Apple toys with games industry

By Iain Mackenzie
Newsbeat reporter

Published
Image source, AP
Image caption,
Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod features like a built-in camera

Expectations were high at Apple's latest media event and although there were few technological revelations, it became clear that the market leader has its sights set on the games industry.

A couple of times a year Apple gathers lots of technology journalists together to show-off its new products.

Sometimes it is a gadget that changes the world, a little bit - like the iPod or the iPhone.

Apple's September 2009 event wasn't that. The thing that got most people interested was nothing to do with technology. It was the fact that Apple boss Steve Jobs was doing the presentation.

Health issues

He's been away from the company for most of this year because of illness. A thin-looking Jobs spoke for the first time about his health.

"Five months ago I had a liver transplant. I now have the liver of a mid 20s person who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate his organs," he said.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Jobs referrred to his recent health issues in his speech

He sounded emotional when he spoke, urging everyone to become an organ donor.

Then it was down to business.

As the evening went on, it became clear we were not going to get any of the announcements that had been circulating as rumours on the internet.

No sign of a tablet PC - the touch screen computer that was expected to get us all ditching our laptops.

And still no news about Beatles music being be sold on iTunes. That one has been rumbling on for years.

Instead there was a new version of iTunes. Now it includes a feature called iTunes LP.

It's an expanded version of the album art that comes with downloaded music. No longer is there just a picture of the CD cover. There are photographs, even videos to go with it.

There's also the equivalent of DVD extras now when you download a movie.

Largest capacity

The iPod range got a bit of a refresh. Most interestingly, the introduction of a 64GB iPod Touch.

That is the largest capacity music player so far to use memory chips rather than a hard disk for storage.

The new iPod nano has a built-in video camera, which, having played with it, seems to offer decent quality recording, certainly good enough for uploading to YouTube.

There was a lot of discussion about games on the iPod Touch and the iPhone.

Several game design companies got up on stage to talk about their latest offerings, including Ubisoft with Assassin's Creed.

Company ambition

It is probably not an accident that so much time was devoted to games. They make-up a big part of the 1.8 billion downloads from Apple's App store.

We got, for the first time, a sense of the company's ambition in this area.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
iTunes has become the largest music retailer in the world

It wants to be a big player in the games market - comparing itself to Nintendo and Sony.

The audience heard about the relatively high price of games for the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, compared with Apple's cheaper downloads.

Hard-core gamers will argue about whether the iPhone can cut-it against the other handhelds, but if Apple can do with games downloads what it has done with music and movies, it will certainly be a money spinner.

Afterwards, talking to the other people who turned-up, there seemed to be a bit of disappointment that we hadn't had any major announcements, but it shows how high people's expectations are of Apple.

Whether you like it or not, the company is a technology trend setter.

And that is the reason these launch events are now such a big deal. They can change industries and the way we live.

iTunes is now the largest music retailer in the world and it drives the music download business.

Mobile phone companies are scrambling to launch touch screen handsets, because the iPhone created a demand.

And application downloads are also massive business, with Nokia and Google both playing catch-up.

However, the lesson from this latest event would seem to be, even Apple can't deliver a technological revolution every six months.