Convinced you need an iPad to make your life complete? You're not the only one! The latest estimates say that there are some 7.5 million iPads already being put to use by rabid consumers world-wide, and those numbers are bound to rise even further with each holiday season.
 
So if you want an iPad, what's the next step? Here's what you need to do:
 
Decide if you want to buy from Apple or from a reseller
I always recommend buying from Apple, because of the added confidence you'll have in being able to get repairs or a refund if something were to go wrong. Also, if you purchase an Apple product elsewhere than the Apple Store, they will not replace it if there's a problem. The lower price isn't worth the hassle; go with Apple.
 
Decide if you want to buy online or from an Apple Store
With over 300 stores world-wide, there's a good chance there's an Apple Store near you. But if you don't want to deal with parking, lines, and “the mall” (where most Apple Stores are located), you can buy your iPad online with free shipping. Just go to their website or copy and paste this link in your browser to see your choices:
http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipad/family/ipad
 
Choose a 3G or a Wi-Fi model
There have been problems with the Wi-Fi model; ours barely picks up the household signal, even when my iPhone and laptop are picking up a strong wireless signal. If you plan on using it outside your home at all, I recommend going with the 3G; the monthly data plan is very reasonable, and the ease of being able to pick up a signal anywhere is a huge convenience.
 
Choose your size
$200 for four times the storage space seems like a no-brainer to me, but I'm one who firmly believes that bigger is better, at least when it comes to hard drives! However, if you don't plan on using your iPad to store videos or audios, you may find the smaller sizes perfectly adequate. Remember though; just as with closets and garages, if you have the space, you'll use it. And the more space you have, the more you'll use your iPad.
 
Pull the trigger!
 
That's it. The only other question you may have is what accessories you'll want, and if you want to engrave a pithy saying on the backside of your iPad (think of it as an electronic tattoo). The process is painless, as it should be. And setting up your new baby will take even less time than buying it did. Happy computing!

 

 
When the iPad was first released, netbook makers such as HP and Dell held their breath; would the iPad signal the beginning of the end for the netbook market? While they've definitely taken a hit, don't expect to see the complete extinction of netbooks quite yet. These sub-notebook computers are inexpensive and small and have found a market; but can they compete with the iPad? Here's how things stack up:
 
Price
The entry-level iPad starts at $499, for wi-fi only with 16 GB of storage, and goes up to $829 for a 64 GB 3G version. Netbooks are significantly less expensive, starting at just a few hundred dollars for 150 GB of hard drive space.
 
Portability
The average netbook weighs about 2.5 to 3 pounds, while the iPad tips the scales at a whopping 1.5 pounds. It might not sound like much, but if you're a woman who wants to carry her mobile computing equipment with her, it makes a big difference when it's hanging from your shoulder.
 
Speed
The challenge I had with my HP Mini was processing speed; it was extremely slow. I had no problem sacrificing it at the altar of all things Apple and bringing home a lightning-quick 3G iPad.
 
Applications
The netbook can be limited to what software comes pre-installed, or that you purchase separately. And the iPad… well, you've heard the saying; “There's an app for that!” With most apps costing under $5, you can do pretty much whatever you want, from fashion design to rocket design, with your iPad, for cheap.
 
Cool Factor
Whether you purchase an iPad or a netbook may come down to the simple question of how cool you want to feel. Younger people, particularly kids, immediately see the possibilities of the iPad and know intuitively how to interact with it. Older folks have a bit harder time learning the ropes; they may prefer the tried-and-true mouse/trackpad/keyboard interface of the netbook, to the all-in-one aspect of the iPad.
 
But let's face it; at price points pretty low and getting lower, you may just want to have one of each. See which you use more, and sell the other one on eBay – or give it to your kid.

 

When the iPad first came out, I thought it looked cool. Really cool. But did I need one, seeing as I already had an iPhone? Before I could buy one, I'd have to justify the purchase, so I set out to answer the question, “Would an iPad give me features and advantages I couldn't get with my iPhone?”

