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Analysis: What will the Apple iPad be used for?

How Apple's slate PC will be used in different markets

The intended market for the Apple iPad, and just how consumers and business will make use of Apple's latest invention.

Multi-touch magic

The iPad is the latest and most striking example of Apple's use of multi-touch technology.

True multi-touch capability was more concept than reality before the iPhone's debut in 2007.

In less than three years, Apple has taken that technology and baked it into every one of its product lines.

After the iPhone came multi-touch trackpads on Apple's laptops. Then, last fall, came the new magic mouse. And now it's being used in a full tablet. With each advance, Apple rolls out new ways to interact with devices.

I don't know if Apple will eventually build a true touch-screen Mac, but the iPad certainly shows that it could and that it would be more than just another touchscreen computer. And along the way, Apple is leading the mobile device and computing market down a multi-touch path.

The iPad's arrival also demonstrates Apple's continued ability to push the envelope in other technologies, including battery life.

Over the past year or so, Apple has pioneered the concept that innovative battery design can lead to better battery life and better design.

Not everyone is happy about the trend toward built-in, non-replaceable batteries, but Apple at least makes the concept seem feasible, and even desirable.

Finally, the iPad is proof positive that Apple has the financial resources to develop completely new products from the ground up.

The fact that Apple designed and manufactured its own processor specifically for the iPad speaks volumes about the company's vitality, even in an uncertain economy. And it bodes well for Apple's ability to innovate in the years ahead.

Beyond just a symbol of things to come.

All that said, I have no doubt that even if the immediate market for the iPad isn't obvious, Apple wouldn't have developed the device without believing it could be a vital product.

(There was no talk of the iPad as a 'hobby', as there is around the Apple TV.) So, what sweet spot is Apple aiming for?

My first thought is that Apple is gunning for entertainment convergence, the ability to couch-surf, play games and do basic internet tasks almost anywhere and in the coolest way possible.

Yes, you can do these already with a laptop or netbook but if you want to be able to do them in the coolest way possible, the iPad will have obvious appeal. (Never underestimate the power of cool when it comes to bringing technology to the public.)

There's the lure of ebooks and the potential to use the iPad as an e-reader. And, perhaps most important, there's the price.

If you have a limited budget, the iPad is going to appeal to you. With a starting price of $499 (£319) in the US (UK prices still haven't been revealed), Apple is under the magic $500 mark that analysts have long touted as an important psychological barrier for tech consumers.

It doesn't matter that you aren't buying a full-fledged computer; chances are, you already have a another computer to sync it with that can do all the real computing tasks the iPad can't handle.

And at that price, what better way to get Apple's OS (whether iPhone-derived or Mac OS X) in front of more people than with the iPad?

NEXT PAGE: What about business...

  1. We look at how Apple's slate PC will be utilised by different markets
  2. Multi-touch magic
  3. What about business...
  4. ...and education?

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