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Apple's casual Xbox: Apple TV seeded for online gaming

iPhone as touchpad controller, anyone?

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How about this for an online gaming set-up: an 1080p HD TV for display duties, an Apple TV as your console, and an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch as your controller?

Text strings spotted within Apple's iOS 4.3 beta release, all prefixed "ATVGames", suggest the company is planning to make this possible, according to a report by TUAW.

Apple updated the Apple TV in September 2010, ditching the original model's Mac OS X derivative operating system and Intel processor, and replacing them with its A4 ARM chip and iOS.

Since the iPhone and iPad offer iOS-based games through the iTunes App Store, why not the Apple TV 2 too?

Possible, yes, but so far there has been little sign that Apple might introduce apps to the Apple TV, let alone games. The strings embedded in iOS 4.3 suggest that might change.

Games designed for the iPad's 1024 x 768 display could easily scale to 720p or 1080p, with bit of topping or tailing, or letterbox bars, to deal with the different aspect ratio, but the Apple TV's UI isn't really designed for app usage, and its remote control is certainly no use for gaming.

But iOS devices can communicate wirelessly, and it's not a massive speculative leap to suggest that just as these gadgets can already be used as an Apple TV remote control, that taps and swipes on their touchscreens could be sent to the set-top box during gameplay.

Apple's gaming service, Game Center, could provide a focal point for Apple TV gaming, and anything that'll run smoothly on an iPad will run smoothly on the Apple TV since both share an almost identical internal design.

Apple will have to bring apps to the Apple TV - too many telly makers are bringing apps to their sets, and it won't want to be left behind. And the success of gaming on mobile iOS devices will certainly have made Apple realise how strong its brand is in casual gaming. ®

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