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Xbox One, PlayStation 4 -- and Apple? -- in the Age of Convergence


Can the new gaming consoles win out over the biggest trend in consumer electronics?

And through a few clicks in an app store, a smartphone or tablet can function as everything from a guitar tuner to an unknown song identifier to a weight loss aid.

This revolution has had an enormous impact on the world of consumer electronics.

This week, IDC dramatically cut its PC industry sales forecast yet again as consumers increasingly opt for tablets, which can do enough things well to make PCs somewhat redundant. As a whole, mobile gadgets have basically destroyed the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 upgrade cycle.

We also saw two camera manufacturers, Olympus and Sony (NYSE:SNE) dramatically cut their digital camera sales forecast due to the smartphone invasion.

The video game industry has been in a multi-year downturn as casual gamers have completely abandoned traditional consoles and embraced mobile games. (See: Xbox One and PS4: New Consoles Are Nice, but New Gamers Would Be Even Better.)

What's happening is obvious: Mobile gadgets are now good enough at supposedly secondary functions like photography and gaming to make the average consumer forego more specialized units.

That makes 2013 an interesting time for Microsoft and Sony to bring out their new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, respectively.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft and Sony's latest console efforts have been on the receiving end of criticism unique to each device: Sony's PS4 has been knocked for being too gaming-focused, while the Xbox One is being called too consumer-focused.

That in itself is notable because it's no longer clear what a video game console needs to be to appeal to those outside the core gamer demographic.

So even aside from the more industry-centric issues I focused on last week, these new consoles are very much threatened by the big macro trend in the consumer electronics industry -- the aforementioned pesky convergence.

Furthermore, both companies need to keep their eyes on Apple.

CEO Tim Cook, in a recent interview at the D: All Things Digital Conference in California, said the company "has several more game changers" in the pipeline.

What if one of those game changers actually changes games?

Indirectly, Apple has dipped its toe into the console gaming market.

Its AirPlay streaming technology can turn an Apple TV-connected television into a display for an iPhone or iPad, which in effect, creates an Apple console, albeit a somewhat clunky one. A lot of kinks have to be worked out (like a standardized controller), but the potential is clearly there:

Twitter: @Minyanville

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