Apple conspiracy theory: Apple TV is destined to become a games console

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One of the announcements from Apple’s recent iOS8 unveiling that you might have missed was Apple’s new “Metal” game engine – which received attention mostly from developers. But could it have big implications for the future of Apple TV?

metal.png

Its pretty complex to explain, but essentially to make 3D games for iPhone and iPad, developers have previously used a system called OpenGL. Essentially this sits between the game code and iOS, and does all of the difficult stuff. It’s useful because it means games can be built more quickly.

Where Metal improves on this is that it makes the “middleware” (the big in between, like OpenGL) more efficient as it is specifically designed for iOS, rather than a number of different systems. Because Apple have an in-depth knowledge of how its hardware works, it can build metal so it only uses the minimal possible system resources (memory, etc). As a result, games built with Metal could run on the same phone as OpenGL, but look much better as there are more resources available for displaying graphics.

Here’s the graphic Apple used to illustrate the difference:

opengl.png

And this is where the conspiracy begins.

In a short post David Sparks, who writes the MacSparky blog, wondered:

“One thing that’s been lingering in my mind since last week was the number of times everyone kept describing the new Metal platform as providing “Console” quality graphics. That’s pretty great and I’m looking forward to seeing some powerful iPad and iPhone games but how would this impact on the rumored updated AppleTV. There are lots of rumors that Apple has teams working on the next AppleTV and it is going to get more than a face lift. What if game developers, using Metal and the next Apple chip could push enough pixels to actually be in the ballpark with existing game systems (or at least close behind) and Apple put it’s weight behind a game controller? These things seemed inconceivable until last week’s Keynote but now I’ve got to wonder. Maybe the push for Metal was more about the AppleTV than iOS.”

Could he be on to something here? Could Apple TV, which already has an installed userbase be the springboard Apple need into home consoles? Their device is already cheaper than the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One – and Metal could reduce the disparity in graphics quality.

As Sparks says, all Apple would need to do is come up with an official games controller (or controller standard), and it would both have a viable games platform and a more compelling reason to have an Apple device plugged into your TV.

Let the conspiracy theories begin!

James O’Malley