Even before its release, the iPad is already a success. And I can say that without knowing or really caring about how many units get sold over the weekend.
On the eve of the iPad's arrival, my inbox is full of announcements about iPad Apps. Some of the major Apps from big players like the New York Times, Electronic Arts and the Wall Street Journal were announced in January at the same time as the device but now I'm starting to hear about lots of applications from lots of players like Zillow which will let iPad users estimate property values and the Weather Channel which plans to launch its App on Saturday, come rain or shine.
I received an email today from Telltale Games announcing "The Penal Zone App" and I heard from SuperSync that they will have an app that lets people use an iPad to access data synced from any combination of PCs and Macs.
MotionX, which makes an iPhone GPS application for hiking, cycling and other outdoor activities, will release a "high definition" version for the iPad 3G when it's released later this month.
For me, the killer app will be Netflix. I love streaming Netflix movies to my PC, laptop and TV and can now stream them to an Ipad. Of course, you need Internet connectivity to stream a movie which could help sales of the 3G iPad when it comes out later this month.
One nice thing about most Apps is that they will be priced like iPhone Apps rather than like PC or Mac software programs. That means that iPad users will have access to a large library of affordable games and productivity products, typically for under $10 and sometimes for as little as $1 or even free. Just as it was with the iPhone, the Apps are the real game changer because going forward, it means people can purchase software as an impulse buy without having to worry about whether they can afford it.
The fact that Apps are all delivered online is nothing new, but it is probably the first device other than a smartphone where that's true for all apps from day one. It could be the final nail in the coffin of shrink wrapped software. Another interesting thing about iPad Apps is that they're small and nimble unlike megaprograms, like Microsoft Office, which come in boxes larger than some of the PCs they run on.
I admit that I was skeptical when the device was first announced, declaring myself "underwhelmed" by what I saw relative to all the hype. As far as the hardware is concerned, that's still the case -- the iPad is a big iPod Touch. But hardware is only one factor in the success of a product. When it comes to the ecosystem that supports the iPad, it's already a winner.
Update - Friday evening: Amazon has announced Kindle for iPad which means that Apple's iBook store will get some serious competition from Amazon. Also, on Friday Google announced a Gmail application.