Let the Wookie win!

We are perhaps a few years away from playing holographic chess as R2 and Chewbacca did on the Falcon, but the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Movile Inc. recently informed Touch Arcade's forum members of its plans to bring BoardBox to the iPad. "BoardBox is set to be the most graphically rich and realistic looking board game set on iPad... With dozens of features and true-to-life visuals, BoardBox is the only board game you will need on your iPad! Grab a friend and play a game of Chess, Checkers, or Reversi. Turn off the rules and make up your own! Play with a friend around the world via email!"

Here again is yet another example of a class of application that is better suited to the larger screen of the iPad. With a launch price of just $3.99 we think Movile Inc. could have a huge hit with BoardBox. 

Pangea Soft is 'working like crazy' to bring its best selling iPhone games to the iPad

We have fond memories of playing Pangea Soft's delightful games on our lustrous new Mac hardware. Back in the day, most new iMacs and iBooks came with Bugdom or Cro-Mag Rally preinstalled. Recently, Pangea Soft have enjoyed considerable success in porting its popular Mac catalogue to the iPhone/iPad Touch platform. Puzzle games like Enigmo and Enigmo 2 have been ported perfectly, whilst the classic Mac platformer, Otto Matic, was less successful due mostly to control issues.

Pangea Soft's founder Brian Greenstone recently informed iPad Creative of his plans for the iPad. The team have "been working like crazy on getting our best sellers ported first.  The plan is to eventually get all of our iPhone apps moved over."

Knowing that we may only be a month away from playing Enigmo 2 on the iPad has got the iPad Creative team in a tiz. In truth, it's hard to think of any puzzle game that is more suited to Apple's new large touch screen computing platform.

iPad? I'll have ten!

Macrumrors have reported that Apple are promoting the iPad to Educational Institutions with a special 10-pack bundle for the Wi-fi only models (not the 3G models).  Academic organisations can benefit from the fairly modest saving of $20 (about £13.41) for non AppleCare iPads and a slightly better $40 (£26.82) discount per unit if they opt for AppleCare. 

The iPads will be supplied in one big box without individual packaging though, so it is very much a distribution pack. The Educational establishment will not be allowed to resell them of course.

Individuals (Students/Educators) who would normally receive an Educational discount from the Apple Store are not included though it seems.  We have gone through the Education Store and verified that no discount is applied if shopping for just the one iPad.

Why is this of interest? 

Even before the iPad was announced, many commenters discussed the merit of using the device in an Education environment, and it excites us to think of the creative uses the iPad can have in a classroom. 

It is easy to think of how the iPad can be used in areas such as art, music/audio and video production, Languages, Geography, Design, etc.  It also seems a natural fit for Internet based research, as well as being used for textbooks and e-learning. 

In fact, when you sit and think about it for a minute, there are many possibilities of using such a simple, and let's face it gorgeous, device in the Education arena.

The modest discounts offered here aren't going to completely enable the adoption of the iPad, but it does mean that Apple are thinking along these lines too and this opens up new opportunities for engaging learners of any age, but especially those of school age, who arguably have more of a leaning towards the use of technology in their learning.

Have you got any ideas for how the iPad can be used in Education?  We would love to hear them in the comments.

iPad Kindle App officially announced

We knew it was coming but Amazon have officially announced their Kindle App for 'Tablet computers including the iPad' (italics ours) on their website.  The announcement focusses on the app, but the iPad makes it into the headline, with a specific mention later on too.  It is an interesting play for Amazon, especially when many pundits have said that Apple is looking to put some pressure on Amazon with their iBookstore.

The Kindle app has been available on the iPhone for just over a year now, but the iPhone is not really suited for reading books or magazines for most people.  This announcement is of note because it appears to duplicate one of Apple's most touted iPad features, the iBookstore.  Business Insider have an interesting side-by-side comparison of the two apps on their site and it is obvious which one is Apple's, as they say:

So far, it looks like Apple is winning the design contest, especially for its e-book store.

 Duplication = customer choice?

There is certainly function duplication here, and Apple have refused apps on the iPhone simply because they 'duplicated functionality' already installed on the device.  However, the deals that Amazon have with publishers and the books they have available should differ from Apple's selection in theory.

In addition, Apple would certainly be seen to be anti-competitive if they refused the Kindle app simply because it sold books too, wouldn't they?

However, as Amazon are announcing the Kindle app, we can only assume it will be available in the app store for the iPad sometime after it launches.  It is a complex relationship that Apple and Amazon has at the moment and it will be fun watching it pan out.  Our only hope is that the choice will remain in the app store, to the benefit of us, the end consumer.

What do you think about Amazon's play here?  Let us know in the comments.

Australia's First iPad App is a Medical Encyclopaedia

Australia's first iPad app is going to be a medical encyclopaedia according to Mogeneration. In conjunction with Medwords, they have announced the publication of Carter’s Encyclopaedia of Health and Medicine, and it will be released first on the iPad.

This 1,100 page medical encyclopaedia will have the traditional look of a hardback encyclopaedia, but it will contain interactive images, a browsing history and allow you to add bookmarks. From the screenshots on Mogeneration's website it looks a lot like the Dorling Kindersley Human Body book for the iPad, demoed by Penguin publishing, which we blogged about a few weeks ago.

However, this is interesting from two perspectives:

1) This is an example of a serious use of the iPad for educational purposes and much is being said about the iPad and the impact it could have on the field of education and research.

2) Mogeneration's publishing framework is quite interesting. It allows any content creator to publish their content via a native iPad/iPhone (and Android) app, which can then be purchased through the App store, but they do the development work.

