Cheat Sheet: Apple iPad

Update: How commanding is Apple's shiny new tablet PC?

Expect more interesting apps to emerge in the future: an iPad concept video from book publisher Penguin shows how book publishers are looking at incorporating interactive elements into iPad versions of stories and textbooks while VIV magazine's interactive iPad feature demo shows how a magazine spread can be translated to the iPad.

In addition to purpose-built iPad apps the majority of existing iPhone apps will also run on the iPad. These apps run either centred in the middle of the display or can be magnified to fill the screen.

iPad apps are already proving popular with new iPad owners - according to Apple, most bought more than three apps and one e-book within hours of buying the device.

I've heard a truck-load of hype about the "game-changing" Apple tablet in the last few months - is the iPad really all that?
It's a good question - to which the only answer is time will tell.

It's very early days for the iPad: Apple shipped 300,000 iPads on its launch day in the US last week - a respectable if not stratospheric number for the wi-fi-only version.

However with more than 1,000 dedicated apps in the App Store on launch day the company has certainly managed to build momentum behind what is, after all, a new category of device for Apple.

What about business use? Could the iPad replace my laptop?
Tablet PCs have maintained a niche presence in vertical industries - such as healthcare - but the emphasis is firmly on the word niche.

Tablets have yet to replace laptops or prevent the rise of netbooks. Is Apple's iPad tablet set to change that? At this point it's difficult to predict what will happen but it looks likely that the tablet will serve as an additional piece of hardware, rather than a replacement for existing devices such as laptops and smartphones.

No matter how "magical" or "revolutionary" the iPad proves to be, the lack of a physical keyboard could remain a blocker for many enterprise users or make them reluctant to ditch the convenience of a laptop. While an iPad keyboard dock and external keyboard can be bought, these multiple pieces of hardware have to be stored, carried and assembled are a lot more hassle than an all-in-one laptop or netbook.

If your workforce spends its day showing off photos and videos to clients in an informal setting a tablet might be a more appropriate piece of hardware than a laptop but those needing their workforce to do lots of data inputting may well favour the traditional laptop form.

Apple iPad tablet

The Apple iPad tablet
(Photo credit: James Martin/CNET)

One thing that's worth noting is Apple has spent a considerable amount of time creating a dedicated version of iWork, its office suite of desktop apps, for the iPad - building an entirely new user interface for its presentation software Keynote, its word processor Pages and spreadsheet program Numbers.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted during the iPad's January launch: "It's very different than running on a personal computer."

"Very different" is a key phrase here - because how people work is always changing and mobile working is on the rise. Viewed from that angle, the tablet form factor may have something interesting to offer.