Apple's iPad: The key capabilities, at a glance

It's not quite a netbook, it's not quite an iPod Touch -- Apple's new iPad is something else. Take a look at its key features and decide for yourself what it can be for you

Apple introduced its new tablet, the iPad, on Wednesday and set the tech world atwitter. The predominant question: What is this thing? Is it an overgrown iPod Touch ? Is it a netbook killer ? Is it enterprise-ready ? Until reviewers get some solid hands-on time with an iPad, the answers to these questions are going to be educated guesses, but in the meantime, here's a rundown of some of the tablet's key features.

iWork: Lightweight office work on the go

iWork: Lightweight office work on the go

Apple wanted to show right out of the gate that the iPad is not just a gaming and media device, so it announced a version of the iWork productivity suite made specifically for the tablet. Each part of the suite -- Keynote, Pages, and Numbers -- can be bought individually for $10, and the files are interchangeable with the Mac OS X versions of the iWork apps. iWork for the iPad can also open Microsoft Office files -- but not save them.

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iBooks: The e-reader to save books and magazines?

iBooks: The e-reader to save books and magazines?

The iPad is taking aim at Amazon.com's Kindle, which dominates the e-reader market like the iPod dominates the portable MP3 player market. Apple is upping the ante by rendering books in full color, allowing for different fonts, and including graphics -- all capabilities the Kindle doesn't have. Many print publishers hope the iBooks store and e-reader app will save their industry by getting people in the habit of buying content again. Will you?

iPhone apps: WIll they really work on the iPad?

iPhone apps: WIll they really work on the iPad?

Apple says that the iPad will be able to run almost 140,000 existing iPhone apps unmodified from the App Store -- and that it expects developers to create iPad-specific apps. However, as InfoWorld's Paul Krill points out, iPad developers will need to move beyond their iPhone roots to take full advantage of the tablet's capabilities .

Mail call: Desktop-like reading and composition

Mail call: Desktop-like reading and composition

The iPad was made with Web surfing and e-mail in mind, so naturally it works with the major Web-based e-mail providers, such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL, as well as with Microsoft Exchange servers. The larger screen should make reading e-mails easier -- but how easy will it be to touch-type your messages on the virtual keyboard if you didn't remember to bring a keyboard along?

Calendar: The return of the Day Planner?

Calendar: The return of the Day Planner?

The iPad is certainly too big to be a PDA, but it makes sense to incorporate PDA-like features into it. With the calendar feature, you can manage multiple calendars, from monthly overviews to hour-by-hour breakdowns of each day, in a Day Planner-style approach.

Contacts: No need to shuffle between lists and cards

Contacts: No need to shuffle between lists and cards

Another PDA capability the iPad incorporates: Contact management. All the standard organization tools are here, and the big screen means you can see both your whole list and an individual entry at the same time.

Ultrathin and ultralight -- if you don't carry around peripherals

Ultrathin and ultralight -- if you don't carry around peripherals

The iPad is just under 10 inches tall, just under 8 inches wide, and a mere half an inch thick. Its large bezel gives you something to grip without blocking the screen. The iPad is not pocket-sized, obviously, but it cuts a trimmer figure than your laptop or netbook -- and at 1.5 pounds, it weighs a lot less. But will carrying a keyboard and other accessories neutralize its thinness and light weight?

See another InfoWorld slideshow: Apple's 12 biggest failures

The iPad could be a monster hit, the latest in a decade of nearly unbroken hits from Cupertino. But Apple has had major failures in its past -- even in its recent past. Relive Cupertino's product disasters in our slideshow " Rotten Apple: Apple's 12 biggest failures ."