Follow me on a flight of fancy into the end of 2009. Apple have launched new iPhone hardware which contains double the polygon rendering performance of the current model, a more fully featured video out facility via a Mini DisplayPort and the ability to play back iTunes Store HD films and TV shows.
At a rough guess this would put the new iPhone on a similar polygon performance level to the PS2 or original XBOX. It would make the new iPhone almost as capable as the Apple TV as a video playback device and as an added bonus double as a fast and furious way of browsing web pages on your new large HD TV.
If the next iPhone could perform all these tasks what would be the point of a dedicated home gaming console such as the Wii, PS3 or XBOX 360? We already know that the 3.0 update will bring seamless multi-player support, painless syncing to 3rd party hardware such as gaming controllers and wireless bluetooth headphones, dance mats, Guitar Hero hardware, etc.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to begin to see how the iPhone (and iPod Touch) could mount a serious challenge to all other Living Room entertainment hardware.
Imagine this scenario.
Transformers 2 has just been released for rental in 720p HD on the iTunes Store. At work you initiate the rental on your new iPhone. Whilst you’re working your iPhone (connected to your work WiFi) is busy performing a background download of the video file. Just before you are due to leave for home you read about the brand new Transformers 2 iPhone and iPod Touch game. You begin the download and prepare for some iPhone gaming on the train home. During your hour long commute you complete the first two levels of the Transformers 2 game that has the look of a top flight PS2 game. On arriving home you plug your iPhone into your large LCD TV via the Mini DisplayPort to HMDI cable and watch Transformers 2 in glorious HD with all your family. After the movie is over you go back to the game, but this time you engage in some multi-player action with a friend who lives 2000 miles away and your son who is upstairs on his iPod Touch.
If you can do all this using just one device that fits in your pocket why would you fork out another £300 for a PS3 or £200 for an XBOX 360?
The iPhone solution means no continual buying of credits, no trips to the local game store, no car journeys to Blockbuster to pick up a Blu-Ray disc, no wasted space under your TV, no annoying fan noise, no scratched discs, no XBOX Live membership fees, no clumsy interface navigation, no trawling through game mags and websites looking for game reviews, no power cables, internet connection cables and controller cables, no positioning of Wii sensor bars, no replacing batteries in your controllers… the list goes on and on.
And what would you sacrifice? The jaw dropping graphical detail of both the XBOX 360 and PS3 and that’s really about it. Of course you could argue that you would miss some the best 5 star games available, but something tells me that if the iPhone did receive such a boost in polygon performance then the high profile 5 star games would not be too far behind.
The most stunning thing about this flight of fancy is that only thing standing between it and reality is hardware. Unlike every other manufacturer that comes to mind, Apple already have all the software components in place; from Quicktime to the App Store, from Mobile OS X to the amazing developer tools, Apple is ready. Only a huge foul-up of epic proportions will stop this from happening with the next 18 months.
Getting the correct software in place is a far larger undertaking than putting the appropriate hardware in place, just ask Microsoft, Nokia, LG and Samsung. For Apple the heavy lifting is already done!