I've been playing with my iPad for a few days now, having downloaded a bunch of different apps, and I thought I'd give my initial impressions. This is not a detailed review, but rather how I feel about the device and the software that's available for it. Keep in mind that I already own about seven different Apple-branded iStuff devices, and that I'm still definitely in the "honeymoon" period with the iPad. That said, here's how things have gone so far.
First of all, welcome to the future. Perhaps this is how my parents felt when VCRs came out (they are/were a bit older than me, forty+ years in fact). When I'm using the iPad, I feel like I'm on the command deck of the Enterprise. I've had an iPhone for a couple of years, and it made me wish that I'd had one of them back in my grad school days, but the iPad (even with the same OS) feels like I finally got my freakin' jet packs and vacation homes on the moon. I'm not sure if it's the speed or the size of the surface that does it for me, but I know that it's almost as cool as just grabbing and rearranging data kernels in a holotank.
Second, I spent about 15 minutes with the iPad at a local mall on Sunday between my Gamestorm meeting and my choir concert while waiting for Mel to go pick up a couple of things in a store. Every person who walked by was either whispering, "That's one of those new iPads!" or coming right up and asking if they could watch for a bit. I felt like the coolest kid in school.
Third, I'm impressed with the apps so far. I've run a few things that are iPhone-specific (Weather Bug, Catan, etc), and they look suitably grainy when bumped up to 2x size for display (although Catan is very playable, it just feels old-skool). The stuff that's in HD specifically for the iPad, like Labyrinth 2, are extremely smooth and amazing to look at. Even the perspective changes as you tilt the iPad, very obvious with the walls in particular. Motion is very fluid, and it's downright astonishing how good the feel is. The same goes for The Pinball, which will allow you to watch the action either in a "pan and scan" mode where the screen follows the ball, or in a fixed mode where you can see the entire table. All that's required to change from one view to another - change the orientation of the iPad.
Here's a brief (and incomplete) list of the various apps I've downloaded. It's a lot of apps, but I wanted to get as representative an example of apps as I could.
Good Reader - I've barely scratched the surface of this app, which I'm using to read PDFs, particularly game rulesets. I'm finding that the size is a little too small for me to read a single page in portrait mode, but the zooming features work pretty well and GoodReader has tap zones that let you move around easily. The file management tools are also quite acceptable and useful.
Kindle - Integration with the iPhone (read a book one place, you pick it right back up on the other device) is fantastic. I expect iNook and similar readers to be just as good or better.
Netflix - Streaming video looks great. I have yet to get through an entire video, though, so no idea if my iPad is one of the ones with lock-up problems that I've read about online.
StreamToMe - Netflix from your personal video library. Again, very smooth, and considerably better than the PS3's streaming. This app does require a server app running on the host computer, but that's not a huge problem. Also nice - you can watch non-Quicktime formats with this app, as opposed to the Videos app that comes with the iPad.
PrintCentral - Haven't tried it out yet, I'm afraid. It also requires a server app. I guess it also provides dropbox functionality as well, also untried as of yet. Once I stop buying apps every few minutes I guess I'll start using that too.
Pianist Pro - As a musician, I need a pitch generating tool, this works quite well and has a lot of configurability. It's also the most expensive of the piano apps for the iPad.
Korg iElectribe - Emulator of a mid-00's beatbox. Actually something I'd consider using professionally, were I in a band that could use it instead of a 70's guitar-based classic rock cover band. Even has the tubes light up as you increase amp distortion! Hilarious, and very cheap at $10.
Crosswords - Expensive at $20, but the crosswords are free. You can't get the *new* NY Times crosswords, but I'm not sure what the difference is between the new ones and the "classic" puzzles you can get from ten years ago unless you really want to have clues covering brand new celebrities. The best reason to bring the iPad into the bathroom with you.
Games: Mu (untried), Money (AI only), Labyrinth 2 (awesome), Dungeon HD (very cool so far, even the virtual joystick), The Pinball, Solitaire City (great feel), Babo Crash (Bejeweled clone, perhaps my favorite game yet on the iPad).
Other stuff: Cool Wallpapers for some really great screens, Pages (passable word processing), Numbers (unused yet), NPR (little used as of yet), Comics (best way to read comics, hands down), Soundhound, Pandora Radio, etc.
Next time I'll discuss some of the human factors of using the iPad, and you'll be amazed to learn that it's not a perfect tool IMHO.