Apple's iPad 'makes technology instantly accessible'

It's every bit as smart and stylish, as you'd expect (see video below)

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Everything you need on the go is in your hand -- as long as you're near a Wi-Fi connection. The 3G models that take portability to an even higher plane are due out later this month.

The iPad's OS works like Mac OS X, but it's different in important ways that actually add to the experience rather than subtract from it.

Take the Photos app, for instance. On the iPad, Photos is what iPhoto would be if it had been built for a touch interface. The redesign needed to incorporate multi-touch capabilities makes the application -- all such apps, in fact -- far more intuitive, natural and obvious to use than a mouse and keyboard could ever convey.

Apps, apps, apps

The same is true with the iPod app on the iPad (which sounds like a tongue twister, I know). It's one thing to use iTunes with a mouse and keyboard, navigating and clicking your way through menus and song lists. It's another thing to use the iPod software on the iPad, where flicking your way through songs and videos seems more natural than doing it on a desktop computer.

Suddenly, a mouse and keyboard feel like they get in the way of the whole computing experience.

The quality of the software I've tried out -- both the Apple-made applications (like Pages) and third-party apps -- is good. Both take advantage of the display (although iPhone apps that haven't been updated yet still run in iPhone mode in the center of the screen). In fact, I predict that the iPad will give Netflix a real boost. I was thinking about canceling my Netflix subscription until I installed the Netflix app on my iPad and started watching videos. I put my cancellation plans on hold.

It's also important to note that virtually all of the 140,000 apps that work on the iPhone will run on the iPad. That offers a lot of potential versatility, depending on how you'll use it.

The iPad is as solid as the software it runs, and my first thought upon picking it up for the first time can be summed up in one word: quality. The entire front is glass, with the now-familiar black border at the edges. The side and back are aluminum, and the design is Steve Jobs-approved minimalist.

All you'll find are a volume button on the right side, a screen-lock button right next to it, a power button on top, and the home button at the base of the screen. (The iPad connects to your computer for syncing, or to the supplied charger for charging, with a port at the bottom.) There are no seams, screws or anything else to indicate that this is anything less than a solid chunk of technology hardware.

The iPad looks like it came from a science fiction movie prop room, except it's fully functional.

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