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Elsa avatar 1:58 PM on 10.12.2011  (server time)
Integration: Could the iPad be my next console?

Could the iPad be your next gaming console? Tablet computers are in their infancy, yet already many people are choosing a tablet instead of a new computer. Tablets easily work as a portable TV with multiple options for downloading or streaming TV shows or movies; they offer a library of books or magazines to be read in a comfortable fashion; they can control your home DVR or security system; you can remotely access everything on your NAS device or cloud storage from most anywhere in the world. Tablets are capable of being used as a heart monitor, teaching tool for children, or making facetime phone calls. Tablets of varying sizes are increasingly integrating all of our needs into one small and easily portable product, but could they be our next gaming consoles?

OnLive is currently working on bringing their service to the iPad. What this means is that you may have the option of simply hooking your IPad or even your iPhone up to the TV to use a mirroring function. They offer a bluetooth controller and it will be voice chat enabled. They currently have an OnLive Viewer app where you can watch games in progress and the smoothness is pretty good, especially for a young technology. I had the opportunity to try out OnLive during PAX and had them set up a multiplayer game because lag was the issue that concerned me most. I played Homefront and found little difference between the OnLive experience and the console versions of the game. The wireless bluetooth controller was nice and I would assume that most any bluetooth headset could potentially work for voice chat in the future.

Currently tablets have nowhere near the processing power of a gaming console or even a netbook, but what if the processing wasn't being done on the tablet, but rather being done on a cloud server. This is essentially how cloud gaming and services like OnLive work. OnLive is the most well known, but there are other companies like Gaikai doing cloud gaming too. Gamestop has announced that it will be producing an android based gaming tablet that will have a wireless controller peripheral, and cloud gaming may also be a factor due to their acquisition of Spawn Labs. Gamestop too seems to see tablets and cloud gaming as a possible future. This technology is very much in it's infancy and is dependent on decent internet access, but just in the last 2 years my own internet speed has increased from 15mbps to 25mbps and just last month to 50mbps - all at pretty much the same cost. My bandwidth caps have also seen a corresponding leap, recently moving from 250GB/month to 400GB/month. The recent changes from analog to digital TV has opened up new bandwidths that will likely see increases in internet speed, caps, and access in many areas of North America.

While cloud based gaming does have some limitations (constant internet connection and bandwidth caps), the ability to take advantage of offers like this, where you can currently pay $9.99 a month to play any of over 100 games (many are top rated releases) - well, it's a pretty great deal. Cloud based gaming can easily combine the rental aspects of services like Gamefly, along with the purchasing options of services like Steam, PSN or XBL.

Cloud based gaming isn't going to replace consoles any time soon... but the potential is there. The reason for this potential is integration. With a tablet, someone can program their DVR to record a show then sit down at work and watch a free episode of "House" while eating their lunch. They can come home, hook up their iPad to a TV and play Borderlands and if their husband comes home and insists on watching the hockey game... well, it's a simple matter of disconnecting the iPad and using the iPad's screen while sitting back with a controller and playing the game. Controls don't even need to be limited to a game controller - bluetooth keyboards or even touch interfaces could be used - expanding the types of games offered.

Integration may well end up selling gaming to people who don't want to spend a lot of money on a console, and then even potentially be tied into spending more money on monthly fees to be able to play online games. Some people may instead opt to buy an iPad and have their gaming as an extra. Not just iOS games, but PC/console games streamed to them. Even World of Warcraft is looking at the potential for using tablets. As tablets grow and evolve, the offerings will continue to increase.

While consoles are gradually offering diverse TV and movie options, the true integration is taking place elsewhere. Tablets are still young.. but at the rate that they are currently growing, they may well have the eventual capability of offering reasonably priced options for full gaming experiences - though I suspect we would still have to subscribe to separate services to get those Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo exclusive games. While laptops offer more power and functionality than tablets, it's the portability, the apps, the battery life, the ease of use and the simplicity that sells tablets... and will continue to sell them.

The future... it really is integration. Not just gaming, but almost every aspect of our lives. My iPad really does run my life. Every occasion and appointment beeps at me from my calendar, including all the Canucks games and what time/channel they are on. I threw out all my cookbooks and use the free cookbook apps instead... stretching out in a chair to look through all the recipes, then taking the iPad through to the kitchen and following along with the recipe - even occasionally switching over to a video app and catching up on some new TV series I might have missed while waiting for the cookies to bake.

I do my online banking, I get my bills and correspondence via email, I check through a customized TV guide that only shows the channels I pay for to see what shows I might want to record, I often check Dtoid from my iPad. At night I sometimes listen to or watch a podcast, or even streaming TV... because my husband hates the light from the big TV in the bedroom. I can even set up my iPad to turn itself off in case I drift off to sleep and forget. I also have the option of using sleep apps that allow me to listen to rain drops or gentle waterfalls. I read free library books on my iPad and don't have to worry about late fees... or even going to the library. I love to read web based magazines... customized to my interests and always updated (Zite, Flipboard and Pulse).

Gaming... it's not quite there yet, but it's getting close. I for one, may embrace it when it finally arrives. Life should be integrated.

... and neither my PS3 nor my Xbox currently help me bake awesome cookies! :)

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