What Apps to expect on the Apple iPad?

Will it just be Games, Games, more games, iPhone Ports and eBooks?

When our illustrious editor threw this article assignment at me I immediately went into a taill spin with a mental block. I wasn’t sure why right away. But several days, several thousand lines of code and several other equally pressing jobs later I think I know why. Basically I was trying to think of cool apps to make for the iPad. Which is kind of what my day job is. If I could come up with a whole article’s worth of new and exciting apps I’d probably be coding at least one of them… So I could’t really talk about it then! Therein lay the problem with that approach to writing an article of any length on this subject!

So I am going to approach this from a slightly different angle. I am going to start with what it is inevitable we’ll see, lead into a few things I’ve already heard we will definitely be offered, and then finish up with a bit of a wish list.

Before that though, some general musings..

The first thing to be aware of. If you weren’t already. Is that on day one the iPad will be able to download and run pretty much all of the existing iPhone and iPod app catalog from iTunes. So, plenty of choice there! Existing iPhone apps will either run in a window roughly the size of the iPhone / iPod screen in the centre of the iPads own display. Or (optionally) scaled to two times normal size in a window almost the same size as the iPad’s screen itself. Not perfect, but a tolerable solution for your must have apps if there is not an iPad version available on launch day. Do be aware, however, that depending on your version of iPad some iPhone apps won’t work perfectly. i.e. Those that have camera options, or rely on mobile network connections or more accurate GPS (for those of you with the base iPad model).

What remains to be seen is how many people will move their existing products over to “Universal apps” which can run on any of the “i” devices, and how many will produce dedicated iPad apps. I think it’s quite likely that a lot will opt to produce a dedicated iPad product. Otherwise, with the current App Store business model, developers will potentially be giving away a free upgrade of an existing app for a different platform. Perhaps that is why Apple has been rumoured to have been experimenting with upgrade fees for developers. Something that a lot of devs have been asking for for a long time. That request certainly makes a lot of sense right now. So my guess is expect to see that functionality in the App Store soon.

The other big question for all apps on the iPad is will all developers embrace the extra screen real estate, memory, and graphics capabilities right out of the door? Or will they just scale up their existing iPod and iPhone apps? I expect both will happen initially for a multitude of reasons. Obviously it’s tempting (and easy from a developers perspective) to simply run scaled up iPhone apps on an iPad’s screen. And overall it works quite well. My own apps look kind of cool at 2X the normal size. But having also done the hard work to make all the existing projects I am working on “iPad Native” I can say that they look a whole heck of a lot more impressive running in 768 x 1024 with better textures and reorganised user interfaces. Especially with shaders and all the bells and whistles of OpenGL ES 2. For predominately User Interface based utility apps developers may simply offer larger text input areas and so forth. Something which would certainly be an improvement for some software offerings that are already cramped on the iPhone. But probably not the most optimal solution for our bright shiny new iPad – where we’ll expect a bit more innovation.

Certain Apple apps, which we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on iPods and iPhones were very obviously absent from the iPad launch. Namely Stocks, Calculator, Clock, Weather and Voice Memos. Some believe this is because these apps don’t scale in an aesthetically pleasing way to full screen on such a big device as the iPad. So at the time it’s believed that Steve Jobs nixed them until a more “Apple-esque” way of solving that problem could be arrived at. Others believe that they will show up as free apps at launch anyway on iTunes. Some even think we’ll see widgets. But that latter solution is unlikely initially as we’ve not heard of any functionality which supports that in any SDK leaks. If Apple do produce these apps around launch I expect they’ll look great, but am not sure what form they’ll take. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if we don’t see them for a while. Remember Copy & Paste, and how long that took.

So, what do I think is inevitably going to appear on the iPad?

Well, we all know about the slew of games that were previewed at the unveiling of the iPad in January. So we can expect a racing game (Need for Speed), a shooting game (Nova), and a baseball game and so forth. These games boast some “innovative” new control methods. But I think we have a way to go before we see the really innovative stuff. As simply giving us movable on screen DPads, in car switches, and swipe gesture controls is fairly normal fair these days.

We posted a list of 52 games we can expect to see at launch on the iPad (list here). These are mostly direct iPhone ports. Expect a lot of direct ports in the coming weeks and months. Most carry the HD moniker. Here is a list of few games we’ll see : Ammoin HD, Azkend HD, Flight Control HD, Grind HD, Labyrinth 2 HD, NBA Hotshot HD, Numba HD, Plants vs. Zombies HD, Sparkle HD, Worms HD, Sudoku Real Edition.

