Apple says its tablet-style iPad computer represents a whole new category of consumer-electronic devices, ideal for watching videos, surfing the Web and reading electronic books.
Here is how it stacks up with other Internet-connected portable devices that consumers are already using:
iPad vs. laptop
The iPad is easier to stash and carry than most laptops. The device weighs just 1.5 pounds, compared with a few pounds for the typical laptop. At a mere half-inch thick, the iPad is also thinner than most laptops. But with a maximum of 64 gigabytes of storage, the iPad can't hold as many photos, movies and songs. The iPad comes with only a touch-screen keyboard; Apple will sell an add-on dock with a physical keyboard like most laptops have.
iPad vs. netbook
Smaller laptops known as netbooks use less-powerful chips than regular laptops, and as a result they don't handle video or other processing-intensive tasks well. The iPad uses a new chip that is custom designed by Apple and that CEO Steve Jobs has described as extremely fast.
iPad vs. smartphones
Browsing the Web, watching video and reading books are more comfortable on a big iPad than a tiny smartphone. The iPad's screen measures 9.7 inches diagonally, nearly three times that of Apple's iPhone, at 3.5 inches. However, while the iPad has a built-in microphone and could work with Internet-based phone services such as Skype, it's not a telephone. And it doesn't fit in your pocket, the way the iPhone does.
iPad vs. e-readers
Using the iPad's touchscreen to buy books and start reading seems fast compared with the navigation required on Amazon.com's Kindle, which requires pushing physical buttons on the device because it has no touchscreen.
But the iPad has a glossy screen, so it might not be as easy on the eyes as the Kindle and other e-readers, which generally sport grayscale "electronic-ink" screens that aren't susceptible to glare. Amazon's Kindle reading software is available for the iPad, just as it is for the iPhone and iPod Touch.