Apple Announce iPad

Yes, we know it’s not a PlayStation or an Xbox. You’re probably sick of hearing about it too. We just thought that when Apple unveil a product, with one of the world’s largest games publishers there at the event, on stage (EA), it might have a bit of an impact on gaming.

Just as the iPhone (and iPod Touch) have made significant inroads on the world of mobile gaming, this new iPad seems like it might have a few tricks up its sleeve. If not to compete with your home console (although graphically it looked at least on-par with the Wii) then perhaps to take over from your PSP or DS.

So what does it do? Well, it’s being pitched as a mid-point between a smartphone (like the iPhone) and a laptop (like the MacBook) and is capable of all the usual gubbins you might want from a portable device. You can view and organise photos, listen to music, browse the internet (although Flash support still seemed to be absent) and watch video. You can even look at maps and read ebooks (or iBooks as Apple want them to be called).

It’s small (9.7 inches) and light (1.5lbs) and if you want it to it will clip into a keyboard dock and let you word-process to your heart’s content. It isn’t widescreen though, I would guess the aspect ratio is closer to 4:3 than 16:9. They are also quoting up to ten hours of battery life and a month of standby time, which is impressive if it turns out to be true in real-world applications.

But what about the games? Well, as with anything Apple do these days, this thing has been designed to within an inch of its life by Johnny Ives. I’m biased because Johnny is a personal design hero to me so I won’t comment on the look of the thing except to say that it looks like a bigger, more square iPhone. That means no means of input other than the “home” button and the multitouch screen so it seems that your d-pads and buttons will all be super-imposed on-screen.

Expect the accelerometer to play a big part in control mechanisms too and that 30-pin port is bound to tempt some developers into releasing peripherals that plug in. Graphically I think it looked at least on a par with decent Wii graphics. EA showcased Need For Speed Shift and it seemed fluid and smooth, by all accounts. The stills were certainly impressive but not up to the standard of an HD console or a high-end laptop.

The iPad also features WiFi connectivity as standard and the upgraded models will have 3G capabilities so multiplayer and online leaderboards are a definite possibility (as with the iPhone).

So there we have it, another piece of typical Apple design which will no doubt divide opinion in the world of tech but sell like wildfire. Especially considering the price, a rather tempting $499 for the entry-level model. But what will it mean for the world of gaming-on-the-go?

Only time will tell, of course, but with the success already met by the appstore and iPhone combination and big names on board like EA it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Note: Photos from Engadget who have a brief hands-on here.