Will Apple's Tablet Be a Gaming Device?

We know so very little about the Apple tablet, but the invites to a January 27 Apple event that arrived this week add a new wrinkle to the story: Among the invitees was Kotaku, a prominent gaming blog. That suggests there will be enough gaming related news to merit Kotaku's attendance.

Could the tablet be Apple's biggest push into video games yet? Let's look at the clues.

In April, Gizmodo reported that Apple hired two gaming executives within a week's time. There was Richard Teversham, former senior European director of business, insights and strategy for the Xbox, and Bob Drebin, chief technical officer of AMD's graphics group and creator of the graphics chip for Nintendo's GameCube. Tablet rumors had been around for years at that point, but the story was finding new momentum thanks to a Wall Street Journal story on Steve Jobs' health and ongoing projects.

August yielded a juicy rumor from an unnamed analyst, who told Barron's that Apple's tablet would emphasize multimedia and gaming. Another analyst, Jon Peddie, added that gaming "will be a big part of what this is about." Grain of salt: The unnamed analyst projected a November 2009 launch.

In November, an Apple job posting appeared, seeking a game designer for the iPhone and iPod Touch. One potential theory held that this was actually a covert gig for tablet game development.

It's also worth mentioning that Apple talked up gaming in two press events last year. The unveil of the iPhone's OS 3.0 included support for microtransactions, and Apple made a point of knocking Sony and Nintendo at its iPod event in September. Not tablet-related, but proof that Apple now sees gaming as a lucrative business.

Revisiting my reasons Apple shouldn't get into gaming, I still think a dedicated game console doesn't make much sense, and a tablet whose primary purpose is gaming would disappoint a lot of people. But if Apple indeed reveals the tablet on January 27, and a significant chunk of Steve Jobs' presentation demonstrates some new ways of playing video games, I wouldn't be surprised.

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