TechRadar [TechRadar.com] are reporting that nearly half the apps at launch for the iPad will be games. Earlier this week we reported on Apple’s growing share of the mobile games market. So this seems to make sense. Personally I believe that the iPad will bring about a paradigm shift in gaming in the coming 12 months. But not so much based on the initial offerings. More on that from me in future articles.

We can also expect Apple’s own suite of iWork apps. Keynote (presentation slides), Numbers (spreadsheets), and Pages (word processing). The new iWork for iPad suite takes advantage of the iPad’s multitouch input; for example, slides in Keynote, columns in Numbers, and text and graphics in Pages can be rearranged by tapping and dragging your finger. Apple has updated the iWork online portal to provide additional functionality related to the iPad (as well as the iPhone and iPod), including a share button which makes sharing across social networks and with colleagues easier.

eBooks and eBook readers are a no-brainer. With reports estimating that Apple’s iPad iBookstore will carry something close to 30,000 free public domain books from launch. Expect a few variations on eBook readers, and perhaps applications which allow annotation and note-taking with eBooks and articles for business and personal study use.

I think we will see an awful lot of applications which are half app, half coffee table magazine, and heavily use location awareness. We know that the advertising opportunities on the iPad are being played up and made more flexible by Apple. I expect we’ll see more integration of this in the SDK in future also. Although developers need to be wary as Apple are warning that apps that exist purely to advertise will be given a hard look when submitted for publication.

Offerings similar to the New York Times app, also previewed at Steve Jobs’ initial iPad presentation back in January, will in my belief be ubiquitous with the iPad experience.

ars technica is reporting via the New York Times that “a number of large corporations, including Coca-Cola, FedEx, Unilever, Toyota, Capital One, Oracle, and GM have already bought up advertising rom the likes of Newsweek, Reuters, Time, Wall Street Journal, and NYT itself. In fact, Chase has bought out all of the NYT advertising units for two full months following the iPad’s introduction to advertise its high-end Chase Sapphire credit card.” So expect magazine and media rich apps from all of those guys, most likely on launch day, or thereabouts.

Well rounded quality apps which kind of resemble high production quality magazines are something that I think we’ll see a lot of experimentation with on the iPad. Perhaps rivalling the volume of games we can expect to see.

Although not exploiting location awareness, and thankfully not pushing advertising down our throats, a good example of the style and form factor of what I have just been talking about is the PanelFly app. Which we know is coming. And is beautiful! [panelfly.com] The iPad version of the app boasts social network integration with Twitter and Facebook, and even the ability to “create, sell & share your work with the rest of the world.” If only I could draw….

Which brings me neatly onto that fact that I also expect to see a lot, a real lot, of drawing and painting apps. We’ve already seen Brushes [Gizmodo.com], which was shown at the iPad’s launch. Certainly something I look forward to playing with. But I expect this to only be the tip of the iceberg. With apps for more sophisticated image editing, and even perhaps animation and technical drawing and graphing, as well as presentation of data, being obvious variations in this area of software.

Even more obvious is that we’ll see the usual batch of Twitter, Facebook, and all the other usual mobile apps being ported into iPad versions. I fervently hope though, that with the extra screen real estate, instead of scaled up versions of these apps we see people perhaps working on merging the functionality of a lot of these areas into one app. Or using the screen real estate on the iPad to good effect in the same way that the desktop version of TweetDeck has more flexibility than the iPhone version. Again, this is the same problem that some people see Apple (and all developers facing) with the iPad’s larger screen and lack of widgets or multitasking. My guess there is that we will see developments in the iPad SDK to address this sooner rather than later.

What things have I heard and seen in my travels around the web?

But what else? My first thoughts when the iPad was still just a rumour was that we’d see a whole bunch of Augmented Reality apps. With a camera in the iPad I could imagine any number of navigation, tourism, and real time architectural design applications. But we don’t have a camera in the iPad… yet. So that kind of puts the kibosh on those expectations in the short term. At least until the iPad is updated, or someone comes up with an ergonomic dock connected camera for the device. But I am aware of people already putting ideas together in this field ready for future iPad peripherals and upgrades from Apple.

Some of the larger SatNav companies are still playing it a bit coy about whether or not we’ll see SatNav on the iPad. But I think that’s all just a play for attention to garner the interest levels out there, and we’ll see those fairly soon after launch too. We’ll probably see a few novel ways to mount the thing in our cars and trucks too. TomTom’s iPhone product manager had this to say : “We don’t have a plan to release an iPad dedicated version at the moment. It’s a market that needs more research, we don’t just want to jump in.” Apparently they weren’t incredibly happy with their iPhone efforts in that field, and want to take another look. I’m not buying that, and I think they and other SatNav companies will also join the iPad party sooner rather than later.

There really seem to be some incredibly imaginative people out there redefining the way that tablet computers can be used.

