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Why Apple should buy Valve

Analysis: TechRadar's Patrick Goss spends Steve Jobs' money...

So, Apple has a spare $51 billion rattling around in its pockets - presumably alongside its iPhone 4 and an iPod nano. Meanwhile, analysts are linking the company to EA and, wait for it, Sony.

Yes, this is Apple - the company that spent years pretending that gaming was only something that plebs on PCs played and only really began to change its mind when it realised that creaming 30 per cent off of every sale in its App Store was really bringing in the pennies.

Is Apple likely to buy Sony? No. Is Apple likely to buy EA? I'd very much doubt it - although Steve Jobs snapping up a company that, to all extents and purposes, is the 'Microsoft of gaming' is kind of neat. (Other than Microsoft, if you get my drift).

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But, let's be honest, if - and it's a big if - Apple was indeed looking to get involved in the gaming world then clearly there is only one company that makes any sense whatsoever.

Not EA, not Sony, not even Activision-Blizzard, the MMO behemoth that is prising money out of gamers' hands faster than anybody else on the planet.

No, the only gaming company that would appear to make any sense whatsoever for Apple to buy is Valve.

A couple of years ago a rumour surfaced that Google were in the market for Valve - and it made such perfect sense I gave it far more credibility that it deserved.

That's because Valve is not merely an amazing games developer, but also holds the primary delivery mechanism for desktop computers and, frankly, represents something of an ideal about what gaming should be.

Plus, of course, Valve also has some of the best games of all time under its belt - including the seminal Half Life series - and a track record of innovation in gaming that certainly gives it a healthy glow and a huge fan base.

It's not a perfect company - certainly not everyone is that enamoured with some of the decisions it has made over the years - but with Microsoft's interest in PC gaming seemingly comatose after being crushed by its Xbox 360 ambitions and Apple apparently under the illusion that the only use for a Mac is posing, few can deny the impact of Steam.

Microsoft's belated attempts to make Games for Windows a decent rival for Steam has been met by an almighty 'meh' from gamers, but it does at least serve as a timely reminder that it has remembered that people still play games on PCs. And Valve's immediate impact with Steam for Mac must surely have stirred some kind of reaction within Apple's Cupertino HQ.

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Jobs and his friends are, after all, fast realising that gaming is big, big business - and by not having a reputation or a brand in this area it could find itself lagging behind some of its competitors.

Indeed, when Windows Phone 7 was announced, there was so much emphasis on Microsoft's use of the Xbox Live branding, that Apple's rather sorry Game Center (sic) efforts were put in stark contrast.

So will we see Half Life ep 3 launching exclusively on Mac for a few weeks (shudder), and Steam for iPhone taking on all comers?

Probably not. But it makes far more sense than Apple snapping up Sony.

Patrick Goss is editor of TechRadar - the UK's No.1 technology website

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