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Claims that Apple are looking at the games market are accurate according to Apple Insiders however the problem for Apple is getting access to a processor that can deliver the speed needed for an advanced games console.

12 months ago approched IBM in an attempt to get access to the cell processor now found in the new PS3. This was knocked back because of Sony’s investment and part ownership of the processor development program.The Cell processor consists of a general-purpose power PC processor core connected to eight special-purpose DSP cores. These DSP cores, which IBM calls “synergistic processing elements are what make the Cell processor unique. It is this unique capability that Sony is banking on over the next few years to give them a big gaming advantage over the Xbox and the Nintendo Wii.

This week in Sydney the Vice President of Technology for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Paul Holman and I discussed the possibility of Apple entering the games market. “It is possible and we are aware that they have been looking at several oppertunities” he said. “They would need a very good processor like the cell which right now is delivering a lot of power to the PS 3 which developers have discovered has given them a lot of headroom to further develop new gaming capabilities” he4 addeded.

Another Sony Computer Entertainment executive said”We have known for some time of Apple’s interest in the games market however it will be tough for them up against Sony and Microsoft and of late Nintendo.We believe that they will come into the games market late in 2007 but not with a pure gaming console. we are told that they are looking at a pretty powerful media centre with a big gaming capability. This is one of the reasons that we are looking at significant firware upgrades between now and then to deliver a better media centre capability via the PS3″.

SHN knows that Apple has also held discussions with Intel about thge possibility of getting access to the Xenon triple-core processor that is found in the XBox 360. The design of this processor  shares some DNA with the Playstation 3’s Cell processor, so it’s not surprising that it also embodies many of the same assumptions about the best way to wring performance out of the sorts of extremely large transistor counts that Moore’s Curves have given the latest generation of integrated circuits. Like the Cell processor that now powers the Playstation 3, the Xenon carries on the “RISC”-style tradition of trading programmer/compiler effort for hardware. Software writers who develop for Xenon must take on more of the burden of optimizing their code by making it explicitly parallel, and in return they get more execution hardware to play with.

What I am told is that Apple is working on developing a media centre that will allso allow games to be played from the Apple Media Centre console however the problem for Apple is identifying and getting access to the right processor which allows developers to quickly re code existing programs for the potential new Apple media centre. They are also very reluctant to enter the market with a pure gaming console. What they believe is that by introducing gaming as an extension of a media centre will attract a wider audience than gamers.

 Prudential analyst Jesse Tortora believes that there is a possibility that Apple will move into the console hardware market. He believes that Apple could combine technology from its existing products to create a home and portable video game console.

“We think the videogame market represents a distinct possibility for Apple, especially considering that it recently announced the availability of videogames for its iPod through its iTunes store,” said Tortora.

“The game console device could be morphed out of some combination of the MacMini and iTV, while the handheld player could be developed as an enhancement for a future version of the widescreen iPod,” the analyst explained.

Tortora believes that a reason for Apple to make a move into the video game market would be to protect its position in the home entertainment sector – an area Microsoft is attempting to appeal to with its recent roll out of downloadable movies and TV shows on the Xbox 360. Microsoft themselves have also released a rival to the iPod in the Zune.

“There are no technical limitations to this capability, and Microsoft is already aggressively wooing the movie studios,” noted the Prudential analyst. “This could adversely impact Apple’s iTunes Movie download business longer-term, along with its iTV and video iPod sales.”

Should we hear any more murmurings about Apple entering the video games market with its own system, we’ll let you know.

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