One of the most accurate descriptions of an iPad I’ve heard is that it’s like a giant iPod Touch. It’s similar in features, appearance, and functionality. The biggest advantage is the size difference, which also allows for better speeds and hardware inside of the device. But, while it is about the size of a piece of paper, the thickness is only about the same as a notebook. Not a notebook as in a laptop, an actual notebook like you used to use way back in the day before computers were everywhere.
The best use I’ve seen for the iPad is for users who have used blackberrys or smartphones, and need access to their email, contact list, or to be able to connect to a work network remotely. This provides a much bigger screen for reading and composing emails on the go. The iPad is very portable and easily attaches to wifi networks. (For help attaching to a business or corporate network, you may need to put in a call to IT, but these devices are being supported more and more, so it shouldn’t be long before someone can help you, if they don’t already have the know how.)
However – the keyboard is only on the touch screen, which looks sleek, but does take a little getting used to and doesn’t feel quite the same as a standard keyboard or laptop keyboard. Since you’re limited in resources and ports, at this point there’s not a lot you can do to improve peripherals while you’re on the go – but part of the advantage of the device is that it’s all self contained. There is not an Ethernet port or a usb port on the current iPad model. So if you don’t have wireless networking available, you’ll be largely dealing with a really pretty paper weight.
For use at home, Apple has come up with the iPad keyboard dock, which is a typical apple keyboard, but with a spot to dock the iPad at the back of the keyboard. The dock will allow you to connect to your home computer and sync with it, but will not allow you to attach other external devices at this time. Basically, your home computer sees your iPad as an external device, like a smartphone, but your iPad isn’t seen as a computer itself. You can also use the dock to charge your iPad, connect to another monitor, play music, or compose emails/work on things that are a little tougher without a standard keyboard.
Go check out an iPad, buy one if you’ve got use for it – but don’t toss your old machine just yet. The iPad is not meant to replace your home pc or home mac, it’s more of an add-on toy for on the go internet usage, which it does very well at. Word on the street is that Apple has no plans to add usb functionality to the iPad, but it may occur at least in the dock, if they get enough backlash about it from users looking for increased functionality.