No, Hell Hasn’t Frozen Over, But Apple Is Now Selling Microsoft Hardware

iPhone Xbox Controller Credit: CNET
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In a move that may seem like a harbinger of the apocalypse, Apple has actually begun selling a piece of Microsoft hardware in its online store, signalling even more the priority that the company is placing on promoting its services over maintaining its traditionally closed hardware ecosystem.

With the advent of Apple Arcade, it’s clear that Apple is getting more serious about gaming, and while Apple’s devices have had limited support for third-party game controllers since at least the advent of the fourth-generation Apple TV, this year Apple took things to the next level with full support for PS4 and Xbox game controllers.

Now, however, in an effort to make sure that Apple Arcade, and iOS/tvOS gaming in general is taken seriously, it looks like Apple is going even further by actually selling Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Controller directly on Apple.com.

The move appears to be part of a deal with Microsoft to carry the product, as Apple is also specifically promoting the Xbox Wireless Controller as a preferred device, even though Sony’s PlayStation Dualshock 4 Wireless Controllers are also fully supported.

Notably, Sony’s PS4 controller is nowhere to be found on Apple’s online store, although it’s certainly possible that Apple could eventually add that to the mix as well.

Apple’s Gaming Controllers

Gaming controllers aren’t new to the Apple Store — the company began selling a few of them after it launched tvOS back in 2015 — but in the past they’ve been limited to those certified by Apple under its MFi program. Further, Apple still keeps them in a broader category named Remotes & Controllers that naturally also includes the Apple TV’s Siri Remote and the older infrared Apple Remote.

Selling Microsoft’s Xbox controllers represents a big departure for Apple, not only because it’s a hardware product from a company that was once its bitter rival, but it’s also one of the first times that Apple has carried a product that wasn’t developed and licensed under its MFi program.

Of course, one could argue that Apple’s choice to sell the Xbox Wireless Controller directly is a tacit endorsement of the device, which really should be every bit as good as official certification by Apple, and in fact that’s probably at least part of the point — customers with an Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad can be much more confident that they’re buying a controller that will work with their devices, and can presumably more easily call upon Apple for support in the event that they have any problems.

Is This a Special ‘Apple Edition?’

That said, Microsoft’s Xbox One Wireless Controller is a common and standard device, and this does not appear to be a special “Apple Edition” of it that’s any different from what you can buy at a Microsoft Store or even your local Best Buy. This means that you don’t have to buy it from Apple, especially if you can find it cheaper elsewhere (which you probably can).

It’s not yet clear whether Apple will also be bringing Microsoft’s controller to the shelves of its retail stores as well, but it seems like a good possibility, especially with the holiday season approaching and Apple Arcade now widely available.

It’s also an open question whether a version sold in Apple’s retail stores would be packaged any differently from those available elsewhere; Apple once insisted on unique packaging for products that would appear on its shelves, but it seems likely that those standards have been relaxed somewhat under the more down-to-earth leadership of Apple’s new retail chief, which is probably a good thing, as we can see Microsoft being less enthusiastic than more MFi partners about the idea of following Apple’s branding requirements.

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