Betting on the iPadCould Apple’s latest creation be the gadget that takes online gaming to the next level? Robert Blincoe sees plenty of reasons why it could
Apple is on to something with its iPad tablet computer (as it was with the iPod and iPhone). The concept of touch screen PCs has been knocking around for quite a few years but its taking Apple to deliver its high-quality design to the product to get it to take off.
This is in spite of it being a very expensive hi-tech gadget at launch. Then it didn't have 3G (but does now) and it won't be until autumn, when the upgraded iPhone 4.0 operating system hits the device, that it'll look much more attractive as a netbook or laptop replacement – or book, TV, or games console for that matter.
Sales of the iPad topped the one million mark in 28 days, selling more than twice as fast as the iPhone did at launch. And the competition are getting in on the act with Nokia, HP, Google, Acer and Toshiba launching or readying their slate-like devices.
So, the question you need answering is whether these tablets are going to make your gaming a better experience, and it's down to two things. Is the touch screen and connectivity concept good for gaming, and are there going to be the sites and services supporting it.
Aside from design, where Apple makes sure the user has a great experience, something Apple is brilliant at delivering is a mass market to make it worth a developers while to build apps for the device. It's looking at 80 million of these babies being out there. But you're reading this, and you're interested in gambling, and that's an area the West Coast-based US company has historically not liked to go anywhere near because of the US e-gaming ban.
However, in May, Betfair become the first major betting company to offer a downloadable gambling application from Apple’s iPhone App Store, marking a turnaround from the computer company. The app, available to customers in the UK and Ireland, uses GPS to ensure bets can only be placed from these territories. Betfair says the app can tell if you are in the UK or Ireland, and if you’re not, it won’t function.
Mobile gaming, and its promise of assisting in-play betting, is the upcoming thing that will grow the gaming market. Apple's clout means the iPhone is going to play a big part in this, but the iPad and its clone followers should really help deliver on mobile gaming.
All the major sportsbooks launched iPhone apps because of the customer base and profile and the market boom in these smart phones. The iPad is likely to be no different – it’s not as if the gaming sites have ignored Apple. The company's market share of computers is trifling compared to the Windows side but Bodog, PokerStars, PartyPoker and Full Tilt, for example, are all Apple Mac friendly sites.
If there are enough iPads sold, and it looks pretty certain there will be, then the apps will follow, but most probably from the gaming sites themselves rather than the App Store.
So how does the actual technology measure up? The reason why previous tablets running Windows didn't take off is that the interface was dire. The tablet was just a laptop without the keyboard, but with a stylus to help you hunt-and-peck a response. Apple can do interfaces.
Take a look at the ad on Apple’s website and you'll see users' fingers flicking across the touch-sensitive screen, while their feet are resting up on the sofa. It's a cosy device aimed for comfort. The iPad is a high-resolution 9.7-inch LED-backlit computer that weighs just 1.5 pounds for the basic model.
Reviewers say its just the right size to hold or balance on your lap like an ordinary notepad and works in either portrait or landscape mode.
It is powered by an ARM-based A4 processor (rivals reckon they'll come in with something more powerful) with a promised battery life of up to 10 hours. Units will have an option for 16, 32, or 64GB of internal flash storage. All iPads have built-in Wi-Fi with 802.11n, which is currently the fastest wireless protocol available. In addition, there are 3G models with data speeds up to 7.2MB per second.
The critics’ word is that the screen image is bright and clear, and the multi-touch screen has been made more precise and responsive to help counter the potential problems it would face with a much larger screen. The device is small enough to hold comfortably, yet still large enough to view and read complete web pages without needing to zoom in on the text at all.
With its connectivity specs and battery life, it erases all the issues people have had with accessing the internet on their phones. The graphics engine handles sophisticated games so would have no trouble with poker tables and fancy slots applications.
Poker wise the touchscreen would really lend itself to betting, folding or checking via a tap or slide of the finger. Same for the sportsbooks. And the screen can handle four poker tables at a time as well.
The iPad has been said to be small enough to be portable and comfortable to use, yet large enough to work really well for tasks such as web browsing, reading books and playing video. For gaming it seems as though it will really hit the spot when the apps arrive.
It's no surprise the iPad is well up on US president Barack Obama's radar. He's just said that with this bit of kit, alongside other tech devices, that “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation".
He's a bit off the mark – it’s certainly going to provide empowerment and entertainment for gamers.
Here's Apple's ‘suggested’ UK pricing for the iPad. Don't expect any discounts as demand will exceed supply and the shops won't have to take a slash on them.
The iPad was released in the UK (and Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland) on Friday 28 May.
£429 (inc. VAT) for 16GB Wi-Fi iPad
£499 (inc. VAT) for 32GB Wi-Fi iPad
£599 (inc. VAT) for 64GB Wi-Fi iPad
£529 (inc. VAT) for 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G iPad
£599 (inc. VAT) for 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G iPad
£699 (inc. VAT) for 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G iPad
The iPad is currently only sold through the Apple Store, Apple's retail stores and select Apple Authorised Resellers. The iBooks app for iPad, including Apple's iBookstore, are available as a free download from the App Store on 28 May.