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Apple’s New Job Posting May Hint at Early Tablet Strategy

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There’s been talk lately that Apple’s (s aapl) execs are a little unhappy with the direction the iPhone and iPod touch have taken in regards to gaming. They didn’t anticipate such strong interest in gaming, it wasn’t really a key concern in their initial plans for the platform…and anyway, Stevey J’s not much of a gamer, and everyone knows to steer clear of Steve’s dislikes.

But as the Philosopher Jagger so wisely put it, “You can’t always get what you want.” And, as someone else once quipped, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join, ‘em.” To that end, Apple is advertising a job opening for a “Game/Media Software Engineer.” Based at its Cupertino hive mind headquarters, it’s a full-time position, and it sounds like Apple is taking it really very seriously;

The interactive media group is looking for a skilled software engineer who wants to work as part of a small highly motivated team to work on interactive multimedia experiences on the iPhone and iPod touch.

OK, sounds like gaming, right? I mean, sure, it could be the start of iLife for iPhone, but I doubt that. I suspect this is more likely the beginning of some home-grown games. It has done it before (it’s just, no one cared).

The position on the team is to help design and implement interactive multimedia experiences on the iPhone and iPod touch. The position also requires a creative thinker who can contribute and comment on the design process as well as being flexible enough to aid in all aspects of production such as asset management and able to work to a deadline.

Yeah, definitely sounds like gaming. What other medium is best described as “interactive multimedia?” (Don’t answer that, I know there are loads of genres, I’m just being glib, mmkay?)

The posting adds that applicants must have strong C / C++ / Objective-C skills, while an iPhone development background “is preferred.” In addition, Apple requires its shiny new game interactive multimedia code-monkey to have at least three years of videogame development experience, which includes having shipped “…at least one AAA title.”

So the question now is…why now? It was pretty obvious in the months following the launch of the App Store that games were the hot favorite of pretty much every iPhone/iPod touch owner. (Well, Games and Fart Apps. I once sat in a room drinking beer with some nerdy buddies and one of them started showing off his fart apps. No more than ten minutes later we had purchased and installed half a dozen such apps each. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Yes, I’m ashamed.)

Unlike Fart Apps, public demand for games has a habit of persisting. (Insert Fart-App-related “bad smell” joke here.) So, if Games are here to stay, might as well get in on it, right Apple? At the very least, there’s money to be made.

More Than Just the Money

Of course, there’s another possibility here. Much has been said of the rumored iTablet and the challenges of making iPhone OS applications “scalable” — that is, adapted to run on the tablet’s much larger, higher-resolution screen. Assuming the iTablet also takes advantage of a custom chip architecture (courtesy of Apple’s purchase of PA Semi) we have a unique hardware platform in the pipeline. And when Apple has something new to show-off, there’s a very strictly observed custom to keep in mind…

When Microsoft (s msft) shows off a new technology, it traditionally does so with the help of a hardware partner. On stage during a keynote, Ozzie will say something like “We’ve worked closely with HP for ten thousand years and here’s their President of Keynote Demos to show off the new widget…” So then some exec in a shirt and tie comes on stage and fumbles around on a PC for 15 minutes talking about “platform integration” and “line-of-business opportunity” or, whatever.

When Apple shows off a new technology, it traditionally takes all the credit for it, from inception to execution and every step in between. After Steve wows us with a 50 foot tall, all-graphics slideshow, Scott Forstall introduces a jeans-and-tshirt-wearing execu-dude, “We are so proud of this amazing brilliant incredible new widget… so we gave it to EA’s developers to play with for only six seconds and they produced this new game they’re gonna demo now…”

Showmanship differences aside, the point here is that Microsoft never tells us how it should be done. Apple, on the other hand, always does.

So perhaps (in the context of taking advantage of the potential offered by an entirely new platform) this job posting makes perfect sense; whether it likes it or not, the iPhone/iPod touch have demonstrated that gaming is an important part of today’s mobile lifestyle. Making them work properly on the tablet will be a new challenge, and one Apple will be keen to demonstrate from day one. If it is going to stick to the Apple tradition of showing everyone “how it’s done,” it makes sense it will want to develop a demo in-house.

If you fancy applying, you can read the posting right here. I wonder if Joe Hewitt should consider applying, y’know, just for giggles?

23 Responses to “Apple’s New Job Posting May Hint at Early Tablet Strategy”

  1. frummamnery

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  6. The iPhone/touch will only acquire a ‘for gaming only’ halo only if Apple lets that happen, and oddly enough the best way to keep that from happening is for them to create a model specifically intended for gaming.

    Why? Because that’d mean they would also create other models for other purposes. I’ll take the iPod touch as an illustration, since the presence of a cell phone complicates matters. What Apple needs are touch models that target different audiences, much as they have different models of iPods in general. The touch is simply too good an idea to waste on models that differ in little more than storage space. Examples:

    1. A Sport model. Rugged, waterproof, built-in GPS, compass, barometer, lots of memory for maps, camera, and a long battery life. Even with a premium price, it would sell well.

    2. A business/productivity model. Camera, long battery life, built-in mike, maybe a GPS, less expensive. Intended for those on the go who prefer a separate cell-phone.

    3. Kid’s model. Larger, drop-proof and partially waterproof (call it ‘toliet-proof’). Long battery life with a connector for external AC/12 volt power for trips. Aimed at kids games and education tools.

    4. Game model. Fast, powerful graphics. No GPS, no camera. Might have grips to make holding easier, added buttons.

    5. Travelers model. Compact, attractive, GPS, compass, maybe a camera. Intended for vacationers needing location, maps and a guide to sights. Might include a SD slot. Sell travel packages through the iTunes store. Might include a cell-phone-like mike and speaker for VoIP uses to chat home via WiFi.

    As with existing models, it’d be possible to write apps that run on all the models, taking advantage of features (like location services) when available.

    The iPhone/touch market is more than big enough to support all these models at profitable volumes. Having specialized models, like one for outdoor sports, would keep a competitor from exploiting an Apple-neglected niche to expand their market share. Having various models would mean that only one gets branded as the gamers version.

  7. david in portland

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the article. Interesting.

    But, please, please, please — do not use “in regards to … ”

    It’s “in regard to” — no s at the end.