iOS 4.3 beta heralds Apple TV on-line gaming

Snippets of information buried deep within Apple's latest developer beta of iOS4 seem to reveal a new direction for the company's Apple TV gadget.

The £101 box of tricks, which contains much of the same internal gubbins as the iphone 4 and iPad, including the ARM-designed Apple A4 processor, is more than capable of paying thousands of iOS4 games, but Apple has intentionally kept the gadget on a TV-only path.

An Engadget tipster has, however, been digging around in the code of the latest beta release of Apple's mobile operating system iOS 4.3 and has unearthed several references which - with the application of a pinch of imagination - could point to a gaming future for the diminutive device.

A new Apple TV firmware included in the developer release contains references to 'ATVGames' and 'ATVThunder', leaderboards and what apears to be an iTunes-like store front.

The report makes a stab in the dark, suggesting that ATV Thunder might refer to a controller of some sort.

Apple, which was once decidedly sniffy about games and gaming, seems to have had a change of heart since the iTunes App Store started pouring millions of dollars into the Cupertino company's coffers.

With just 8GB of storage at its disposal, the Apple TV is unlikely to see the kind of immersive first-person shooters modern gamers take for granted any time soon, but simple dip-in games like Angry Birds or Plants v Zombies could easily make the transition from iDevice to ATV, as the launch of the App Store for Mac has already proved.

And game streaming services like OnLive could also offer a glimpse of what's in store with much of the grunt needed to run games provided by off-site servers.

It's all nothing more than conjecture for now but gaming would certainly give Apple TV, which in its previous incarnation was regarded by Jobs' Mob as a hobby, a much-needed shot in the arm, if you'll pardon the pun.