Well, Apple finally released their oft-speculated-upon tablet, the iPad, today. The response I’ve been seeing across the interwebs has ranged from comments reminding me of the hubris inducing pessimism surrounding the launch of the iPod, to the completely ridiculous sort of grandstanding that comes about whenever the press catches hold of something that’s “going to change the world!”; like, how it’s going to kill the mouse and keyboard or something. That’s like saying the computer will kill paper and pens, or the Segway will kill walking, or… ingesting pop rocks and soda killed Mikey. See what I’m saying?
What about me? Small game designer/developer guy you probably haven’t even heard of until now? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the iPad is balancing on a knife-edge between success and failure.
Stick with me here.
I think where the iPad’s potential lies is as a beefed up PDA/planner with the capabilities of an eBook reader and some of the power of a laptop, like editing documents and viewing large videos, while still being in a small form factor with an amazing battery life.
The problem with the iPad, at least as far as I can tell, is that Apple has actually created the iPad’s worst competitor. By placing the iPad as a device in between PDAs and laptops, Apple believes that they are competing with inexpensive netbooks, but in reality, I think that the iPad’s biggest barrier for growth will be it’s older, yet shorter brother, the iPhone!
Look at it this way: the iPad instead of being a small laptop without a physical keyboard, ports, etc., is more like a large iPod Touch or iPhone without the phone and camera parts. People are going to look at their iPhone and think “why would I want an iPad? My iPhone does practically everything I need it to do and more, and it’s more portable to boot.” It’s an even worse value proposition if these people have laptops already. The problem is that by making the iPad behave more like an iPhone and less like a laptop, many people, I think at least, will view this as an iPad vs. iPhone question rather than an iPad vs. netbook or laptop question.
Don’t take this as me completely writing off the iPad. I don’t think it’s going to be a Segway, but I’m not really sure if it will end up being an iPhone or iPod. I do think it will find it’s place in the market, but I think that iPhone OS and the hardware may need to go through a few revisions before it can really get a proper foothold.
I suppose I should talk about gaming and the iPad while I have you here, seeing as that’s kinda my thing.
First off, I think that we’re probably going to see a divide between gaming on the iPad and the iPhone/iPod Touch. Nothing huge but because of the iPhone’s phenomenal success, I think that there will still be a massive demand for small form-factor games that specifically target the iPhone. On the other side of that coin I think that the iPad, by being larger with more power and having a higher resolution will allow more freedom of expression for game developers. But this is good! More choice is never a bad thing when it becomes trivially easy to port your software between these devices, you just have to make sure you design your software with an eye towards running on many devices (this was a good idea before the iPad, in case you didn’t get that memo).
Earlier today I read an article suggesting that the iPad was going to be end of the sort of small developer that found success on the iPhone because it allowed for small teams to produce small games but reach a large audience. I definitely don’t see that as an lesson to take away from the iPad. I do agree 100% that developing games on the iPad, specifically to take advantage of the iPad hardware, will be more time and money intense, however it’s not like the iPad is going to kill the iPhone. Hell, I’d even go so far as make the rash and wildly assumptive statement that most small iPhone devs can blissfully ignore the existence of the iPad and still be able to make a comfortable living selling their wares to iPhone owners (as they are legion).
My personal goal is to see Celsius Game Studios games on the PS3 and 360, so I’m not dreading the iPad. Quite the contrary, I view it as yet another exciting platform with a potential audience for my games.
Also, much like “Wii” humanity will somehow come to terms with “iPad.” You can quote me on that.