A new software Gold Rush is on as applications tailored for Apple's iPad hit the market on the eve of the hotly-anticipated tablet computer's US debut.

Following weeks of rising expectations, the iPad finally lands in Apple stores in the United States at 9:00 am (1300 GMT) on Saturday, with some analysts predicting they will be sold out within a few hours, ensuring the buzz stays high for the gadgets.

Software savants who found fortunes crafting mini-programs for Apple's beloved iPhone and iPad Touch devices were quick to turn their energies to making applications for the iPad, essentially a giant iPod Touch.

The enthusiasm of developers bodes well for iPad since the "ecosystem" of fun, hip, or functional programs is credited with being a key reason Apple mobile gadgets are marketplace stars.

By Friday, iPad programs were mounting on virtual shelves of Apple's online iTunes shop even though the iPad will not go on sale in the rest of the world until the end of the month.

Warner Brothers studio announced that Sherlock Holmes fans can use iPads to watch its action film based on the brilliant detective as well as play an immersive game in which they test their wits as the investigator.

The mobile division of US videogame giant Electronic Arts (EA) launched iPad version of Scrabble, Tetris, Mirror's Edge, Need for Speed, and Command and Conquer Red Alert.

"We are thrilled to offer EA games with the launch of iPad, a device that is like no other," said EA Mobile worldwide studios vice president Travis Boatman.

"EA is delivering five games today that take advantage of the unique capabilities of iPad for a broad range of gamers, from the casual to the hardcore, and today's product slate is just the beginning."

New York City-based 2K Games on Friday released an iPad version of it's blockbuster strategy game "Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution."

"The popularity of Civilization Revolution on the iPhone and the Nintendo DS is a clear indicator that people want to play Civ wherever and whenever they want," said Sid Meier, director of creative development at Firaxis Games.

Internet pioneer Yahoo! also jumped on the iPad, unveiling a free application that routes its online Entertainment offerings to Apple's latest creation.

The Yahoo! "app" takes advantage of iPad's geo-location feature to deliver local television listings and content based on where users are.

"Devices like the iPad allow Yahoo! to create new experiences and expand the art of what's possible in the eyes of consumers," said Tapan Bhat, senior vice president of Integrated Customer Experiences at the California firm.

National Geographic has released a world atlas for the iPad, while for those who want to look skyward there is a Star Walk program that turns the tablets into virtual telescopes to gaze at the heavens.

Security and business-oriented applications are also in the iPad queue. MobileIron releasing iPad Sentry software that acts as "guard at the gate" to block rogue access to company data.

A Brushes paint application that proved its merit after being used to make a New York Magazine cover last year has been modified for the iPad.

The New York Times has released an iPad application for an interactive version of the newspaper.

Media outlets made it clear early that they are looking at iPad as a platform for bringing their business models into the Internet Age.

Entertainment giant Walt Disney Company - whose largest individual shareholder is Apple CEO Steve Jobs - has built an iPad version of its flagship website and promised applications for viewing online content from all its businesses.

While there are a smattering of free applications for the iPad, the overall trend is for them to be priced higher than mini-programs designed for iPhone or iPod Touch devices.