As the dust settles from the launch of the Apple iPad — a device that looks rather like an oversized iPod Touch — reaction is mixed. Apple fan boys are no doubt already champing at the bit, but others aren't so sure; after all, this isn't an iPhone, isn't a netbook and certainly isn't a regular notebook. Just what is it then?
Many questions are yet to be answered, including firm details regarding Australian availability and pricing, but we at least know that the App Store will be at the forefront of the iPad experience. Apple revealed at the launch that more than 140,000 iPhone apps will work with the iPad, and this number will continue to increase. What's more interesting, though, is that there will also be iPad-specific apps available — apps designed to take advantage of the iPad's larger form factor.
The iPad will run more than 140,000 regular iPhone apps at launch, but developers will be able to create iPad-specific apps to take advantage of the larger display.
This sounds like good news, but what do developers think? Australian developer Firemint, creator of popular iPhone games Flight Control and Real Racing, certainly seems excited about the iPad. In addition to confirming development of iPad-specific apps, Firemint also revealed its popular Flight Control game will be optimised for the new device. "We will bring an optimised and re-imagined version of Flight Control to iPad," said Alexandra Peters of Firemint. "The iPad announcement and Apple's A4 chip have come at a fantastic time for us. We are working on some incredibly fun and exciting games that will look amazing on iPad and take full advantage of its features, as well as working on the iPhone and iPod Touch."
Peters said the larger screen of the iPad and Apple's "straightforward" coding environment for developers means the transition to creating iPad apps should be trouble-free.
"A larger screen means that games can be more immersive, as well as allowing for higher detail and bigger animations. It also means there is more room for user interface elements so they can be more accessible — so developers may not need to make the same trade-offs as [they do] when there is very little screen real estate," Peters told GoodGearGuide.com.au. "Critically, developing for iPhone and iPod Touch is very straightforward, so we don't anticipate any problems developing for iPad."
Firemint isn't the only game developer excited about the iPad. Funburger, creator of the iPhone game Puzzle Path also sees the potential for games to take advantage of the iPad's larger screen.
"I'd imagine that games and apps will move to be more functional and useful rather than the iPhone which are more casual in nature," said Mick Solomons of Funburger. "People will most likely use this device in their home, on their couch and want content that keeps them entertained for hours rather than bite sized content which works well for the iPhone."
"The main benefits are the screen size and the fact it's completely portable. It's kind of a nice medium between a fixed console and a handheld. You're getting the power and nearly the same screen size of a fixed game console," he told GoodGearGuide.com.au.
Solomons didn't anticipate any problems with the development process, but said iPad users will want "more depth" in their apps and games.
"I think the development process will be roughly the same, however we need to take into account that the demographic of the iPad will be different and probably want more depth in their apps and games."
The larger screen of the iPad doesn't just have gaming developers excited. Keith Ahern is CEO of Mogeneration, creators of popular Australian iPhone apps including FoodWatch NSW, CoastalWatch and OzWeather.
"The iPad's larger screen allows for a richer user interface with less steps to get to information," Ahern told GoodGearGuide.com.au. "Apple's revised apps such as the address book and e-mail allow you to see both a list of results; for example contacts and details for a single result. This one less step means it's faster and more intuitive to use than an iPhone or an iPod Touch."
The iPad's 9.7in LED-backlit screen will open up opportunities for developers to create more efficient and intuitive apps
Ahern also expects more book and magazine content to be published on the iPad and expects publishers will be excited because the iPad is "the first device that invites you to pick it up and flick through it." "The fact that it still runs a single app UI taking over the whole screen and not a multiple app UI like full OS X means that the apps will do one thing and do it well. It will be great for beginners and kids who will learn how to completely use the UI from a very early age," said Ahern.
Mogeneration plans to create apps specifically for the iPad, though will "almost certainly" target both the iPhone and the iPad when delivering new apps.
"We absolutely plan on creating apps for the iPad, we already have the SDK and are looking at the effort required. Apple has been quite good at designing future oriented programming APIs. Overall, we are very happy with the iPad, in particular the price of US$499 — it's low enough that people will buy one to try it out, and then I expect most people will be very happy with it."
Other Australian developers including Grosoft, creators of the TripView transport timetable app for the iPhone, also confirmed they will support the iPad. "We'll be releasing a new version of TripView for the iPad," said Nick Maher of Grosoft. "I'm not sure that there are any huge benefits for TripView, but it will be nice to take advantage of the larger screen resolution in a few places. I'm pretty excited about the potential for gaming. I'm a big fan of the App Store, so it will be great to see that in a larger form factor."
The iPad is likely to receive strong developer support, partly because it uses the same operating system as the iPhone.
Maher said developing for the iPad "should be fairly straightforward," but is disappointed the iPad doesn't have multitasking capabilities. " There's an iPad simulator in the new SDK, so that will help. One issue will be deciding when to make the move to the new 3.2 firmware, since that might mean leaving some users behind. I'm a bit disappointed that it doesn't seem to have any multitasking capabilities, but overall I think the iPad sounds great."
The iPad does have some hardware and software limitations — the lack of a camera means no video conferencing (this would have been extremely useful for the Skype application, as an example), there is no SD card slot for quickly uploading photos or videos (though you can purchase an adapter) and there is no real multitasking.
Despite these limitations, it's clear the iPad will enjoy strong developer support, largely because existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications won't need to be completely rewritten. It's the same platform as the iPhone, so app developers are likely to actively support it.