A number of games and tech industry analysts have commented on the growing rumour that Apple is set to make its next strategic move into the games industry, effectively turning Apple TV into a games console.

The rumours come hot on the heel of the recent Apple iTablet rumours (that a 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet device is due later in the year from Cupertino).

US games industry analyst Michael Pachter has told IndustryGamers this week that Apple is set to turn the Apple TV into a games console.

"I think Apple has a deliberate strategy. They want to see what they can do with the handhelds - iPod Touch and iPhone - first, then move into console games," Pachter said. "Apple TV is the device that they can turn into a console, and they have essentially the same goals as Microsoft - to turn Apple TV into an entertainment and Internet hub."

"If they can get enough iPod users to download games, it's a natural that they can ultimately convince a large number of these users to buy a game-enabled Apple TV," Pachter added, predicting a 2012 or 2013 launch. "That means that Microsoft has to get enough of a head start to hold them off, which is why I see Natal (a potentially revolutionary Xbox games controller) and a big hard drive for the 360 next year."

"I'm not sure how Apple would proceed initially. It's possible that they open the architecture and go for an Apple TV 'App store' to allow anyone to develop games. We'd get cool stuff like World of Goo or Geometry Wars, but probably not super cool stuff like Gears of War until they bought a few developers. Again, it's the Apple audience they're after, and they would be perfectly happy if everyone who owned an iPod or iPhone bought Apple TV."

TV: Apple's Trojan Horse

The US analyst outlined how Apple TV could be Apple's "Trojan horse" being a "device [that] would be an Internet access hub, and that they could then sell movies and other products. What Apple cares about is getting into the living room, and an Apple TV with games has a higher likelihood of succeeding than an Apple TV without"

Many others in the industry have expressed their own doubts and confusion over the direction of Apple's strategy with its TV product.

"Apple TV has underperformed ever since its launch, but reinventing the device as a games console could help it find its niche," said Reviews Editor of MacFormat, Ian Osbourne.

"The infrastructure is already there, with iTunes geared up for selling applications. As long ago as February 2007, former Xbox Live games guru Greg Canessa listed Apple TV as a conversion option when he joined casual gaming legends PopCap Games, so to be honest, I'm surprised there isn't a gaming edition of the device already," added the MacFormat man.

Gaming is logical step for Apple

Reflecting on the latest Apple rumours, games industry analyst Nick Parker added: "I have said that Apple could enter the games market with a cool device and license a gaming engine such as the Intel Larrabee for its internal software.

"Apple would not want to miss out on the third primary entertainment platform (of movies, music and games) and has witnessed first hand the impact of games through the apps store on their business.

"A hybrid games box (STB) with internet connectivity, hard drive, games engine and USB slot for peripherals is a logical step for any hardware manufacturer, but more so for the likes of Apple with such a strong and complimentary user demographic especially in the growing browser games genre."

Via MacWorld