Apple’s WWDC conference is not about revealing new hardware, it’s about the new building blocks that developers can use to make best use of any new hardware that will be available later in the year. So let’s play join the dots on the subject of Apple TV.
One of the presentations at this year’s WWDC dealt with gaming and Apple’s ambitions in this area. The reach of the existing Game Center service on iOS and OSX was noted as 130 million monthly active users. That compares to an installed base of around seven million PlayStation 4s, six million Wii Us, five million Xbox Ones, and over 42 million 3DS units.
In terms of reach to gamers, Game Center is a proven monster that continues to attract gamers on a regular basis.
Then there is controller forwarding. Announced today, this expands the ‘game controllers Made for iOS’ program launched last year which allowed for custom game controllers to talk to Apple devices. The new feature allows all the control inputs into the iPhone, as well as extra inputs from the iPhone, to be combined as one mega-controller. This combination of controller and iPhone creates a multi-function controller for iPad and Mac based games.
A handheld controller with physical buttons, plus the motion sensing capabilities of the iPhone, along with a touch screen, opens up a huge number of gaming options.
Wind back to the WWDC keynote, and you will recall the announcement of Metal, a new API for iOS game developers. As part of the offering, Metal reduces the OpenGL overheard, offers efficient multithreading, better shader technology, and increases the efficiency of rendering graphics. Available now in beta, this should allow for some stunning games on iOS when the OS and new hardware is made available to the public in the fall.
According to Tim Cook, Apple TV is no longer a hobby. It is a notable revenue stream for Apple thanks to the media buying capabilities from the App Store. What is not available is direct support the for the apps and games available on the store. There are some steps towards this using an iPhone or iPad with AirPlay to stream some games to an HDTV via Apple TV, which illustrates a number of principles that would be needed.
For a new Apple TV to work as a gaming console there needs to be a number of ‘final steps.’ There needs to be a gaming environment, there needs to be some form of gaming controller, there needs to be ‘console level’ hardware for developers to user, and there needs to be an ecosystem to buy games and media.
Apple’s product line-up is going to be “the best in 25 years”, and that is certain to include a new Apple TV with new capabilities and perhaps a new mission.
I think that’s that’s more than enough dots for today.