Category: Design

SmartGo Kifu for iPad

The iPad version of SmartGo has been approved! It will be an iPad-only app called SmartGo Kifu, priced at $19.99.

View games as kifu

Kifu is the Japanese term for game records as shown in books. Viewing and replaying a game as kifu is the first new feature in this iPad version of SmartGo. You can still replay games move by move. But you can also look at a game as a series of figures and diagrams, much like a Go book. SmartGo Kifu automatically splits the game into diagrams at comments and variations. In a diagram, you can see a sequence of moves at a glance.

SmartGo Kifu comes with 20 professional games annotated by Alexandre Dinerchtein to showcase this feature. You can import any additional commented games and view them the same way.


In this first release, the diagrams are static images. Future versions will let you replay moves directly in the diagrams, but that feature needs some hands-on testing with a real iPad, not just a simulator.

Why not universal?

SmartGo Kifu builds on SmartGo Pro for the iPhone. At this point, the two apps are still pretty close, but over time I expect them to diverge:

  • The screen size of the iPad allows whole new features that will either be missing or limited on the iPhone.
  • Even for shared functions, the UI will over time change away from the iPhone version and become optimized for the iPad.
  • The extra power will allow more game records. Initially, SmartGo Kifu includes 20,000 pro games, but I hope to increase that significantly as soon as I know how the iPad performs.

Unfortunately, this means people who already own SmartGo Pro will have to pay again for SmartGo Kifu. I’d love to provide upgrade pricing, but that’s not yet possible on the App Store. SmartGo Pro users have gotten numerous new features and refinements over the last 18 months, and you can expect many more free updates for both SmartGo Pro and SmartGo Kifu.


SmartGo: Universal, stronger play

The simpler SmartGo application will be universal, as it’s mainly designed for playing against the computer, and I don’t expect big differences in functionality between iPhone and iPad versions. Playing strength automatically improves as you add more processing power, so just as it already plays better on a 3GS than on a 3G, it will play better yet on the iPad. Expect the universal version of SmartGo within a few weeks.

SmartGo on iPad

SmartGo Pro on the iPhone has been a great success. Given the restrictions on screen size and computing power, it works a lot better than I at first thought would be possible. But the iPad seems custom made for Go, and I hope to make this the killer app for Go players. Please let me know about any rough edges you find in this first release, and what you’d like to see in future versions.

The iPad: Magical and Inspirational

I’ve been working on user interfaces for the game of Go for 25 years. It was part of my Ph.D. thesis. It’s been my bread and butter for the last 10 years. And now, without ever touching an iPad, that device has changed my view of how to present a Go game to the user. Within six weeks of working on the iPad version of SmartGo, I’ve come up with two significant new concepts.

I could have come up with these ideas before. But it’s a fact that I didn’t, not until the iPad came along. The possibilities and constraints of the iPad — a blank canvas focused on content — inspired these new approaches. And I expect more surprises and inspiration after actually holding an iPad in my hands.

The iPad is meant to be touched. And it has revolutionized my concepts without me ever touching it. That’s powerful magic.

To me, it’s like Apple designed the iPad with Go and SmartGo in mind. If the iPad gets other developers to feel the same way, Apple has already won.