Report: Apple's iOS 7 to feature standardized game controller support via MFi Program

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) likely will introduce standardized game controller support in conjunction with its new iOS 7 mobile operating system overhaul, enabling third-party developers to build console-quality gaming experiences that run across all hardware that conform to Apple specifications.

A slide presented Monday during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference indicated its iOS 7 SDK would include support for the company's MFi Program, which offers licensees the hardware components, tools, documentation, technical support and certification logos needed to create electronic accessories that connect to the iPhone, iPad and iPod, as well as AirPlay audio accessories.

Apple has not yet divulged specifics around how iOS 7 will leverage MFi, but Illustrations posted on the company's Developer portal and first uncovered by Touch Arcade depict two different game controller concept designs. The first appears to attach directly to an iPhone, with left/right shoulder bumpers, a D-pad and four action keys that effectively transform the smartphone into a portable gaming handheld. The second design depicts a standalone controller evoking elements of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii. Both concepts incorporate home buttons.

Insiders told Touch Arcade that Apple will give developers one consistent coding interface allowing them to create games optimized for all MFi-certified controllers. Sources added that all controllers built according to MFi specifications will include "Made for iPhone" branding.

The Verge speculates that by introducing API-level support for third-party controllers, Apple also could extend iOS gaming into the home console market. "Interested developers will simply have to implement support for AirPlay mirroring and hardware controllers to give players a console experience powered by Apple's mobile devices," the publication notes.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Apple's moves could spell major trouble for traditional gaming brands like Sony and Nintendo: Worldwide consumer spending on mobile games optimized for iOS has already eclipsed total spending on titles for dedicated gaming handhelds like the Sony PSP and Nintendo 3DS, according to a report issued last month by researcher IDC and mobile analytics firm App Annie. Spending on iOS games increased sharply during the first quarter of 2013, while handheld revenues plummeted in conjunction with an annual decline in post-holiday consumer spending and packaged game shipments.

iOS 7, set to roll out to consumers this fall, includes a radically redesigned user interface as well as multitasking for all apps, opportunistic updates that leverage conditions like especially strong cellular or Wi-Fi connections, expanded photo sharing and AirDrop wireless file sharing. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called iOS 7 "the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone."

For more:
- read this Touch Arcade article
- read this Verge article
- read this AppleInsider article

Related articles:
Apple CEO Cook: New iOS 7 is the 'biggest change to iOS since the iPhone'
Rumor Mill: Apple's revamped iOS 7 bringing unified black-and-white UI design
Report: Apple's iOS 7 introduces 'flat' UI, ditches skeuomorphism
Apple promises next version of iOS will launch at WWDC 2013
Report: iOS 7 behind schedule, Apple scrambling to catch up
Report: Apple design guru Ive pushing for simplified iOS 7

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