If Steve Jobs is Out, Will Poker Get In?

Chris Grove : January 18th, 2011


Could the possible exit of the iconic Apple founder open a door for US poker players on products such as the iPad and the iPhone?

Currently, those in the US looking to play online poker on Apple devices like the iPhone have few options; they can opt for a play-money games such as Zynga Poker, but they’re essentially out of luck if they’re interested in playing poker for real money.

There’s the hassle-prone, limited workaround of remotely accessing another computer via your iPhone, but that’s not a viable option for people who are actually “mobile” with their mobile devices. There’s also Switch Poker, a browser-based real-money client, but US players aren’t welcome at the site and traffic has yet to really gain traction. Finally, users can jailbreak their phones and access some real-money options, but that’s a step not all iPhone users are willing to take.

Why do poker players have such limited options? After all, Android-owning players can easily fire up real-money Rush Poker Mobile via Full Tilt’s mobile app, so what’s left iUsers in the lurch?

Two primary factors – both of which could be impacted if Jobs is out of the picture for any extended period of time at Apple. The first is the incompatibility of Apple devices with Flash – or, to put it more plainly, the fact that Jobs personally seems to be hell-bent on keeping Flash off of the iPhone and iPad. A majority of browser-based poker clients rely on Flash to operate, so no Flash equals no access.

The second is the tight control Apple exercises over their App Store. As opposed to the open quality of the Android Market, where even unapproved apps can still easily run properly and be distributed freely (e.g., the Rush Poker Mobile app), the Apple App store operates on narrow, strict and often seemingly bizarre guidelines.

While both policies are obviously that of a company (Apple) and not a man alone (Jobs), it’s worth noting that Jobs is not your typical CEO, as this Business Week op-ed makes clear. Both policies are clearly an extension of Jobs, and both are quite unpopular with the user base of the iPhone and iPad (especially poker players). It’s not inconceivable that Job’s departure would mark the beginning of the end for both stances, and as they crumble, so does the barrier to entry for real-money poker on the iPhone and iPad.

Past the hypothetical, there’s the very real threat that Android is posing to the market share Apple holds on mobile devices. With their piece of the pie shrinking and additional pressure on their stock from the uncertainty that Jobs departure would surely generate, that threat could compel Apple to bend on one of the key demands consumers have been making since day one: Make Flash work.

The AP video below reinforces the point:

Does any of this translate to real-money native poker on your US iPhone tomorrow? Not likely. But as Apple’s halo dims, you can be sure that the chances for Rush Poker on your Apple device will only grow.

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