One rather novel use for the iPad is as a teleprompter, coupled with an iPhone as a remote! I am guessing the idea is that you can put your speech together on the device, and then plug it into a bracket to read from as you wax lyrical to your adoring audience. I wonder how many people will be more interested in the iPad than what you have to say? The cool thing is that you can use your iPhone as a remote to control the rate and timing of the iPad display which delivers your scrolling speech text. [bodelin.com]

A game I am quite looking forward to seeing, as I am also working on a Space based game at the moment, is “ACE Omicron”. We reported on that here : [touchreviews.net] It’s early days yet for a lot of the smaller devs out there in iPad land. Especially as the vast majority are limited to working with the iPad Simulator only at the moment. But if they all strive for their apps to be as well presented as this one, I think we could all be in for a lot of large screen gaming fun in the coming weeks and months.

Instapaper, which describes itself as “a simple tool to save web pages for reading later” is coming to the iPad also, and it will be a Universal app. Which means you only have to buy it once to have it work on the iPhone/iPod or iPad.

Back on the rich media style apps I mentioned earlier, Wired (the magazine) has been working on a version of their magazine for the iPad. Mashable reported about that and Wired’s vision for the future of print media. Nice features they tout are “the ability to turn a product around and look at all sides of it, navigation via natural hand gestures, a dual axis navigation system, a scrubber to browse through the issue, article clippings, a favourite bin and Twitter / FaceBook integration.”

Finally what would I like to see?

Gaming wise I’d like to see the iPad used as a social gaming platform, but in a macro way. By that I don’t mean the inevitable social gaming plugins that we will definitely see as part of more traditional mobile socially connected games on the iPad. What I mean is cool and funky ways couples, or families, can use the iPad to play together. We all remember the chess game from Star Wars, right? Why not re-invigorate the board game genre but using the iPad as the board. Instead of a touch table, we have a touch board, and on that board we could play Monopoly, or Checkers, or Chess, or some totally new and cool board games built specifically to be played on a touch screen by friends. These are apps I would buy. Travelling on a plane I’d love to be able to rack up a few games of Scrabble or MahJong with a travel partner. With great graphics and sound these virtual board games could really come to life.

Those kinds of apps would be the perfect reason to have an iPad on my coffee table in the sitting room each and every day.

I’ve mentioned Instapaper, and also Wired’s iPad app. I think with the iPad’s split view User Interface capabilities it’s obvious that we are going to see a lot of multimedia productivity apps. By that I mean applications that allow us to work in various types of media at the same time, and consequently scrapbook bits and pieces of text or imagery, or even video. So that we can then produce our own web pages, Facebook or blog layouts, documents and so forth. Rather like the workflow demonstrated in Microsoft’s rumoured tablet offering : The Courier. In concept videos for that we see a virtual user taking snap shots, grabbing images and text, and sliding them effortlessly from scrapbook to image editor to word document. How they are doing that exactly on the Courier is not clear in terms of what apps are running at what time. At the moment this would have to be done in one app on the iPad, unless we simply use existing cut and paste technology. That however, is not as elegant as Microsoft’s concept on the Courier. So I expect we’ll see quite a few hybrid apps for this kind of work appearing on the iPad so that we can collate and merge different types of file resources and their components.

I also think that video editing apps will make an appearance sooner rather than later. The iPad has great connectivity. It will also have direct USB digital camera links pretty soon after launch, by way of a dock connector dongle. So dumping video to it’s reasonable internal storage and producing edits on it’s touch enabled big display seems like a very attractive app option. I have to wonder if Apple will bring iMovie to the iPad. I’d certainly have someone working on it if I was Steve Jobs. In any case third party developers are almost certainly producing movie editing apps right now.

My personal wish list is pretty much covered with what the iPad should have available for it at launch time from Apple. I am really looking forward to having a tablet sized device with a nice word-processor built in. Period. So with Apple’s own iWork package for the iPad I am more than covered.

Other than that I’d probably quite like to see some kind of way that I can code on the go. Or at least prototype ideas. Perhaps in something like Lua, if not in a full Cocoa or C based development environment. Sorry am I getting geeky now? So a version of SubEthaEdit or any of the other coder orientated editors would be a very welcome addition to the iPad’s app portfolio for me personally. I’ve discussed (with a few like minded geeks) the possibility of actually putting a cut down SDK on the iPad. It’s certainly possible, in theory, but probably not very practical. And certainly something I would probably have to put together for myself. I don’t see Apple doing it! Now there’s a project for a long weekend!

What apps are you holding out for? Or do you have something in the works you want to tell us about?

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Stephen NorthcottWhat Apps to expect on the Apple iPad?

5 Comments on “What Apps to expect on the Apple iPad?”

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