iTunes

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Bill Loguidice's picture

The Great Debate - Tablets versus eBook Readers and the Fight for our Senses

Over at another forum I frequent, a topic that ostensibly began, Dell Streak Available Next Month, AT&T Not Required, soon morphed into a discussion on the merits of an eReader, like the Kindle, over a tablet, like the iPad, and vice versa. To summarize the lengthy battle (though I recommend you read you yourself using the link), the argument on the eReader side essentially goes like this:

- eInk provides a superior reading experience
- The two top eReader devices offer free 3G
- Target will soon be offering the Kindle in their stores, so Kindle sales will naturally skyrocket
- The iPad is too expensive
- iTunes is too draconian
- Grandma and moms don't want a tablet

The argument on the tablet - and specifically the iPad side - goes something like this:

- The reading experience is just good enough for most people, and just good enough often wins over better
- Color eInk is still a ways away, and for black and white, static devices, eReaders are fairly expensive
- The iPad costs more, but also has many more features and capabilities
- If you're going to carry around a device the size of an eReader, it's not that much of a stretch that you'd carry around something only marginally bigger to get access to many more features
- The iPad has become a sexy, must-have device, thanks to slick advertising and the well regarded Apple brand; eReaders are unlikely to ever been seen as sexy, must-have devices
- In roughly two months, the iPad is closing in on the LIFETIME (since 2007) sales of the Kindle

The way I see it, while I'm a fan of eInk, especially for black and white and limited functionality devices, they tend to cost too much, even though the Kindle and Nook offer lifetime 3G service to purchase more books from just about any location you happen to be at (and a select few other online features to take advantage of the connection), though it's arguable if you really ever have to buy a new book every time you're out and about on the town. If they hit $99 or less, they might be able to gain more momentum outside of the successful niche I expect them to remain in for the foreseeable future, but I still find it unlikely, particularly with the coming onslaught of iPad-like tablet clones, which will continue to steal any new eReader thunder. What they really need though on the eReader side are color eInk displays, which right now are too expensive for mainstream price points. If they had color screens combined with a $150 or lower price point, they might stand a chance to be something a bit more than a niche product, though it's arguable how many truly avid readers there are anyway to support such dedicated products, no matter how refined they become (even recent tests with students at universities have not shown them to be reasonable substitutes for text books--at least in their current forms).

So to summarize, my main point is, is that the iPad's momentum will continue, price be damned, a ton of clone tablets will be released to further place the spotlight on the form and functionality factor, and as a result, sales of dedicated eReaders will remain at roughly the same rate and pace they are now. As a result, the dedicated reader's time in the spotlight has probably come and gone, and it's just a matter of time before the tablet format becomes the de facto companion (when called for) to cell phones, smart or otherwise, since they also give you full access to the same book libraries as the dedicated readers, as well all the other types of media (and games, apps, etc., etc.).

Even though I didn't lay out all the details in this post, I think you get the idea. Naturally I'm 100% correct in my prognostication, but I'm open to the remotest of possibilities that I might be a raving lunatic and don't know what the heck I'm talking about, so I would love to hear what YOU think...

Bill Loguidice's picture

Review of Aeropack (Insurgent Games, 2010) for the Apple iPod Touch and iPhone

Today, I will be taking a look at Aeropack, from Micah Lee (who generously provided a review copy) and his company, Insurgent Games, which follows my previous reviews of his four star [ (x)(x)(x)(x)( ) ] shooter, teh internets (2009), and puzzle game, Skeleton Key (2009). Lee again gets bonus points for coming out with something completely different in Aeropak, which is best described as a platform puzzle game, and is officially described as "A Steampunk Retro Platformer". The premise? Using your fuel hungry jetpack, walk, jump, fly, and climb to collect all of the gems in a level (and extra fuel whenever possible), and avoid anything that moves.

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Review of Pigs VS Wolves (Digiarty Software, 2010) for the Apple Ipod Touch and iPhone

Pigs VS Wolves (2010), featured on the iPho Game Development Website, is Digiarty Software's recently released tower defense game, available on iTunes, for the iPod Touch/iPhone. Pigs VS Wolves comes out hot on the heels of powerhouse PopCap Games strikingly similar, but higher profile, Plants vs Zombies, which, besides being available on the iPod Touch/iPhone, also has versions available for the PC, Mac, and Web. Not having played Plants vs Zombies, besides the obvious visual differences, the only other major distinction that I can see is the price. Plants vs Zombies runs $2.99, while Pigs VS Wolves is just $.99--at least for a limited time. Therefore, without a true basis for comparison, I will only review Pigs VS Wolves on its own merits, keeping in mind the existence of the prior product from a much larger developer/publisher.

