With a relatively recent purchase of an iPad 2, I have made a quantum leap in technology utilization. The iPad is not only a brilliant piece of technology in and of itself, but it is also a platform for a host of brilliant applications. Indeed, there are so many nifty applications that using my iPad has become a process of continuing discovery as I encounter new ways of using the device on virtually a daily basis.


In this post, I share the best applications I have discovered so far. My purposes are two-fold. First, I simply want to pass along the best of my discoveries – some of them are so cool. Second, I want to encourage readers to share with me and with the rest of The D&O Diary community their own iPad application discoveries. With as many as 70,000 apps available for the iPad now and more available every day, there have to been many more brilliant applications out there that I simply haven’t discovered yet.


Before I get into my apps review, I should clarify what in my view makes an application great. First it has to take advantage of the iPad itself, to do something more or better than a website alone can do. Second, it has to be free (or at least at no additional cost). As I discuss below, there are at least some apps for which I am willing to pay, but mostly my cheapskate requirements control. Third, the application has to be easy to install and to use.


I should also add that I am not a gamer, and so I don’t have any opinions about game applications. Readers who want game app recommendations will have to look elsewhere (like here for instance).


So without further ado, here is my list of favorite iPad apps (so far):


News: All of the leading news outlets have iPad apps. I have installed apps for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist. They are all pretty good and convenient when I find myself somewhere without access to the print editions of those publications. Overall, though, I prefer reading the print versions. On the other hand, I don’t have print subscriptions to all of them, and it is convenient to be able to browse through them through a single device in one easy to navigate environment. There is something tidy and comfortable about sitting in my easy chair and accessing all of these publications using a single device.


But something better than a bunch of separate applications is a single application that assembles the news in one easy to access and navigate environment. The best iPad news application along these lines is Flipboard. This application has an elegant interface that you can flick through like pages of a magazine. The application assembles news headlines from a host of publications around the world and displays them in an attractive, easy to read format. You can also have your Facebook and Twitter feeds forwarded into the application so that they are presented in the same attractive format.


Music: One of the things that the iPad does particularly well is provide a platform for listening to music. I use a couple of different music apps, and I like them for slightly different reasons.


I like to listen to classical music when I am working, so using the Pandora application, I have assembled a group of “stations” all built around one of the classical music composer (Mozart, Chopin, Telemann, etc.). Then when I access Pandora, I set the “play” function on “Quick Mix” so that the playlist draws randomly from the various stations. (You can do the same thing for contemporary artists, too.) There are occasional short commercials on Pandora, which I don’t particularly like but don’t particularly mind either.


When I ride the exercycle, I like to listen to classic rock and alternative rock. For this type of music, I prefer the I Heart Radio application, which has a directory of radio stations from around the country, organized by genre. I have assembled a group of favorite stations that I regularly listen to. The directory also includes a number of commercial free stations as well, which I particularly like. One cool feature of this application is that you can touch the icon for any particular station and a bubble will appear above the station showing  the title and artist of the song playing on the station at that moment. This feature allows you to quickly move between songs and stations to hear the music you want to hear.


Sports: Some of the best applications I have found are sports-related. I should add that one of my goals in getting the iPad in the first place was to be able to watch sports on the road while I am traveling. I particularly hoped to be able to have access to European soccer. The good news is that there are some terrific sports applications out there.


By far the best application available for the iPad in my humble opinion is the Watch ESPN app. Not only does the app allow you to watch the various ESPN channels live, but it also provides live programming that the usual ESPN cable service line up doesn’t include. (The service is free but in order to access it, you have to subscribe to a participating cable service.)


The best part of the Watch ESPN app is a feature that you might not even find unless you were looking for it. On the page for ESPN Channel 3, there is a “Replay” tab, where all of the accumulated ESPN sports event broadcasts are archived. The archive operates real time, so as soon as a program has concluded, it is available in the archive. The archive includes ESPN programming from around the world, and so the list of replays available is exponentially greater than the small handful of games and shows you might be able to watch on the ESPN channels on your TV.


The programming available using the Replay tab is incredibly diverse, and pertinent to my purposes, includes a wealth of European soccer games. (It also includes, for example, Rugby, Cricket, European Hockey, Polo, and many other sports as well.) I am able to follow and watch complete games from all of the top European soccer leagues, including the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Eredivisie, the Bundesliga, and Ligue 1. The replays also include some Euro 2012 qualifying games and some UEFA Champions League games, usually the ones that I want to see anyway. Some international friendly competitions are also included. Though these games are not shown live, given the time difference between Europe and the US, I would rarely be able to watch these games live anyway. The ability to watch these complete games in crystal clear quality – and for free – is absolutely fantastic.


There are some other apps that are particularly good for following European soccer. The Fox Soccer 2Go application allows you to watch short, same-day highlight videos of all of the English Premier League games, and some other European leagues as well. The video highlights also include same-day UEFA Champions league games and Euro 2010 qualifiers. Fox Soccer also has a fee-service that allows you to access live game day broadcasts of many European league games, but the monthly $19.99 access fee violates all of my cheapskate principles.


Another site I can recommend for following European soccer is actually available only through a conventional web browser, not as an iPad application, but the site is formatted so that it performs well on the iPad. The site is GOL TV, the Spanish-language soccer network. The site hosts game day video highlights of a number of the European leagues, including some (like the Portuguese league) that ESPN and Fox Soccer don’t follow as closely. The site’s video replay function has a full-screen feature that adapts particularly well to the iPad.


One of the most remarkable applications I have discovered – and the only one for which I have been willing to pay more than a nominal fee – is the Sling Player app. This app must be used in conjunction with the Slingbox, which is a device that attaches to your TV set top cable box. The Slingbox takes your cable TV signal and makes it available on the Internet, so that you can watch television on any Internet-connected device. (A tip of the hat here to my friend Rick Bortnick, who is the one who first told me about Slingbox.)


Using the SlingPlayer application, I can now watch “my TV” on my iPad, anywhere in the world. Say, I am stuck in an airport on a flight delay; I can watch any basketball, or football, or whatever game that is showing on my TV. Or, as I did during a flight delay on Monday, I can watch a replay of “The Hangover,” sitting at the gate waiting for my flight to board.


The idea that you don’t need a TV to watch TV is absolutely fantastic. This is one of the things I was thinking of when I said at the outset of this post that I have made a quantum leap in technology utilization. The lines between devices and functions have been reduced to the point of meaninglessness. And for anybody who is thinking, geez, I could do all that with my laptop, all I can say is you are not visualizing the ease of use and flexibility of the iPad (for example, its instant on/instant off capability, and the absence of any need for an operating system and all of your programs to load before you can even use the device).


Cool Apps: Finally there are some apps that are just cool. Trying to list them all here would be impossible. I have included just four here, really by way of illustration, and as part of the invitation to others to share their favorite apps with me and with other readers:  National Geographic World Atlas: Provides access to an entire library of maps (worth the $1.99 charge); Marvel Comics: Yes, you can use your iPad to read Shakespeare, but isn’t it cool that you can also use it to read comics (for free!): Epicurious: Access over 30,000 recipes displayed in a beautiful format; Google Translate: provides translations for over 60 languages, including spoken translations for many languages.


So I have been happy to share my favorite applications here; I hope readers out there with their own favorite apps will share them with me and with the rest of The D&O Diary community using the comment feature. I have to go now, there’s a game on….