Note: This has been through a couple revisions as I’ve thought of more to say. Sorry for being incomplete, but I’m not always the quickest bug in the room.
Had to see the iPad myself, so I went to a nearby Best Buy towards the end of the day to try it out.
First off, it definitely reminds me of an iPhone on steroids. Bigger, a bit more powerful, is lacking the ability to make calls (Yes, there are trade-offs from steroid use. For a good example read “My Dirty Secrets” by Tony Mandarich. That he ended up being addicted to painkillers and alcohol (and stuck with a screamer for a coach at Green Bay for good measure) may be sweet justice to many, but more to the point it was the trade-off that he ended up making for the bigger bulk he got during college). It also definitely has a heft the iPhone doesn’t.
A lot of the mechanics are the same as with the iPhone (and iPod Touch), only bigger. Scrolling is the same, and the keypad is the same, only bigger. I don’t like that you have to hit a special key to shift between letters and numbers (although it does make typing certain other characters easier), unfortunately their add-on keyboard is based on their stupid chicklet-square keyboards that Apple thinks is the future of computing (but is instead the future of third-party keyboard makers as they make the old-fashioned keyboards that fit better with the fingers). I very much hope there’s other keyboard makers who make keyboards for the iPad very soon; Apple’s present keyboards suck badly and are probably one of the biggest drawbacks to their product line.
As for the programs, I see why they sized the iPad at its present size: the screen’s dimensions (HxW) are twice the dimensions (again, HxW) of the iPhone and iPod Touch. This makes for a simple resizing of the programs made for the smaller screen by doubling. Thus the program market for the iPad is jump-started while the programming community is working to make (and remake) programs that work both on the newer screen and able to change to other sizes of screens (good if we’re going to see what I’ll want – more lower down on the review)
I can see how this could easily work as the lower end of the MacBook lineup. Add in a smaller-screened iMac (bring out a 19-inch iMac or do a 20-inch/23-inch/27 inch lineup) and sell them together as a home/away paring. I also would like to see a 13-inch version of the iPad, as that would allow for a full keyboard on-screen. This would also make a kick-ass combination GPS/Internet-Radio device for driving around in the car (if you could figure out a convenient way to keep it from being stolen).
As for buy/wait/forget, I’d say “wait.” This is a 1st generation Apple product, and you’d have to be a rich Apple Fanboy to feel safe buying this item (I’m an Apple Fanboy, but hardy rich enough to want every toy of theirs when it’s newly minted).