The most common question aimed at people intent on purchasing an iPad before it was in the wild was simply "what are you going to do with it?" To be honest, that was a tough question to answer, given so much about its usability was unknown until the iPad-specific App Store launched. Not so coincidentally, App Store's launch was the same time I decided an iPad might fit into my life, too, and I've spent the last few days finding out where an iPad might be useful -- and where I'm forcing it.
Being able to wake up, pull the iPad from beneath my bed and read the headlines on a properly-sized version of The New York Times has officially become My New Favorite Thing. Even though the iPhone version of The New York Times actually offers more content, I'm not looking for deep reading with my iPad during 20 minutes of AM perusal, I want the top stories with pretty pictures and readability.
Following that, I boot up the NPR app and listen to as many stories from Morning Edition before tossing the iPad inside my backpack, right alongside my MacBook Pro and iPhone. Yes, on my way to work, I end up carrying three different Apple devices with me. The MacBook Pro is my work horse, the machine I use to write stories, do research and everything else in a typical day. The iPad web browser isn't capable of doing everything that my job asks (I tried to post a story through it using our web tools and failed), so an iPad can't replace that part of my life.
Otherwise, the iPad sits on my desk, acts as a beautiful Words With Friends distraction and a gaming device, as I have many folks asking me what games are like on the device. No doubt, my use of the iPad will slow in a few weeks, once the launch interest on the hardware wanes.
After work is when the machine really shines for me. My girlfriend and I watch a lot of movies and TV, but some of it doesn't require our full engagement with the screen. iPad is perfect for perusing RSS feeds (though Google Reader requires a makeover), catching up on various blogs and websites, reading through social networks and engaging with the web in a way that doesn't burn my testicles, as my heated MacBook Pro would gladly do. Much of the night is also spent passing the iPad back and forth during Words With Friends games that typically result in my girlfriend soundly beating me to a pulp.
The release of more apps will change this usage. But let me be clear: right now, iPad is a luxury item. It is not (yet) a laptop replacement for most folks, including myself. As a luxury device, it's truly fantastic. I don't regret the $500, but I don't blame anyone who waits for the second generation, either. The second edition of the iPad will be the equivalent of iPhone 3G, aka the one you really wanted.
Let the snarky comments...begin.