Tower defense games are considered a sub-genre of real-time strategy games, with the most basic goal to stop enemies from reaching a particular point. Wikipedia points to Atari's Rampart, a 1990 arcade game from Atari, as forming the foundation of this sub-genre's roots. While I think that simplifies history a bit and minimizes the truly hybrid nature of Rampart - which I argue is part Tetris - it's ultimately a fair assertion. One of my personal favorites in this sub-genre is PixelJunk Monsters (Q-Games, 2008; Sony PlayStation 3 (PSN)), though I've certainly played my share of others, including South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play! (Doublesix, 2009; Microsoft Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Arcade)), that I've tended to like much less. Major distinctions between the tower defense games include how much real-time elements there are and of course the overall imagination and cohesiveness that goes into all of the defensive and board designs. The vast majority of these games feature levels that start out simple but progressively add more playing pieces to the mix, requiring an increasing amount of thought in both defensive selection and asset allocation, as well as an increasing amount of trial and error to both learn new capabilities and properly utilize them to fight off the hoards of enemies.

The developer describes Pigs VS Wolves as follows (and we must at least partially forgive their non-native English):

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Review of Sword of Fargoal (Fargoal LLC, 2009) for the iPod Touch and iPhone

Released earlier this month, Sword of Fargoal for the iPod Touch and iPhone ("iTouch") has had no shortage of pre-release buzz and anticipation, and, once gamers got their hands on the game, nearly universal praise. Well, it looks like now I have to heap on some more.

The original commercial versions of Sword of Fargoal, released for the Commodore VIC-20 and 64 in the early 1980s (review here), came towards the end of the former system's short, but successful commercial lifespan, and early on in the latter system's long and successful commercial lifespan. While generally considered a critical and commercial success (with the caveat that it was also successfully pirated), its release timing in each case caused it to have a bit more mainstream obscurity than it likely would have had otherwise. Nevertheless, the strength of the game - which is essentially a simplified, randomized dungeon crawl, very much in the tradition of Rogue (though with more real-time elements) - allowed it to have enough impact in the minds of gamers to be mentioned often on "best of" lists and receive several unofficial conversions and updates over the years, even making it as one of the games on the popular Commodore 30-in-1 from a few years back. This brings us to the latest release of the game, and the first official new commercial release since the Commodore 64 version. Matt Barton had the pleasure of speaking with original author Jeff McCord not too long ago, and it was McCord and the rest of the Fargoal LLC team who were kind enough to send me a review code for this version for my iPhone 3G.

Upon starting the game, you're greeted with an all too uncommon occurrence in iTouch games--an opening cinematic. Normally, this would be a mere distraction to quickly skip past, but in this case - no doubt due to the skills of Emmy-winning animator, Charlie Canfield - it's a pleasure to behold and a great scene setter for the stylized visuals of the game within. This quality is carried through to the occasional in-game cut scenes. While this is nothing to get the game over all by itself, this is but the first of many examples of the type of TLC that went into this game's creation. Not to be outdone, British composer Daniel Pemberton created a musical score to be reckoned with. Combined with the mix of classic in-game sound effects, aurally the game does not disappoint.

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Review of Skeleton Key (Insurgent Games, 2009) for the iPod Touch and iPhone (Now with pirates)

After just officially releasing the latest update to Insurgent Games' Skeleton Key, Micah Lee, head of the studio and the game's programmer, was kind enough to send me a promo code so I could do a review. With iTunes being such a hot bed for app development these days and there being countless games available in every possible category and price point, it's not surprising that this is the first time I heard of the game. Since my time is extremely limited these days, I do most of my gaming on the go with my iPhone 3G, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to leverage my current situation and put up a review. So, with all that said, exactly what is Skeleton Key?

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Lots of thoughts on my new iPhone

Well, after seeing what seemed like every Tom, Dick and Harriet with an iPhone during our trip to San Francisco and noting that several critical barriers (Outlook synchronization, coming Slingbox support, etc.) had fallen over time for the device, as well as my wife getting a new LG Shine in a pinch because the battery on her Samsung Blackjack II had bit the dust, I decided now was as good of a time as any to change phones from my own Samsung Blackjack II to a white 16GB iPhone, particularly since if you go with a refurb on the AT&T site you can save $100 off the price (and this applies to either the 8GB or 16GB model). The fact that we were already AT&T customers sealed the deal.

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