Like most 11-year-olds, my son loves playing video games on the Wii, the PlayStation and, yes, even on his iPod Touch. With that said, I don't know if he'd find anything appealing about playing the games he's downloaded from Apple's App Store on the living room big screen TV - not with a Wii and PlayStation already there.
This morning, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested that Apple could use next week's Worldwide Developer's Conference to launch an SDK for games in a new Apple TV App Store - not that Apple has offered any clues that it's even working on an App Store for Apple TV.
Munster, it seems, has a good eye for businesses Apple should be in - even if Apple itself doesn't see it that way. After all, it was Munster who predicted back in February that Apple would sell 6.6 million Apple TV units this year. Yet, I haven't really heard a peep out of Apple as it relates to Apple TV in months and I certainly haven't seen any efforts by the company to raise awareness about Apple TV and the digital living room.
For the sake of disclosure, I have an Apple TV unit in my living room and my family likes using it to rent HD movies (no need for a Blu-Ray player in my home) and play slide shows of our family photo albums in iPhoto. Like Munster, I would like to see Apple pay more attention to Apple TV and treat it with the same respect it gives the iPod, the iPhone and the Mac. It really is an innovative product worthy of more respect and there's so much more than the company could and should be doing with it.
But if Apple - or Munster - thinks that games on a special App Store for Apple TV is the best approach, they're setting themselves up for disappointment. After all, there are already a lot of heavy hitters out there in the video game business - the Wii, the Xbox, the PlayStation - and just this week, there was plenty of video game buzz coming out of the big E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles. None of it had anything to do with Apple.
Sure, there's some meat to the idea that Apple TV could become the hub of the digital living room and games would only be a part of that. But isn't that what Microsoft is shooting for with the Xbox and the integrations with Facebook, Twitter and last.fm that were announced at E3? I can only imagine what those commercials might look like. (Hi, I'm Apple TV. And I'm an Xbox...)
In his note to investors, Munster writes:
If Apple was planning on releasing an updated Apple TV in Sept. (which we are expecting), the company could use the gathering of its developers to launch an SDK for the Apple TV and announce an App Store for the platform. The Apps could include digital video services to expand the content available on the Apple TV (i.e Hulu), but perhaps more importantly, developers could begin developing games for the Apple TV. We believe Apple would likely develop an SDK that enabled the iPhone or iPod touch to be a controller or input device for games on the iPhone. This would enable users to control game features (like driving a car) with the tilt of the iPhone or iPod touch using the built-in accelerometer, but would not enable Wii-like motion sensing, for advanced features like swinging a golf club or aiming a weapon.
He went on to stress that he doesn't expect this to be announced at next week's developer's conference "due to its relative complexity." Instead, he's speculating (suggesting? hinting? hoping?) that the company might reach out to developers next week to help kick-start those efforts.
As an Apple TV owner, I hope Munster is right with his projections - but I won't hold my breath. The idea of using the iPhone or iPod Touch as a video game controller is intriguing - though I can't imagine anyone would buy an Apple TV for the games and then run out and pick up a couple of iPod Touches or iPhones so they can play them.
I can't imagine that Apple thinks anyone would do that either.