At the start of the week we brought you the somewhat salacious news Apple had filed an application with the US Patent Office to ensure its brand is trademarked in relation to "hand-held units for playing electronic and video games".

Inevitably, it's the kind of patent application that couldn't fail to raise speculation along the lines of: does Apple have something it wants to tell us?

With the fifth-generation iPod now games compatible, Apple already branching out into markets beyond computing (such as the mobile phone one) and pocket gaming clearly an exceptionally lucrative and currently under-represented one for the company, the prospect of an Apple games handheld almost seems an inevitability on paper.

And no doubt it'll happen.

But not just yet, according to industry site Develop. It quotes an anonymous senior development source on their take on Apple's likely future moves. The source says the industry shouldn't expect a sudden major shift by Apple into the gaming market and that the firm will instead first look to add more games content to its iPod and iPhone.

"Apple is very protective of the reputation it has built in the electronics market," said the source. "So don't hold your breath for an announcement of an 'iGame' console just yet."

Such speculation makes sense, of course. Apple has only just started along a fresh path into gaming via iPod and with the setting up of a small internal games development team, and is no doubt happy to remain in the position it's in for the time being.

Yet with Apple's experience of online distribution through iTunes, coupled with its knowledge of the electronics industry, it's difficult not to speculate on how the company could advance handheld gaming with a dedicated games console. Not to mention how sexy it would look.

The industry source continues that iPods themselves are already "powerful enough" for a games platform from a hardware point of view and reveals: "From our discussions, it seems Apple is happy working the way it does, courting individual companies and handpicking who it thinks can make the best games or has the best development abilities when it comes to growing the stable of iPod games."

The obvious counterargument to this approach is the fact the standard iPod touch-wheel is hardly suited when it comes to controlling the majority of games, as evident in our iPod game reviews. That said, the touch and iPhone, with their touchscreen interfaces, could certainly move things along, particularly from the moment Apple releases the SDK (software development kit) for those devices to third parties. This is expected to happen soon.

So we should hopefully get an Apple-related gaming revolution after all.