Let’s just be honest… we are at the absolute end of the road for gaming consoles. There is no reason that you are going to need a dedicated gaming machine in the next year or two — you probably don’t even need one now. What makes this more troubling for Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 is that these big, heavy, bulky, hot and loud gaming consoles have to last for an extremely long time in order for them to be profitable for each company. We have been on a 7 to 8-year life cycle for game consoles for the last couple decades, and that model isn’t going to be sustainable going into the future. In fact, Nintendo can’t even sell its brand new Wii U. This is where Apple comes in.
Does the world, the consumer, the living room, need a $400-$500 box at the center of it? A $400-$500 box that is going to be obsolete within a couple of years when we all have desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones all over the place? I think not. All we need is a gateway between our smart devices and our televisions, and here is how I think Apple is going to pull this off:
One major announcement that has been largely overlooked from Apple’s WWDC event is that Apple is now allowing third-party manufacturers to make game controllers for iOS devices. Yes, there is a reference design that involves having the iPhone sit in a game controller accessory, but there’s also a reference design for a straight game controller that connects over Bluetooth.
Why would you need a dedicated game controller to play games on your iPhone’s 4-inch display? Or even on your iPad? Is the market for complex iPad games that might warrant a dedicated gaming controller that big right now? I don’t think so.
What’s more interesting is that if you connect the dots as far as what technology Apple is currently pushing, you can see exactly where the company is moving. Let’s look at Apple’s introduction of a new Wi-Fi protocol called 802.11ac. This new Wi-Fi standard supports data transfer speeds of up to 1.3Gbps, and that allows high resolution video (it can throw around 4K video with easy) to stream between devices.
Think about that. This is the huge missing piece of Apple’s TV puzzle. A reliable, extremely fast Wi-Fi protocol that provides a seamless high-bandwidth streaming experience from device to device.
AirPlay is a brilliant feature and a great piece of technology — you can instantly beam whatever is on your iOS device or computer right to your Apple TV — but I’d be shocked if for as many times as it has worked, there have been other times where the refresh rate was too slow due to limited Wi-Fi bandwidth or some other technical error. This new Wi-Fi standard can solve that, and if Apple allows its devices to connect to the Apple TV with Wi-Fi direct — a direct connection between two devices, removing the need for a wireless access point — then it completes the circle even better.
So, now that we can assume you will be able to stream an incredibly high-resolution feed from your phone or iPad to your Apple TV without issue, just what exactly are you going to stream? Videos, and games.
Apple currently sells its Apple TV for just $99, and that price point is working tremendously well. Without any advertising, and practically just word of mouth, Apple has sold over 12 million of these devices. Let’s assume Apple does actually have a real Apple HDTV in the works, one that will be able to play live television content in addition to content from sources Apple already supports now like iTunes, HBO GO, Netflix and Hulu. Well, that device can be awfully similar to the company’s current Apple TV. Why introduce something that’s five times the price that consumers will buy only every 8 eight years?
Would it make sense for Apple to introduce a brand new Apple TV that’s bigger, heavier, louder, consumers more power, gets hot, and has fans? Probably not. Again, we have the gateway already. You just sit on your living room sofa, use your iPhone or iPad to control it, play content from your devices seamlessly, or stream content directly to the Apple TV. We already do this.
Tell me why these high-powered devices, ones that are updated and upgraded every single year, can’t actually be the console? A console that goes with you. One that lets you play the latest games, store all your music, watch all your videos, use all your apps and browse the Web. You want to see how Apple is going to take over the living room? It’s already being done, we just haven’t been paying attention.
By introducing a game controller standard (this is incredibly helpful since developers now can build games that recognize a standard set of button controls and inputs that will work across every single game in the App Store), Apple has started to turn the volume up on Sony and Microsoft. Soon, you are going to be able to play a console-quality game on your iPhone or iPad with a game controller, and you’re going to be able to see it on your big screen television without any effort. This is game-changing!
What are consumers more likely to buy every year or two? A new Xbox or PlayStation, or a new smartphone or tablet? Do you even have to think about it? Users will have the latest hardware in their living room, bedroom, and family room, and it will show all of their content in addition to live television. It will also be an incredible gaming console that follows you wherever you go.
The future of the living room isn’t a $500 black box straight out of Transformers. The future of the living room is an inexpensive Trojan Horse that can serve as a bridge from that computer in your pocket to your television.
The Boy Genius Report is a periodic column written by BGR founder Jonathan S. Geller. It offers insights and opinions on various products, companies and trends across the consumer electronics business and beyond. Jonathan can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org