After what seemed an interminable wait, the UPS truck finally pulled in and delivered my 32 GB wi-fi only iPad this afternoon. I have played with it for a couple of hours now and have a report.

First, it is every bit as gorgeous as the PR photos make it look. The hardware fit and finish are exactly what you’ve come to expect from Apple which is to say that it is superb. The battery life is exceptional in my limited testing. I am used to running my iPhone down to near empty after a hard day’s work but I don’t think that will be the case here. I will also say that the thing is fast—considerable so versus the iPhone 3GS and light years versus the original iPhone. Thus far the hardware is almost everything I could have wanted which is a very good thing because software deficiencies can be fixed through the update process. Hardware you’re stuck with.

And there are some software deficiencies. The virtual keyboard, though much faster and easier than the iPhone and frankly than I expected, suffers from the omission of the apostrophe on the main typing screen. Apple attempts to make up for this be autocorrecting any abbreviated word that uses an apostrophe, but it’s going to take some getting used to. That’s a statement that’s true of the virtual keyboard as well. Much to my surprise, it is quite useable for touch typists—I’m in the 60 wpm range myself on a standard keyboard—but long form documents (like is one, haha) would be better entered on a Bluetooth wireless keyboard or, once it ships, the iPad keyboard dock.

Another temporary issue is the dearth of iPad software. The iPad runs iPhone software in a emulated mode that centers the app on the screen and gives the user the option of pixel doubling the screen to fill the larger iPad display. For most iPhone apps this is a horribly ugly alternative, though admittedly a few pull it off nicely. By and large, be prepared to get new iPad apps.

Most of the Apple apps are fantastic. Mail, Safari, Contacts, Calendar, Photos, etc. are all very well done. Google gets special praise for their Maps app which is, much like Photos, a visual and experiential treat. Additional third-party apps worth mentioning: WordPress, USA Today, Netflix, AOL’s AIM, Dragon Dictation, and Zillow. I am certain I will discover more as I have more time to play with the device. Despite the great hardware, the iPad is nothing without software like this, so I’m thrilled to find developers turning out great stuff.

The biggest disappointments so far have been crash-prone apps like ABC’s video player and, sadly, Apple’s own iBooks app. Third-parties can be forgiven since they didn’t get advanced iPad prototypes to test their software on, but Apple can hardly put up the same excuse.

Indeed, though the iBooks app looks spectacular, it’s the biggest disappointment of the lot at this point. One of the books I downloaded from the store seemed to get frozen (for lack of a better term—I couldn’t read, delete or re-download it) and now iBooks crashes on launch. Further, iBooks lacks an ability to annotate the text and it’s unclear to me whether other epub formatted books can be copied into iTunes and thus onto the iPad, or if readers are simply stuck with Apple’s limited selection. I would love, love, love to see the iPhone app Stanza on the iPad, but as Stanza was bought out by Amazon, I’m not holding my breath. (Yeah, I know the Kindle app with its onerous DRM is available. That’s not what I want.)

But as I say these are software issues of a version 1.0 device. Like e original iPhone I expect the iPad to get better and better as time goes by. In the meantime, there is more an enough to like for me to highly recommend Apple’s latest gadget. I named mine Harmony.

UPDATE: The ABC app has been updated after but a day so I’m taking them off my bad app list. Indeed, such a quick update is rather impressive.

I’m happy to report that the iBooks app is also working again after resyncing to the Mac and I’ve successfully added a raft of third-party ePub-based books to the app via iTunes. The future looks very bright indeed.