doesn't need to make a new device. It already has one, and it might be in your home: the Apple TV.
What's the Apple TV?
Originally released as an experiment in getting iTunes from your Mac to your TV, it's been shrunken down into a tiny box, with internals very similar to an iPhone 4s. It's a handy device, though we might recommend other options for cutting the cord unless you already buy videos and music from iTunes.
I don't want to play iPhone games on my TV!
We're not convinced that you'd just get iPhone games transported to your TV, though that's the first step. A similarly priced system, the Ouya, already plays Android games on your TV. The people behind Ouya were smart enough to bundle in a controller, and have specific games available that support that controller. It's not perfect yet, but it's a start. To make things even more interesting, Sony just announced the PlayStation Vita TV in Japan. For about $100, Japanese consumers will be able to play PlaVita games on their television sets, along with everything else a Vita can do: access Sony's video store, PlayStation Movies, and of course, Netflix. Sound familiar? We think it does.
How can a two-year-old cellphone become a decent gaming system?
Well, for now, it can't. The Apple TV can't even run iPhone apps! Even so, the Apple TV shares enough with the iPhone 4s to play decent games, but it's still in need of a missing link: iOS 7.
iOS 7 adds a few key gaming tricks, including support for game controllers, an updated Core Motion system, and new camera features. Toss that into the existing Apple TV, and you get a simple gaming platform for $99, using your phone as the controller.
If Apple creates a brand new Apple TV, it could put in the new A7 chip -- a 64-bit chip that's already running in their new iPhone 5s. From that point, what's stopping Apple from adding in a new camera, and to accompany that 64-bit chip, nearly as much RAM as the upcoming PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?
Here's an idea for the future: you buy a game for your iPhone, and it's downloaded to your new Apple TV. The Apple TV version might have motion controls, but also have access to its new built-in camera and your iPhone as a gaming controller, just like the Wii U GamePad. It should connect to Game Center, allowing you to save your progress and play the same game on your iPhone while you're out and about.
Apple's admitted that the Apple TV may seem out of place for its usual product line, but the device has still sold 13 million units. That's certainly not as good as the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3, but it's more than the closest mobile competitor, the PlayStation Vita. Apple has already built up the customers, the developers, and it even has the games. All it needs to do is launch the system.