Although most online poker players use Windows PCs, there has been a growing swell of players using Apple Mac computers like MacBook Pros and iMacs. The Mac-centric poker niche is growing, with four major sites having native software clients: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB.com, and Absolute Poker. The popular hand history tracking utility PokerTracker 3 came out recently with a Mac OS X beta edition of its software. With the release of Apple’s tablet computer, the iPad, there has been plenty of speculation about the machine’s future with online poker.
When thinking about the iPad and its potential for being used for online poker, we need to keep the following questions in mind:
- What are the hardware specs of the iPad?
- Is the interface going to be applicable to an online poker software program?
- Will the screen quality and resolution level make online poker practical?
- Does the iPad have enough bandwidth to have a lag-free online poker experience?
- Is the iPad OS something that a poker site can work with to create an App?
- Will the legal environment allow a poker site to release an App?
The iPad is a high-resolution 9.7-inch LED-backlit computer that weighs just 1.5 pounds. It’s touted as being perfect for web browsing, watching movies, and viewing photos. The unit works in either portrait or landscape mode, very similarly to an iPod Touch or iPhone. The multi-touch screen on the iPad is based on the current iPhone technology, but has been totally re-engineered for the larger surface to be more precise and responsive. The battery life is said to last up to 10 hours by using a special lithium-polymer technology. The iPad uses an A4 chip that was custom designed by Apple engineers to be extremely powerful, but at the same time very power efficient. Units will have an option for 16, 32, or 64 GB of internal flash storage.
All iPad units will have built-in WiFi with 802.11n, which is currently the fastest wireless protocol available. In addition, there will be 3G models with data speeds up to 7.2 MB per second on the AT&T network for coverage anywhere without a WiFi network, but with a 3G signal. Units are expected to start shipping at the end of March and the base version costs just $499.
The iPad interface is the multi-touch screen that has been made more precise and responsive to help counter the potential problems it would face with a much larger screen. The resolution of the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen is 1024×768, which is a bit inferior to what most experts predicted it would be.
With all the glitz and glamor of the iPad now out in the open, as poker players, we’re wondering about its capabilities for online poker. The unit, on the surface, seems like a great little online poker machine. The touch screen appears to be perfect for interfacing with a poker table. You could use the bet slider with the flick of a finger, fold or check by tapping the appropriate button, and even muck your cards by flicking them into the middle of the table. Interface-wise, there’s no question that the touch-screen of the unit will work splendidly.
The next question for whether or not the iPad would be feasible for an online poker player is how a table would look on the screen. There’s plenty of screen available for a single poker table to load up in the 1024×768 space. In fact, it’s probably feasible to have four tables load up at the same time. The graphics capabilities of the unit were rather impressive during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ presentation with a few video games, so we know it can handle the minimal graphics required by many of the poker rooms.
Another question we have to answer is about the iPad bringing the necessary bandwidth to play one or even four tables at the same time. Since most poker rooms only require a dial-up connection, which is surpassed in spades by both WiFi and 3G connections, there’s absolutely no concern about the unit not having enough bandwidth to handle the rigors of playing online poker.
The iPad uses a new operating system that works very similar to the iPhone OS, with more capabilities to take advantage of the unit’s more robust power. Because the development kit is already available to software developers, there wouldn’t be much of a stumbling block to developing a solid iPad version of the software.
With the all of the questions answered fairly positively when asking the question whether or not the iPad will work with online poker, we’re down to our final one: Will the current legal environment allow it? Since Apple is based in California and controls the App Store, the worldwide distribution of Apps for the iPad will be based on U.S. laws. The legal environment in the United States is murky at best with online poker, with virtually no chance of Apple approving an App created by a major poker site for real money poker play. With that being the case, it would seem foolish to expect a poker site to invest money and resources toward a project that would only meet failure.
The potential future of the iPad and real money online poker is bright. The unit is perfect for those who want to sit on their couch, relax, and play a few hands of poker. Maybe you’re stuck at the airport or who knows where and you want to log on and play a few hands. The iPad certainly has the technological power to handle the task. The only stumbling block is left up to the legal environment. For now, we’ll probably just enjoy whatever random Texas Hold’em video games Apple approves in the iPad App Store to satisfy our poker craving.