The short answer is, Yes! , I use the iPad on a daily basis, for very different reasons. Here's the scoop:

The iPhone is best for:

  • Phone calls and texting

However, you can download the Skype application and use your iPad to make calls. 

  • On-the-go email and web browsing

For a quick overview of my email while I'm standing in line at the bank, or looking up the time of the next showing of Harry Potter, the iPhone is tops in quick and easy.

  • GPS/directions

While you can access the GPS/map function for the iPad by entering an address into a Google search, there is no GPS app on the home screen of the iPad as there is on the iPhone. When I'm lost, I don't want to have to go through the extra steps. 

 

The iPad is best for:
  • Extended email or web browsing sessions

Typing even a paragraph or two on your iPhone screen can be a lesson in frustration, but with a keyboard that's almost “regulation” size, the iPad makes it easy. Plus, you can read blog posts and news updates without pulling out your magnifying glass.

  • Word processing

I can type a report on the iPad. I can't on the iPhone without wanting to stick a fork in my eye. 'Nuff said.

  • Viewing documents

While you can peruse the latest sales figures and scan over the customer service updates on your iPhone, it's a heck of a lot easier on the iPad's larger screen.

  • Watching movies and videos

Have you ever tried to show someone a video on your iPhone? You're head to head, trying to listen and hear and not breathe on each other. Can you say 'awkward.” It's much easier on the iPad, especially if you have an easel-style case that allows you to prop up your iPad for easy viewing.

Here's the upshot – if you want quick-and-dirty info or to make a call or send a text, the iPhone is the way to go. But if you really want mobile computing, you need an iPad. An iPhone won't replace your laptop computer; an iPad just might.
 

 

Isn't it nice to know that there are plenty of goodies you can get for free on you iPad? Sure, often these are “lite” versions of a larger, more expensive program, but it's an amazing way to test-drive the app for free before you invest a whopping $8.99 in something that may not work for you. After all, there are plenty of other things you can do with that $8.99 – like get two lattes from your favorite coffee shop.
 
All joking aside, here are some of the best small biz free apps I've found for the iPad. I haven't included ones I've mentioned in previous sections, just to avoid repeating myself:
  • HootSuite Lite for Twitter. A scaled-down version of the paid version, HootSuite will have you tweeting and RTing to your heart's delight. Send and schedule tweets and Facebook status updates, track clicks, and set up columns to manage custom searches. You can manage up to three accounts in the lite version.
  • Google Mobile. If you use any of Google's office suite (Calendar, Docs, Maps, etc.) get Google Mobile to easily view and access the desired info. You'll love the one-stop, one-click access.
  • Kindle for iPad. You know how every time you log into Amazon, it seems like the prices on their Kindles just keep dropping and dropping? Yeah, that's because of the iPad. The iPad does everything the Kindle does (pretty much) but you don't have to carry another device with you. All you have to do is download the free app and you're ready to read that stack of business books that had been piling up on your bedside table. (If you prefer Barnes and Noble – grab the Nook app instead. You can read free in store.)
  • Feeddler RSS Reader for iPad. If you're already used to reading RSS feeds in Google Reader, now you can access your account from your iPad. Fast and highly customizable, you'll never be far away from your favorite internet marketing blogs again!
  • PaperDesk Lite for iPad. If you're a multi-dimensional thinker, PaperDesk may be just what you've been looking for in order to keep track of your scribbles, typed words, and mumblings. You create notebooks with text, hand-drawn notes, and audio, and then you can email them to yourself as a PDF. This “lite” version restricts you to three pages per notebook.
  • Calculator for the iPad+. In the years that I've been out of school, I've forgotten all but the basics of math – thank goodness! No need to pull out the old algebra textbooks; I can handle nearly any mathematical need with my iPad+ calculator. In portrait orientation, it's a simple calculator, but let me just turn the screen on its side, and I'll be forcing even the most nasty differential equation into submission in no time!

