Everyone’s talking about the iPad, and I picked mine up on Saturday. We unpacked it at the food court at the mall, and the people at the next table were very curious. We spoke about what I expected from it, and what I thought it was good for, although the proof would be told once I got it home, loaded some applications and synced it with my Mac (although it’s PC compatible as well.)

The first impression was the absolute knock-out quality of the screen, and how good everything looked. (My son, eager to engage, even figured out that it took screen shots while we were on the way home, so we have a lovely shot of the “plug it in” screen for posterity.) I know everyone says “So What? It’s a huge iphone” but the screen makes a huge difference for the couch surfing ‘net functions we all do in the house. Email looks awesome. The web experience is much better than trying to do the same on the iphone. Movies and games are terrific. Applications and especially reading becomes a much more pleasant experience with a bigger screen.

Beyond the screen, the thing is fast. It’s hard to complain about lack of multitasking when the apps are so responsive and quick to load. Wifi has been working great for us, and it only took a few seconds to hook up our Kindle account with the ipad- and the experience on the Kindle iPad app blows away the hardware Kindle experience completely. While I like the “page turn” interface of the iBooks app versus “page slide” interface with the Kindle app, both work very well, and that seems like a small, nit-picky thing to say.
I can see that I will probably want the 3G version at some point, because while the iPad works great at home and is not a pocket device, it is a kid-pleasing entertainment device in the car. Games, internet, music, movies- forget schlepping that DVD player wherever you go anymore or on vacation. The iPad is a complete replacement for this device, especially with the ability to stream movies from Netflix on it.

You’ll soon never need a TV in your bedroom again- you’ll have an ipad on your nightstand. (This should make the folks at Sony, with the snazzy-looking Dash a bit worried. It’s a non-mobile iPad for all intents and purposes, with less applications, and while it’s less expensive, do you want to limit yourself by getting something you can’t take with you?)

Yes, you need an app (several free ones are available) to directly print from your iPad.  This seems like something I rarely need to do these days anyway, since I mostly email documents back and forth, so this is hardly a deal breaker for me.  The camera kit will allow USB hookups and SD card downloading, so I am eager for that to arrive and run it through its paces as well.

I do a lot of presentations, and being able to work on iwork applications while on the go, waiting for kids at guitar lessons, for example, is going to be fantastic.  It will be easy for this to become my portable solution when I just don’t want to lug the 17″ macbook around for weight or security purposes, and it’s why I think I’ll eventually need the 3G version as well, to take the internet on the go, and not have to worry about connectivity.

The notebook apps (there are many) let you use the ipad as a white board for ideas and drawings, and I am going to get a ton of use out of them.  I’ve ordered a pogo stylus from ThinkGeek (I lost the one I bought ages ago, because I never needed it with the iphone) in hopes that the drawing programs will be a bit more natural with a stylus than my finger, but that’s purely personal preference, and I’ll let you know how that turns out.

The kids are constantly fighting me for use of the iPad, and even my spouse has taken a stroll with it.

The “What’s it good for?” question came home when my brother in law looked at it.  He’s a yacht broker, and we spoke about how he connects to his clients, his office, and even whether or not social media was worth his time and effort.  When he saw the screen, he knew this had potential- he could show clients videos (through the youtube app) or preloaded on the fly, let them see pictures of a boat big enough for them to be meaningful, something that’s basically impossible on a blackberry or iphone.  He can use the email features easily, and he is not what you would call a sophisticated computer user.  For my brother in law,  the iPad will be a great way to show clients potential boats wherever he is, and to connect to listings, to other brokers, and do so more easily than using his current laptop.  Add in the great battery life, and it may be easier and a better solution than a netbook as well.

I’m excited for all that the iPad will become.  The killer feature, as with the iPhone is the app store, and I know the growth in iPad apps will mean even more exciting uses coming soon.  I don’t regret the purchase at all, even if it makes me look like a gushing Apple fangirl.  The secret here is that Apple makes quality products that work, and the “community” of developers help show you everything that is possible and satisfy needs you weren’t even sure you had.  That happened with the iphone- who knew I needed so many apps, and I am sure the same will happen with the iPad.

What do you think?  Have you bought one?  Do you want one?  Why?