The 3rd generation Apple TV box, due to be revealed in San Francisco on Weds, looks to be quite a departure if the fansite rumours are to be believed. Featuring touch-sensitive haptic controllers, its own appstore and beefed-up processing power, Tim Cook & Co may be out to lure gamers away from their beloved XBoxes and Playstations.
It will mark the latest attempt by the firm to move into the living room, and result (what a surprise) in a substantial price hike for the device, whic currently retails at a mere £60. (Let’s face it, such a modest pricetag for something with the Apple logo on it was a bargain, the only wonder is that they hadn't increased it already).
But as smart TVs become more prevalent, the demand for ‘just’ a video streaming box is bound to die out so a substantial revamp does make sense. And given that gaming is such a popular alternative use for people’s TVs, it’s an obvious way to go.
So should Sony and Microsoft - who have had the lucrative if super-geeky world of heavy-duty video gaming pretty much to themselves for years - really be worried?
Well, yes and no. Yes, they should certainly be worried by the statement of intent the move represents - the incumbents of any market that Apple makes a move on are going to find themselves facing one of the toughest, richest and most successful competitors out there. And for both Sony and MS, gaming has been a pretty consistent and reliable market in a world where many old revenue streams have been breaking down.
But no, they probably don’t have too much to fear directly from this new device. A better processor and some fancy new controllers are unlikely to woo many die-hard Call of Duty fans away from their sleek and dangerous high-end consoles, armed to the teeth as they are with super-fast graphics chips and the ability to take the most demanding of gameplay in their stride.
Rather, the new Apple TV is aimed more at what has become known as the ‘casual gamer’. Those milder-mannered punters who have perhaps been drawn into gaming by playing something nice and sedate like Candy Crush or Farmville on their phones and iPads, and might fancy a similarly restful experience in big screen HD, at a reasonable price.
So the big boys should at least have some breathing space in which to digest the unwelcome news that Apple’s tanks are heading for their lawns.
Unless that is you are talking about the ‘other’ video game major Nintendo, whose successful Wii console is much more casual-gamer friendly and may feel the pinch from Apple TV pretty much straight away…