So it begins: louder than rolling thunder and more unstoppable than a fat man sat in a tank, the Apple hype engine has started up again. It all happened on Wednesday when the media went wild over the assertion that 'an announcement was about to be made', and the world held its breath. Indie games developers giggled excitedly and bookstore managers cried nervously. What would they revolutionise this time? What ergonomic wonders would the design teams at Apple - fed only on smoothies made from blended Converse hi-tops, skinny jeans and Brylcreem - pull out of the hat?
The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is the iPad. You can find out all sorts of hardware stuff and read Apple's gushing blurb here, but I'll attempt to summarise a bit anyway. Essentially an iPhone after growth hormones, the half inch thick iPad comes stuffed with a 1GHz Apple A4 chip and boasts 16GB to 64GB of flash storage, along with all of the capabilities of its smaller sibling but with a much grander 9.7 inch screen.
After reading up on it quite a bit, we figured we'd speculate on the new tablet's five best and worst points, and what this might mean for us gamers.
- It's Bigger: As the unfortunate bedroom quote goes, 'Size matters'. The iPad is altogether more pleasing because now even those with the fattest of fingers can double-tap their way to browsing ecstasy. It's also good for the eyes and will mean less squinting when you're reading books on it and laughing at just how underdeveloped the Amazon Kindle is in comparison.
- It's A Media Masterpiece: Apple are good at what they do, and what they do is take your basic media concerns and let you interact with them in cool and funky ways. Whatever your media - music, photos, video - the iPad caters for it impressively. Most appealing though, must be the virtual reader. As mentioned above, Amazon must be spitting teeth at just how much money they're going to lose over the neanderthal Kindle. Buttons? Monochrome colours? No way to drink a virtual pint? Pah! The iPad laughs in the face of such things.
- Apps: Being larger, more powerful, but still including all of the iPhone's old tricks, the potential of apps just got even better. Indie developers are already peeing themselves with excitement at what the iPad could mean for casual gaming, with huge possibilities opening for things such as multitouch musical composition, large touchscreen family boardgames, and it's only a matter of time before 'Hand Twister' makes an appearance surely. This could also mean a whole new approach to multiplayer gaming as the screen is comfortably big enough for two, with the return, perhaps, of games that used to be played on those classic low arcade tables. Imagine it: you can play locally with a mate, and face one another at the same time. You can hear what a bunch of indie devs think by clicking here.
- It'll Be Pretty Cheap....ish: The iPad is retailing Stateside for prices from$499 to $829, depending on the amount of flash memory you want, which will probably mean a starting price point of £350 or so over here, though you'll have to shell out more for 3G. But that's really not bad for a tablet at all.
- It's Sexy: Look at it. It manages to succeed at doing something women have been trying to perfect for centuries: be slim and curvy at the same time. On top of that, it also proves that it certainly is hip to be square (Huey Lewis), and that you've got the touch (Stan Bush). I'll stop now.
- No Camera: I can understand leaving out a dedicated rear camera, there'd be absolutely no point on something of this size; but no camera at all, not even a built in webcam? Come on people, you're supposed to be innovators! It's a shame too because this would be an awesome way to Skype your buddies, and for grooming fanatics it would have made a pretty sweet mirror.
- No OS X and No Doodling: This is worse, though. The limitations of the iPhone are now the limitations of the iPad, and because the latter is bigger, those limitations are much more noticeable. Apple didn't do themselves any favours against the haters chanting 'well isn't it just a massive iPhone?' by not supporting OS X on the iPad. A portable, multitouch OS X would have been awesome. On top of this, there's no handwriting recognition which would surely have been a no-brainer on a tablet of this size. How are bored people at work or in lectures supposed to doodle mindlessly on this, dammit?!
- No Flash: Being a site run by gamers, for gamers, we take our gaming pretty seriously. Do we appreciate the iPad's lack of Flash support? No we do not, quite simply because some of the best games for killing ten minutes in a soul-sapping meeting or on the loo are to be found online! We love Flash. Flash is awesome. Give us our Flash back! Flash!.....AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! Nuff said.
- The Battery: I'm hugely sceptical when it comes to Apple's batteries. The fact that you can't remove them worries me, and indeed as I found with my iPod, they have a rage-inducing tendency of going kaput merely seconds after the warranty has expired. Apple have said that the iPad will support up to 10 hours of use. This made me laugh so hard I almost choked on my own tears of mirth.
- Do We Even Need It?: The iPad's launch video showed Steve Jobs lounging around a sofa, checking his email and pontificating about the ease of its use. But I can happily do that with either my phone or my laptop. In fact, I'd rather do it with my phone or my laptop. The iPad won't fit into my pocket, and I can't do anywhere near as many things with the iPad as I can do with Mr. Lappy. The pitch has been built around this mystical 'third market' somewhere in between the smartphone and the laptop, but I'm not sure that the iPad does enough more than the smartphone to warrant that. As a gamer it's another a medium in which to spend my money, but I have a smartphone, a PSP and a DS for portability, and a PC and a console for bigger things. In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure where this would fit into my life.
What do you think? What's your take on Apple's newest plaything? Give us your opinions below in the comments box.
Whichever side of the divide you fall on, one thing is for certain. Over 50% of the inhabitants of California will own one within a month of its release. I bet the Beckhams have four already.