iPad Entertains, Oh Yes It Does

Apple iPad

When the iPad was announced back in January, there was understandable excitement over Apple finally acknowledging that it had the long-rumored device up its sleeve for some time now, but there was also a hefty amount of skepticism over whether it would be the right balance of innovation and practicality to be successful. When Steve Jobs first demonstrated the iPad by showing us how to use Mail of all things, the potential seemed to fade instantly, but now that we’re on the eve of launch day, all of the fun apps are starting to show themselves. And just like the iPod and iPhone before it, the iPad will likely give every other portable media device a run for its money.

Here’s what we’ve already seen announced:

Games

Electronic Arts, arguably the biggest game developer on any platform, is bringing some of its biggest hits to the iPad, including Need for Speed SHIFT for iPad ($14.99), Scrabble for iPad ($9.99), Mirror’s Edge for iPad ($12.99), Command & Conquer Red Alert for iPad ($12.99) and the venerable Tetris for iPad ($7.99).

If some of those seem a little steep, smaller developers are also getting in on the action for less but without sacrificing quality. Founded by former-EA exec Neil Young, iPhone-exclusive developer ngmoco already has versions of Charadium ($2.99) and it’s hot new thing and current addiction We Rule (free) available. Veteran casual games dev PopCap brings an “HD” version of its latest hit Plants vs Zombies ($9.99) and Aussie-based Firemint expands on its two quality iPhone titles with Flight Control HD ($4.99) and Real Racing HD ($9.99).

Movies & TV

Given the popularity of games on the iPhone—an evolutionary step from the chintzy mobile games of yore—it was only expected that the iPad would launch its share of games, and it looks like video content is about to make the same leap with the iPad. Not only is there the 3G/Wi-Fi capability like the iPhone, but now there’s a bigger screen to work with.

Surely there must’ve been some Apple/Disney partnering to get the ABC Player (free) app out the door featuring full streams of ABC’s entire line-up, especially when all of ABC’s shows are also available in the iTunes Store itself. Free is always nice, right? Also, CBS is tailoring its site to work with the iPad by ditching Flash for HTML5 (another story altogether) to provide iPad-friendly video streaming and NBC is well ahead of the game with an iPhone-friendly video site and will most likely use the same technique to accommodate the iPad.

Maybe the biggest surprise is the introduction of an iPad app for Netflix (free) that works with your subscription’s Watch Instantly queue. It’s a boon for customers that regularly use the Netflix streaming service because now there’s no longer the need to be attached to a computer or set-top box and you have full control over your account and queue with the app’s integration of the Netflix web site.

Not one to get left behind, online video hub Hulu is also reportedly tossing around the idea of a subscription-based iPad app for streaming its library of films and TV series. This along with Netflix could make for a lifetime of truly portable on-demand video with minimal costs. Sound revolutionary to me.

Comics, books & periodicals

Unlike the leaps forward in video (and games and music before that), Apple is hoping the iPad will truly revolutionize the oldest medium in the world—the printed word. You could wager that it’s at the core of the iPad’s design; the size, the shape, even the weight are designed to feel as comfortable and practical as any book or magazine.

First out of the gate is Apple’s own iBooks (free + in-app purchases) app that, with the integrated iBookstore, serves as both a store and repository for all of your digital books. While this is a direct shot at Amazon’s Kindle, anyone already invested in the rival e-reader may not be out of luck if an iPad version of the Kindle for iPhone (free) app surfaces.

Aside from plain ol’ books, the iPad really shines when it’s used for the full-color presentation of comic books and magazines, and publishers aren’t waiting around. Comic book publishers Marvel (free + in-app purchases) and IDW (free + in-app purchases) are already on-board with full iPad versions of their apps, while magazines are being given their own special treatment, whether in a specialized app like Popular Science+ ($4.99) or GQ ($2.99), or as part of a larger distribution service like Zinio’s forthcoming app. And of course, newsprint stalwarts like TIME ($4.99), The Wall Street Journal (free + in-app purchases), USA Today (free) and The New York Times (free) are ready for the iPad, showing us they can adapt with technology and the times.

All this and the iPad isn’t even available in stores yet. Tomorrow it’ll likely be another story, though. If you’re getting an iPad (or even just excited at the possibilities), do you have any cool entertainment apps to share?

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