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The iPad has landed

It's still two days to go before the official launch of Apple's riskiest product ever, but plenty of hands-on reviews are showing up already.

PC Mag has an in-depth look at the potentially game-changing iDevice and, despite bemoaning the oft-repeated shortcomings - no USB ports, no multitasking, no camera, no Flash - comes to the conclusion that Apple is on to a winner.

"Is the iPad a perfect product? No. And the omissions will give the anti-Apple crowd plenty of ammo," writes Tim Gideon. "There may be things it doesn't do, but what it does do, it does remarkably well. And to my great surprise, you can actually get real work done with the iPad," he says, pointing out that the extensive missive was actually written using the device's on-screen keyboard.

"There aren't a lot of directly comparable products in this nascent category. We haven't had enough quality time with the competing Fusion Garage JooJoo, but it will be a huge coup if it can match the utility and grace of Apple's first tablet. I'm curious to see who actually buys the iPad, apart from Apple enthusiasts. But I can tell you that when my laptop eventually dies, I'll be getting one," he concludes.

Never one to remain silent when it comes to apple gadgets, all-round clever clogs and chief Macolyte Stephen Fry is remarkably quiet in this Youtube video which purports to be the man himself unboxing the beastie. Apart from a few salacious grunts of pleasure and appreciative wooshes he has nothing to say. Speechless with lust, perhaps?

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has an interesting round-up of iPad software previews which take a look at many of the 1,000 custom made Apps which will be available at launch.

Over at USA Today Edward C Baig heaps praise on the iPad describing it as "a winner".

"It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle," writes Baig. "It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of."

In conclusion, he says, "Apple has pretty much nailed it with this first iPad, though there's certainly room for improvement. Nearly three years after making a splash with the iPhone, Apple has delivered another impressive product that largely lives up to the hype."

Walt Mossberg over at the Wall Street Journal does little to dispel his reputation as one Apple's tamest journalists by enthusing, "For the past week or so, I have been testing a sleek, light, silver-and-black tablet computer called an iPad. After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop."

He faithfully trolls out the usual list of shortcomings - no USB ports, no multitasking, no camera, no Flash - yadda yadda yadda... before saying, "The iPad is much more than an e-book or digital periodical reader, though it does those tasks brilliantly, better in my view than the Amazon Kindle. And it’s far more than just a big iPhone, even though it uses the same easy-to-master interface, and Apple says it runs nearly all of the 150,000 apps that work on the iPhone.

"When held horizontally, the iPad’s virtual keyboard is roomy and easy to use. It’s qualitatively different, a whole new type of computer that, through a simple interface, can run more-sophisticated, PC-like software than a phone does, and whose large screen allows much more functionality when compared with a phone’s. But, because the iPad is a new type of computer, you have to feel it, to use it, to fully understand it and decide if it is for you, or whether, say, a netbook might do better."

In conclusion, Walt says: "I did run into some annoying limitations. For instance, the email program lacks the ability to create local folders or rules for auto-sorting messages, and it doesn’t allow group addressing. The browser lacks tabs. Also, videophiles may dislike the fact that the iPad’s screen lacks wide-screen dimensions, so you either get black bars above or below wide-screen videos, or, if you choose an option to fill the screen, some of the picture may get cut off.

"All in all, however, the iPad is an advance in making more-sophisticated computing possible via a simple touch interface on a slender, light device. Only time will tell if it’s a real challenger to the laptop and netbook."

Chicago Sun Times columnist and Mac geek extraordinaire Andy Ihnatko can't contain himself and gives it all away in the headline of his review, which read: "iPad is pure innovation - one of best computers ever."

He goes on to say, "After a week with the iPad, I’m suddenly wondering if any other company is as committed to invention as Apple. Has any other company ever demonstrated a restlessness to stray from the safe and proven, and actually invent things?"

Andy also reckons that every other me-too OEM toting a tablet device is barking up the wrong tree, describing their efforts as laptops with the keyboards torn off.

"What happens when computer designers lets go of every instinct that’s hardwired into their DNA, and starts practically from scratch?" He asks. "They create the iPad. The iPad user experience is instantly compelling and elegant. It’s not every computer and every function. It’s a computer that’s designed for speed, mobility, and tactile interaction above all other considerations."

Andy concludes: "In situation after situation, I find that the iPad is the best computer in my household and office menagerie. It’s not a replacement for my notebook, mind you. It feels more as if the iPad is filling a gap that’s existed for quite some time."

There you have it. The tame Apple press has responded. You'll probably have to wait until Monday for the anti-Apple lobby to have its say, because they will have to queue up at an Apple Store with the rest of the unwashed masses to get their hands on an iPad.

Oh the indignity.