Well, I finally got my hands on an iPad. There were no big surprises or revelations. It was neither a relgious moment nor a disappointment. It mostly confirmed for me what I thought about it already. As a device, it's a device. It's all about the apps and the form factor does indeed affect how you experience some of the apps.
I found the size of the on screen keyboard a non issue. Some hay was made over that you couldn't quite fit your fingers over it in landscape mode. The typing experience is only a problem if you're trying to use it like a laptop, which I wouldn't expect to try. I was probably doing around 40wpm typing with a one handed method or 50wpm doing a two hand hunt and peck.
I think this will indeed harm the netbook market as many have thought. My netbook is my fun PC, but it's not in a very practical form factor for impulsive use. If I carry it around, I have to find some spot to sit down so I can check my email or compose a quick note on it. If I try to use it for serious work, I spend all day either waiting for it to catch up or all my time goes into scrolling through the tiny screen. Now that I've tried it, I'd much rather have one of these than a netbook.
There was one app on there that was particularly intriguing. It was "MLB At Bat" an app that's clearly meant while you're doing something else. Baseball junkies can use it to get stats and info on players while they're watching a game. Yes, you could easily do that on a laptop, but for psychological reasons, it just felt far less cumbersome to be doing this with a tablet than on a laptop. Even a small netbook feels like it's in the way.
The MLB At Bat app is the kind of cross-over app that makes me think the iPad/table hype is worth keeping an eye on. They're apps that aren't really just for people who want to consume content, but who want to consume content in a way that affects their experience of other things in real time. It's low tech augmented reality. Not as sexy as those apps that let you use a mobile phone to view your landscape with all sorts of special embedded messages overlaying a picture of what's in front of you, but with greater practical application.
Edit: I didn't buy one yet. I just waited out the long line at my favorite deli by dropping by the Apple store today. I still don't feel a strong personal desire to have one, but plan to follow through later this year on getting one as first hand research for work.