Apple's new controller framework hints at gaming aspirations

In just a few short years, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch have become incredibly popular gaming platforms. The latest iterations have the hardware to produce truly impressive visuals. However, their touchscreen input still feels poorly suited to gaming, at least for me. Touchscreens are great for navigating typical mobile apps, but they lack the precision and tactile response long offered by traditional gamepads.

Apple apparently shares my frustration, because iOS 7 will include a new controller framework that promises robust gamepad support. Controller support will also be incorporated in OS X 10.9, otherwise known as Mavericks. Details about the framework are available to registered Apple developers in this programming guide. The information is subject to change, but Apple's intent seems pretty clear.

Specifications have been created to ensure a consistent set of control elements for two types of gamepads. Standard controllers will presumably be based on the design pictured on the left, while "extended" ones will add the analog joysticks, secondary shoulder buttons, and LED array portrayed on the right. Gamepad makers "may choose slightly different physical layouts," but the actual controls will have to adhere to the standard and extended gamepad profiles used by the OS.

There's no indication that Apple will be building controllers itself, and the firm is adamant that gamepads can't be required by software. Any games written to take advantage of controllers must also be playable without them.

The new controller framework suggests Apple is taking gaming more seriously. Valve's Gabe Newell said in January that Apple represents his company's biggest threat in the living room, and we already know a new television product is being developed in Cupertino. While Apple probably isn't prepping a console to take on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it appears to be laying the groundwork for a more concerted gaming effort.

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