Saturday, June 6, 2009

iPod as a Game Platform

In recent years, Apple has bought a fabless chip-making operation, an embedded graphics company, and lots of intellectual property involving image processing and user interfaces. (And a seasoned hardware manager with blade server and chip design expertise.) Apple has also introduced a wildly-successful line of handheld computers that mostly masquerade as telephones, but has distributed over a billion applications for these "phones". Not surprisingly, many of the applications in question are games.

So, when will Apple's iPhone/iPod-Touch product -- or, rather, their successors, which might include low-price models -- turn out to offer serious competition to XBox and PSP?

The iPod Dock with its video output seems to make 5.1 surround, 3D graphics, and wireless capabilities an interesting possibility near a home theater. Whether as a client console or a game server, the iPhone and iPod Touch seem to offer a way to allow Apple to make money while selling both a game platform, and selling the games. The iPhone is well-liked by game developers, which isn't a bad start. One developer declared at a conference that the iPhone would going to become the dominant games platform, though what passes for "dominant" in a field full of loss-leaders might be hard to measure: numbers of consoles sold? numbers of games sold? profit realized by various market participants? Interestingly, Apple's highly-connectde device offers opportunities for developers to be paid based not on downloads, but on use of a game -- if ad-based game support turns out to be workable.

Maybe the iPhone has become a significant game platform already. What might the future hold?

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