When it comes to organizing, simplifying and entertaining, the iPad has it.
This week, across the country, people are ripping open some very precious Apple boxes to reveal Steve Jobs' newest wondertoy, the iPad. Sales analyses for the tablet computer's opening weekend are estimated at around 700,000 units, including pre-orders, at a starting price of $499 per model; Apple hasn't offered any official numbers.
There's been much debate and hype over the iPad's next-big-thing status. Instead of jumping into that particular mosh pit, we've been closely watching as the applications have started rolling out, anticipating which tools will organize, simplify and entertain. Here, our picks for the top apps for any business professional.
Air Sharing Pro
The Air Sharing Pro app turns your iPad into a portable hard drive, and the upgrade from the iPhone version puts the larger screen to good use. Wirelessly mount your iPad as a drive on your computer so you can load any files you need on-the-go. The iPad now can open, view or e-mail files in any format--Excel docs, movie files, pdfs, you name it. Air Sharing also allows your iPad to locate any printers available on a wireless network, which will surely come in handy. $9.99.
Ever find yourself roaming the grocery store aisles with little or no clue what to make for dinner. BigOven, a recipe-centric social-networking site with over 170,000 recipes, has built an app just for you. Browse for recipe suggestions and create grocery lists right on the iPad; you'll be eating better and shopping smarter in no time. $4.99.
Forgetting a taxi receipt or business lunch can get you into trouble when it comes time to fill out your montly T&E report. Cube, which works with your existing Google or Gmail accounts just might be your saving grace. This minimalist app (no fussy design elements here) is an easy way to keep track of time, travel and money. Freelancers, especially, can benefit from Cube's feature that tracks different projects, tasks and clients with color-coding. Free.
Typing on the iPad has mixed reviews from early users, many saying that pecking away at the screen when placed flat is awkward, and propping the tablet on an angle is problematic when you're on-the-move. Enter Dragon Dictation--a voice dictation app from the well-known software maker that translates your voice into text.
A reviewer from USA Today says his tests were a whopping 98% accurate--a serious step up from most other voice dictation software and far faster than the earlier app developed for the iPhone. Click a tab and your voice note becomes email-ready. Free.
Instantly makes a newspaper out of the many articles and blog posts you come across during the day--but never the time to read. Instapaper lets you cache Web pages right to your iPad to read later on. Bonus from Instapaper: The app is universal. You only have to pay for it once, and it will work on any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. $4.99.
Kayak is the best place on the Web to find the cheapest flights out of town--or out of a dreadful conference weekend in the middle of nowhere. The iPad app makes browsing for flights simple and easy-to-use, and early reviews say the bigger screen of the iPad upgrades the existing iPhone app a million-to-one. Free.
Read the ForbesWoman group on LinkedIn, and you will find evidence of why it works: It's a great way to talk about things that matter and to stay connected to past, present and future colleagues and business contacts. The newest version of LinkedIn for iPad promises to allow you to update your status right from your profile, even when you're on the go--which we can already see coming in handy when iPadding from conferences or events. Free.
The NPR app for iPhone is great--but the public broadcaster has so much content on the page that it's better used on the iPad's bigger screen. The news source has three main categories to choose from: news, arts and life and music. A multitasking plus is the app lets users listen to full episodes of favorite NPR programs like "All Things Considered"while browsing the rest of the site for other content. Here's to tapping into local NPR affiliates from around the world. Free.
De-stress at your desk, or wherever you are. Pocket Yoga offers an instructor at your fingertips: three practices, three difficulty levels and three duration times to give you 27 different Flow Yoga combination routines. The "instructor" uses both illustrations on iPad's large screen and voice commands to help with your poses and breathing while the iPad's memory can store a log of your training. Multitasking bonus: Pocket Yoga works with iTunes simultaneously so you can work out to our own music. $2.99.
For word people, Scrabble has always been a favorite downtime distraction not to feel guilty about. Scrabble for iPad looks great on the big display and includes options for playing against the computer, online opponents or friends--just passing the iPad back and forth. Or by adding an additional (free) app, synche iPhones or iPod touches to use the smaller screens as letter racks. This is another app that works with iTunes to let you control the soundtrack to your game. $9.99.
(Meghan Casserly, Forbes.com)