Apple unveils iPad, details gaming potential

Easily the worst kept secret in recent months, Apple today officially confirmed the existence of their upcoming tablet device, the iPad. And while the device looks as though it has the potential to revolutionize a number of daily tasks and concepts, Apple made sure to showcase the iPad’s gaming potential.

The device itself seems to have a number of hardware specifications that should make it conducive to gaming. A large 9.7 inch display, 10 hour battery life, and Apple’s own 1GHz A4 chip which, according to Steve Jobs, “screams,” set the stage for Apple’s next attempt at expansion into the world of gaming.

A number of the iPad’s other features, including multi-touch surface, accelerometer, microphone, sound strikingly similar to the iPhone’s. In fact while the press conference was underway, one of the top trending topics on Twitter was “giant iPhone.” Rather than casting aspersions on the similarities, Apple has given us reason to celebrate them; the iPad will work with all iPhone apps. Let me make this clear: every game you already own for your iPhone or iPod Touch will work on the iPad.

The technical details on how they pull this off are fairly simple. Apps such as games will run as a small window at their original resolution at the center of your iPad. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Apple thought so too, so they’re allowing you to take any iPhone app and run it full screen on the iPad. To compensate for the difference in resolution, they’ll double the pixels. If you’re sceptical on how that will look, just trust the people that were in the audience. Engadget claimed that “games look amazing.” Gizmodo clarified “it’s the same resolution, but just bigger.” Blowing things up past their intended size has almost always resulted in messy, unpleasant visuals. It seems like Apple has found a way around that.

According to Scott Forstall, Apple’s Senior VP of iPhone Software, iPhone games can also be tweaked to take advantage of what the iPad has to offer: “if the developer spends some time modifying their app, they can take full advantage of this display.” We’ll have to see what that really means in the coming months.

But the iPad as a gaming device won’t rely on iPhone apps alone. A number of partners have already been hard at work on their own iPad games. At the event, Gameloft showed off an iPad-specific version of their hit iPhone shooter NOVA, and EA showed off an iPad version of Need for Speed: Shift. Travis Boatman from EA has nothing but positive things to say about iPad development: “”Building for the iPad is a little different — it’s kind of like holding an HD display up to your face. It’s really cool.”

In fact, iPad development should prove no more difficult than iPod development for budding game designers. Effective today the iPhone SDK will now include everything that is needed for iPad development. Consider this a call to arms for indie developers looking to shine on yet another Apple device.

Starting at $499 U.S. for the 16GB model, $599 for the 32GB model and $699 for the 64GB model, the iPad won’t be a device that anyone will be buying solely for its gaming capabilities. But if you’re looking for an alternative to a netbook with some solid gaming potential, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better option.

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