We shouldn't be surprised at the appeal the iPad, as the first mass market tablet, has encountered. Many of us have had touch screen smartphones for over a year or more now. My Samsung Instinct, other's iPhones or Android phones are really nothing more than mini-tablets. The iPad, and the many tablets that will follow it to market really just give us more real estate on which to work.
The iPad is aimed as a media consumption device. You read books, magazines, web sites, and watch videos easily on it. It hasn't really been pushed for any kind of business setting, although many are using already at work.
I have been thinking about how every job that needs a clipboard can benefit from a tablet. The most obvious is a doctor's office or hospital. My doctor walks into the examining room and immediately sits at the computer and pelting me with questions. After the exam, he sits down again at the computer.
When I was last in the ER (ice, parking lot, head on pavement, no worries), the doctor walked into the examining room with a laptop on a nifty rolling cart.
When I last visited someone in the hospital, I found their doctor having just come from their room, awkwardly writing up his notes in her chart, while standing. Those notes I assumed would get entered into a computer somewhere by someone other than he; a point of failure if ever their was one.
Imagine a doctor roaming around with an iPad? The hospital or office setting is a highly controlled environment so wi-fi coverage is simple to arrange.
They pull up a patient's record on the way to their room, see nursing and medication notes since their previous visit. During the visit, if the doctor needs to check medication interaction, or even look up something in their old text book, it is right their on their tablet. Any changes to treatment, they can enter in right there, and it is sent to a central system for archiving, and sent out as a "work order" of sorts to a nurse's tablet.
The Washington Post talks about this, and more, including pulling up x-rays and other test results right on the iPad.
The iPad isn't that readable in sunlight, but other screen technologies are. I can see tablets designed for daylight useful to Auto Shops. As the in-take person walks around the car with the owner figuring what is needed, he enters it on tablet. Again, work orders appear on base stations in the repair bays.
Coaches can have a ready catalog of plays, stats on performance, scouting reports, etc. all on their magical clipboards. They can make notes during practice and more.
Walk onto a car lot, and the salesperson can check stock for your needs right there in the lot.
Touch user interfaces, whether on tablets, phones, or dedicated units are going to change a lot of our already rapidly changing world.