In one of the smaller announcements today, Apple announced that iOS 5 on the iPad 2 will support a feature called AirPlay mirroring. This feature is something that I’ve been telling people would eventually come to the iOS world and basically backdoor Apple into the console market.

If you aren’t familiar with HDMI mirroring on the iPad, it’s a feature that lets you plug in an cable into a special adapter on your iPad 2 and display your screen on an HDTV. This feature is great for use in classrooms and has even seen some play in games as well with Firemint using this feature to allow 1080p output on your TV from their Real Racing 2 HD via mirroring. But, you are tethered to the TV with a cable.

So, what’s AirPlay mirroring then, you ask? According to Apple, “AirPlay® Mirroring to wirelessly display everything you do on your iPad 2 right on your HDTV through Apple TV®.” To me, that means with an iPad 2, you’ll be able to do that mirroring without a cable. That means anything you see on your iPad 2, you will be able to see on an Apple TV. Let that sink in and then think using that feature for games.

This means that any game you play on your iPad 2, you’ll be able to play on your TV, wirelessly. Yes, wirelessly. You launch Angry Birds on your iPad 2 and the Angry Birds screen will show up on your TV. Boom, instant game console with $0.99 game downloads.

To control the game, you would use the iOS device as the controller. The Apple TV becomes the cheapest console out there at $99 with the largest game library at nearly 100,000 games. Your iPad 2 becomes your controller, albeit a very expensive one. We can assume that this feature will also be available in the next iPhone and iPod touch, once their processors and memory are upgraded and on parity with the iPad 2.

Let’s wrap that all up together, and it means that you can consider the Apple TV to be firmly in the game console market now. This is huge! I can’t stress enough how much of a game changer this is for the gaming world.

Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft should be worried. They have all been rather slow to adopt downloadable games, now Apple has gone and made it easy and cheap. If Apple does to the console market what they have done to the mobile software market, they should be very worried. The Apple TV, which started out as Steve Jobs hobby, could turn out to be the most popular home game and entertainment console around.

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