“There’s a new entrant in the business – Apple, with the iPhone,” he said, speaking during his company’s financial results call. “And we don’t think they will stop there.”
The CEO also predicts a move away from console games in favour of uber-set top box affairs, offering a variety of different forms of entertainment – games, music, video – all the goodness you’ll find on an Apple TV(bar the games).
“We will see more customers coming to the video game industry – they will start also to come under the boxes you see under the TV because those TV boxes will be more powerful,” he said.
“We will see more consoles on which we will be able to put products. You saw new interfaces with the Wiimote and also with the DS with the stylus. What we see for the future is they will also be big announcement in interfaces. It will not only happen in consoles but also happen on those TV boxes as well,” he added.
Guiillemot, whose brother Michael is CEO of Gameloft, isn’t alone in thinking Apple plans to make an Apple TV play at the games market.
Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster now anticipates sales of 6.6 million Apple TV’s by the end of this year. Munster also expects launch this year of new Apple TV hardware equipped with a TV input and DVR functionality. Further, he also anticipates an Apple-branded television set equipped with Apple TV-like features by 2011.
Munster explains: “We expect Apple to design a connected television over the next two years (launching in 2011) with DVR functionality built in. These recorded shows could then sync with Macs, iPhones and iPods over a wireless network. The device would push Apple further into the digital living room with interactive TV, music, movie, and gaming features. With its iTunes ecosystem, Apple could develop a unique TV without any set-top-boxes or devices attached.”
Effectively, the Apple TV could replace your DVD player, cable box and games console. Note that the iPhone and iPod touch, together with the App Store, have already seen Apple develop closer relationships with games publishers than ever before. Given that these partners are already now developing using the OS X-based iPhone SDK, it’s no giant leap of fancy to speculate on future full-strength games for the Mac from these developers.
Clearly, Apple TV could also benefit, should the company introduce an SDK for the existing or future generation of the device. The hard work of the Boxee team – who have developed a far more advanced home entertainment system for Apple TV – proves the existing system can already be extended.
“We would love to see Apple investing more resources in the living room,” said Boxee CEO, Avner Ronen. “Werther it’s new versions of the Apple TV, Mac mini or an actual network-connected TV, it means more devices in the living room that Boxee can run on. We also hope Apple will open up Apple TV for developers, so Boxee (as well as other apps) could easily be installed.”
Apple COO Tim Cook recently said: “We’re going to continue to invest in [the Apple TV], because we fundamentally believe there is something there for us in the future.”
Gaming bosses are interested in this potential low-hanging fruit. Apple’s success with the iPhone and the iPod touch has revitalised relationships between the company and games developers.
Aspyr Media director of development Glenda Adams told Mac Format: “From what Apple has publicly announced, I think it is really going to continue to pump up game and application sales.
Future iPhones will offer peer-to-peer networking features, which “will give us some great new game types to come up with, and opens up a whole new world of interactive apps,” Adams added.
Meanwhile in the background, Apple continues to recruit and invest in its own in-house chip engineering teams. April 2008 saw Apple purchase PA Semi, founded by widely respected chip design genius Dan Dobberpuhl, who led development of the ARM processor family, as used in the iPhone.
Apple continues to recruit stars from within the semiconductor industry. A search through LinkedIn reveals over 100 veterans from that industry now work at Apple, including experts from Intel, Samsung and Qualcomm.
Apple has also begun recruiting graphics processor experts. The company recently hired Bob Drebin from AMD. Drebin played an essential part in development of the graphics processor used inside the Nintendo Game Cube.
Apple has also hired AMD’s Chief Technology Officer (graphics products) Raja Koduri, who served at ATI for eight years before AMD’s purchase of the company.
Speaking in January, Koduri characterised console designers as racing to develop next-gen gaming systems with industry consensus seemingly favouring consistent programming modes – write software once and it will run on anything from a handheld device to a high end console. Apple’s OS X, now a proven mobile gaming platform, already plugs this gap.
What could be next in Apple’s plan?
Perhaps you should also ponder Apple’s more recent recruit – also from the gaming space, Microsoft’s senior director of business, insights and strategy for Xbox, Richard Teversham. This exec has been “an integral part of the success of Xbox in Europe and in the UK,” Microsoft said.
Now, finally, ponder this one: Apple’s iPhone is running games. These games are developed to be graphically-rich but lightweight, and available titles include some of the greatest games creations of the last decade, including enduring legends such as Myst and Sim City.
These games are built to run on the iPhone software, software which is itself built using OS X.
That these games are already ready for OS X hints at a strong gaming presence in future on the Mac. Is there any reason the also OS X Apple TV could not benefit? (Other than perhaps the lack of horsepower in the current generation of the box).
There’s got to be a clue in this statement earlier this year from Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous: “Apple has told us from the beginning to be sure to write our new software in a way that will accommodate different resolutions and screen sizes.”