Mogeneration are not the first to offer this service and provide books via apps in iTunes, but from a creative point of view this kind of service is interesting. It is an alternative to the more traditional publishing route using the iBook store that Apple will be introducing with the iPad launch.

Once the iPad is launched this is certainly the approach that we expect many self-publishing Creatives to take in getting their content onto the iTunes App store without having to deal with Publishers and all that entails, thus joining the hundreds of other 'appbook' publishers already there. It is an area that we expect to develop rapidly and we will be watching with great interest.

Polygon pushing power, which SGX is the iPad packing?

Here's what that we know so far. The iPad uses Apple's own A4 chipset. At the heart of the chipset is the Arm Cortex (probably A8) processor running 1GHz. The GPU (the processor that handles all graphics, both 2D and 3D) is a variant of the PowerVR SGX design. This makes the iPad broadly similar to the iPhone 3GS. The 3GS uses the same CPU but clocked at 600MHz and is assisted by the PowerVR SGX 535.

If you've had the opportunity to play Gameloft's Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front on the iPhone 3GS you'll already know that in the right hands this Arm/PowerVR combination makes for some surprisingly rich visuals. Although the iPad's chipset does get a boast from the extra 400MHz of the CPU, without something a little extra in the GPU department game developers might struggle to match the frame rates that they regularly achieve on the iPhone 3GS. Why should be this be so?

There are three important specifications to keep in mind when considering 3D graphics hardware: Memory bandwidth, polygon rate and pixel fill rate. At 320 x 480 pixels, each fullscreen frame from a game such as the aforementioned Brothers in Arms 2 has a pixel count of 153,600 pixels. On the iPad with its 768 x 1024 resolution that figure jumps to 786,432, that's over five times the data being processed for each individual frame. Admittedly, we are oversimplifying things here, there are further factors that will present more challenges. The polygon count may be the same for both the iPhone and iPad variations of a game, but surely the developer will want to increase the texture resolution for the iPad version. Tiny textures originally designed to be viewed on a screen not much bigger than a business card, stretched out to roughly the size of paperback book are going to make for ugly looking games.

As we have already mentioned, Apple have confirmed that the iPad uses the PowerVR SGX graphics processor, what it hasn't confirmed for certain is which variant it has chosen to pack in the iPad.

This is important because the SGX535 is capable of pushing out 28 MPolys/s (million polygons per second) whereas the more powerful SGX545 ups that to 35 MPolys/s and with double the pixel fill rate of the 535. If the iPad is using the SGX545 it should give developers enough additional power to keep the frame rates up at 3GS levels whilst increasing the texture sizes significantly.

Even the SGX545 is not the end of the story. It's possible, though not probable, that the iPad's A4 chipset includes the PowerVR SGXMP (also known as the Series 5XT). This multicore graphics processor can reach PS2 levels of polygon performance at 133 MPoly/s in the four core version and a staggering 532 MPolys/s in the eight core design! That's right up there with the XBOX 360 and PS3. This is the very same GPU that is rumoured to be at the heart of Sony's PSP2.

As with the iPhone and iPod Touch, Apple have to find a perfect balance between battery life and performance. Based on the impressive battery life that Apple is advertising and some of the video demos of the very first iPad specific games, we believe that the iPad A4 chipset includes a faster version of the SGX535 (as including in the Phone 3GS) or possibly the SGX545.

April can't come soon enough!


Apple design. The journey so far

Anatomy of Apple Design from Transparent House on Vimeo.

Though there are some glaring omissions in this gorgeous CGI production, you can't help but be captivated by the design journey that Apple have taken us on over the last 34 years. This has left us wondering what the Apple computers of 2044 might look like. Neural implants perhaps? (via: www.stylecowboys.nl)

Chained to a desk in a darkened room

These are the living conditions of the first iPads to venture outside 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. According to Business Week, only a handful of carefully chosen developers are getting the opportunity to test their iPad apps on actual iPad hardware. The chosen few have to comply with multi-page agreements and even go so far as to provide photographic evidence that they are putting these extreme security measures in place.

While it's tempting to assume that these security requirements are in order to hide some previously unknown features of the iPad, it's more likely just Steve Jobs wanting to ensure that the launch day is as hyped as possible. If Apple can keep a secure lid on this thing right up until launch day we'll be amazed, but if anyone can, Apple can. "Radar about to be jammed!"


IGN have been been offering some fairly extensive iPhone and iPod Touch game coverage of late, it's certainly worth a visit if you are looking for detailed iPhone gaming news and reviews. IGN Wireless has posted a list of 8 games which it would like to see reworked for the iPad. Right at the top of the list is PopCap's marvellously addictive Plants vs. Zombies. We totally agree with IGN's take, "The iPad's 9.7-inch screen will gives some breathing room to the battlefield and allow PopCap to restore the original, handsome plant and zombies sprites."

If you haven't yet tried Plants vs. Zombies you really should. It strikes the perfect balance between fun and challenging. Try it for free by downloading the PC/Mac demo version, or pickup the full iPhone app for just £1.79. It's also worth noting that PopCap is giving away a nice selection of wallpapers and even a full MP3 from its website.

The Great Slate Race!

Since the introduction of the Apple iPad, there has been a large increase in the number of slate or tablet computers being announced. Archos, widely known for the MID devices are clearly making a play for the tablet sector and Toshiba with their range of Portege detachable touchscreen laptops are seen to be moving down towards smaller slate devices. Lenovo, with the IdeaPad U1, a laptop with a touchscreen that can be detached and used as a handheld tablet computer appear to be covering all bases. The huge surge of interest in this form factor can only be attributed to the iPad. It's becoming clear that more people are contemplating the use of slate and tablet computers over netbooks and even regular laptops. After many false starts, it looks like the age of the keyboardless computer is finally here.