 

Now that you've got the basics covered and you're no longer tethered to your desk, you're going to want a way to capture all of the fabulous ideas that pop into your brain when you're out and about, whether you're hiking the Appalachian Trail or just lounging, iPad in hand, on your back deck. Fortunately, the iPad seems to be custom-made for brainstorming. As it's been said before… There's an app for that! In fact, there are several mind mapping and/or brainstorming apps that are worth checking out, even if you're a linear-type. Here are a few apps that caught my eye:
  • iBrainstorm. (Free) Think of a huge corkboard with the ability to free-hand draw, stick on Post-It notes (in different colors, of course!), move, edit, and more… then you've got a good idea of what iBrainstorm enables. It's perfect for visual thinkers who like the ability to group ideas together, freely move and edit, and send the results via email.
  • iBrainstorm Companion.This is the coolest collaboration brainstorming app I've seen. You can work with up to four folks with iPhones to brainstorm ideas via iBrainstorm and “flick” them to the iPad for compiling, saving, and sharing.
  • Popplet ($8.99, free “lite” version available.) This is my mindmapper of choice. I love the ability to create flow charts and linked visual representations, including photos, text, and more. The linear bubbles and automatically linked bubbles appeal to my Type-A personality. And it's fun to change colors! Oh, of course you can email it to yourself.
  • Ideate. ($3.99)Ideate offers a ton of pre-designed templates, so whether you're designing a t-shirt, writing music, or planning the big defense for your five-year-old's basketball team, you've got a context to work within. You then free-hand sketch your ideas on the template, or on a blank screen, adding color, lines, text, and more. You can add clips saved from the Internet or sent via email to your iPad. And then you can share the results via email, the Ideate Flickr group, etc.
  • WhiteboardHD. ($4.99) Add free-form drawings or pre-made shapes and lines quickly and easily to this virtual whiteboard. Grid or lined backgrounds available, and colors and type styles add flexibility. A good basic brainstorming program.
  • Trout. ($1.99) If you're an advanced visual mapper, you may quickly adore Trout. You can capture your ideas in tons of colors, add icons and images, and record audio notes to your evolving creation. Then you can export as an image or PDF. 

 

As with most technological investments, you can spend more on the accessories than you do on the original item. But there really are several fun and useful iPad extras that will make you even more productive (and hopefully profitable). Here are a few of my favorites:
  •  Wireless keyboard. While the on-screen keyboard is pretty darned close to full-size, if you do a lot of word processing, you may want to invest in a wireless keyboard to accompany your iPad. It turns your iPad into an almost full-powered laptop, particularly if you combine it with a case that allows you to prop up your iPad in the landscape orientation (see “cases” below). Apple's version runs $69.
     
  • Screen protector. Screen protectors are such a critical tool to protect your investment that I think all iPads and iPhones should be sold with them already on. But they don't, so you'll have to spring for the $5-$10 and buy one yourself. Applying the thin, clear plastic shield to your iPad should be the very first thing you do when you take it out of the box.
     
  • Case. Depending on your main uses for your iPad, there are a number of case options, from hardshell to soft-sided, from portfolios to flip-tops. There are tons of colors, logos, and styles, so you're sure to find one that fits your lifestyle. Before you invest in a case, though, figure out how you use your iPad the most, then find a case that supports that usage. Cases run from $20 and up.
     
  • Camera connection kit. If you blog from your iPad and don't want to go through the hassle of emailing photos from your camera to yourself and downloading them to your iPad, you can connect your digital camera directly to your iPad. $29 from Apple.
     
  • Car charger. Although the charge on the iPad battery is quite long compared to a laptop, you still might find your battery is low at the most inopportune time. How can you say you're an on-the-go mobile entrepreneur if you can't work from the driver's seat of your Chevy? Well, now you can! A cigarette adapter will have you up and running from Route 66 or the Autobahn (though I can't guarantee what the Wi-Fi reception is like in Germany). Around $25.
 
You probably already have a good idea of what accessories will make your life easier; just take a look at what you use for your current laptop computing needs and look for an iPad equivalent. One word of warning: avoid buying something just because it's there and it's cool. Instead, only purchase things that are going to make it easier to get your work done. Now THAT'S cool.