Apple adds Metal to iOS 8 to supercharge mobile gaming

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Image rendered with Metal

Source: Apple

If you're an iOS gamer, Apple made a few announcements at WWDC yesterday that could impact your gaming future.

First was Swift, a new programming language intended to replace Objective-C. This won't have any direct impact on you as a gamer but it could impact the people creating the games you love, helping them get titles out faster, or get them running faster. Of course if you're an iOS developer yourself you'll want to check it out.

More significant to end users was Metal, which is a new proprietary game development technology. It's supposed to reduce overhead when compared to OpenGL, and thus lead to games that run faster. The official pitch from Apple's site says:

Built for developers who create highly immersive console games, Metal is a new technology that will allow them to squeeze maximum performance from the A7 chip. It’s optimized to allow the CPU and GPU to work together to achieve optimal performance. It’s designed for multithreading, and there are great tools for putting it all together in Xcode.

So this is great news, assuming you have a new iOS device, because here's the catch. Metal is designed for the A7 chip. That means (for now) the iPhone 5s, 2nd generation iPad Mini, or 5th generation iPad (the iPad Air).

If your device doesn't have an A7 chip, you're out of luck. And at this point in time I'm not sure if "out of luck" means a game based on Metal will just run more slowly on your device, or if it means it won't run at all. Let's hope the former and that Apple won't fragment its OS by leaving out any kind of provision for running Metal-based apps on older hardware.

Metal is part of iOS 8 which comes to consumers next Fall. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a new iteration of Apple TV based on the A7 chip (and shipping with a physical game controller, at least as an option) some time between now and then. It sounds to me like Apple is getting ready to take on the living room with this kind of graphics power.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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