Mike Elgan: 15 iPad mysteries remain

Think you know all about Apple's iPad? Here's what we don't know

Steve Jobs is such a great salesman that he can actually give us a sense of familiarity with something we don't know anything about. Apple's iPad is a perfect example. But huge, fundamental questions about the device remain unanswered.

Such as...

When can you buy one?

Jobs said in his big announcement that the non-3G iPads would hit in a couple of months. He didn't give a ship date, but the implication was that we'd all be able to buy one by the end of March. Meanwhile, FCC has not yet even approved the iPad for sale in the United States. Will Apple surprise us and ship early? Will it be months late? Nobody knows.

When can you pre-order one?

Rumors that you could pre-order an Apple iPad starting Thursday, February 25, intensified right up until the big day -- at which point they vanished with a whimper. The rumor was false. That leaves us with a big, fat question mark about when we'll be able to pre-order an iPad.

Will AT&T delay the 3G version?

Jobs said the 3G wireless version of the iPad would ship about a month after the Wi-Fi only version. Of course, the most recent iPhone announcement promised tethering for the iPhone, and AT&T just never delivered it. Will the carrier fail again?

Where will the missing iPhone apps show up?

When Apple announced the iPad, a few iPhone apps were missing. Weather, Stocks, Voice Memo, Clock and Calculator were nowhere in sight. We don't know if these apps will be excluded from the shipping iPad, but it seems unlikely. If they do show up, where? And how? Weather and Stocks are front ends to Internet-based data. One possibility is that these will exist in the 3G version, but not in the Wi-Fi only version. Yet another is that some kind of real-time alert system for this information will be built into the interface at top or bottom somehow. Regardless, the fate of these iPhone standards is a big mystery.

Will there be new 'gestures' we don't yet know about?

Touch UIs like the iPhone's (or, say, the one on Microsoft Surface) rely on gesture vocabularies to replace the functionality of mice. iPhone supported minimal gestures. Will the iPad have more? Likely candidates for the gesture treatment include deleting things, closing applications, copying, pasting and other mundane tasks.

What does that blank key on the iPad keyboard dock do?

Apple plans to sell an accessory for the iPad that serves double duty as both a keyboard and a dock. the keyboard is pretty standard. But a mysterious key has iPad watchers baffled. A function key right above the number 6 on the keyboard has no label or graphic on it, and its purpose or function has not yet been revealed. One possibility is that it launches some yet-unannounced function on the iPad. But nobody knows.

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