Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Mac personal-computer platform is hardly considered a viable gaming platform. The Mac installed base is relatively small to begin with, and only a fraction of the Mac computers sold today have hardware that could conceivably cope with the processing demands of modern 3D games.
iOS, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Apple's iPhone and iPad hardware delivers best-in-class mobile performance, which makes them not just viable development targets for mobile-class gaming but also highly attractive ones.
Combine that good hardware with robust software and tool support, an extremely large installed base, and an installed base that's made up of individuals much more likely to spend money on apps than on competing platforms, and you've got one heck of a gaming platform.
Apple clearly takes iOS seriously as a gaming platform today. In the future, it seems reasonable to expect that today's robust "gaming platforms" will become tomorrow's "virtual reality" and "augmented reality" platforms.
After all, games can be thought of as simulations, and applications such as virtual reality and augmented reality can be thought of as simulations with the potential to be more immersive than those experienced on computer or smartphone displays today.
Here's a clue from Apple's job boards that it's taking augmented and virtual reality seriously.
Here's what Apple is hiring for
On June 9, Apple put out a job listing for a 3D Applications Software Engineer. This engineer, according to the listing, would be part of the company's "Technology Investigation group."
The group "is seeking experienced 3D application developers to help us build graphically intense and highly interactive applications," the listing reads.
Later, in the description of the position, Apple says the one who lands this gig will "be researching and developing an entirely new application paradigm -- a challenge that will demand rapid experimentation and prototyping without sacrificing code quality or attention to detail."
"You'll need a keen understanding of the state of the art in interactive 3D applications and an ambition to discover what the future holds in this space," it goes on.
Now, up until this point, Apple appears to be hiring engineers to work on technologies to help enable the future of 3D games on its iOS platforms. Considering Apple's already sizable investments in gaming and graphics in the iOS ecosystem, that wouldn't be much of a surprise.
However, in the last line of the job description, Apple drops a big clue as to what this engineer might be working on: "We are building a passionate and diverse team that will span a broad range of application categories including productivity, communication, and entertainment."
Apple's not just hiring engineers to help it make iOS into a better gaming platform. The breadth of application categories that Apple mentions makes me believe it has bigger plans.
Considering augmented- and virtual-reality applications are expected to include far more than 3D games, and considering Apple tends to build technologies and platforms for the masses and not just for hardcore technology enthusiasts, it looks to me as if Apple is investing in talent that it hopes will take augmented and virtual reality to the masses through its iOS platform.