Well, for a start, it's unlikely that you'll be holding a massive mobile up to your head to make calls like Dom Jolly. That’s because the iPad has more in common with netbooks — those small, cheap laptops designed for browsing the internet.
There are some obvious differences, of course — the iPad has a touchscreen display and no physical keyboard — but Apple does seem to be aiming their new product at people who are after an inexpensive laptop (iPad prices should start from £400). They’re even offering an optional extra for those who prefer feedback as they type: an iPad dock with a keyboard.
Like netbooks, the iPad connects to the internet over Wi-Fi or via a 3G mobile phone network. And, like an iPhone, it’ll let you download software from Apple’s online App Store to add new features.
The iPad has a 9.7in (25cm diagonal) screen and the interface is a lot like an iPhone’s: you type using an on-screen keyboard and the screen is multi-touch, which means you can use finger gestures such as pinching to zoom in and out on photos and maps. As well as touchscreen web browsing, the iPad can also be used to show off photos and presentations, or play music, videos and games.
Handheld touchscreen devices like the iPad are part of a new category of portable devices called ‘tablets’. We’ll be seeing much more of these in 2010 — Microsoft are backing the HP Slate, which runs Windows 7, and there are rumours that Google are building a tablet too.
Tablets are multipurpose devices so they’ll be competing with a variety of gadgets, not only netbooks and smartphones; the iPad will come with iBooks, an application for reading electronic books (e-books), which means it will be up against dedicated e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle.
Whether or not the iPad is a ‘Kindle killer’ will depend a lot on whether we want something dedicated to a specific task or, like modern mobiles, a converged device that does many different things.
So will Apple's iPad be a jack of all trades or master of none? You can find out when we review it in a future issue of Focus.