Steve Jobs with iPad on Chair

Like many things Apple, the iPad launch has galvanized those who believe it's the "next big thing" from those who believe it's the "latest stink" -- but what about those who, you know, have actually spent time using the thing, and now had a chance to ponder it a bit?

Sure, some are no doubt Apple enthusiasts easily impressed, while others are jaded journalists almost impossible to impress. For a mix of both, follow on after the break.

Daring Fireball has two long posts up about the iPad, and is decided pro. John Gruber also wins the cleverest analogy award hands-down, comparing the Mac to manual and the iPad to automatic transmissions.

Car enthusiasts (and genuine experts like race car drivers) still drive cars with manual transmissions. They offer more control; they’re more efficient. But the vast majority of cars sold today are automatics. So too it’ll be with computers. Eventually, the vast majority will be like the iPad in terms of the degree to which the underlying computer is abstracted away. Manual computers, like the Mac and Windows PCs, will slowly shift from the standard to the niche, something of interest only to experts and enthusiasts and developers.

British actor and tech enthusiast Steven Fry also spent time with the iPad and came away positively giddy because of its simplicity and Apple's perfectionist tendencies towards product development. He also called the iPhone a "100,000 volt taser shot up the jacksie" (whatever that is) to the Nokia, Samsung, Palm, and Blackberrys of the world, so we're predisposed to heart him:

There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it”. No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects. You know how everyone who has ever done Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? always says, “It’s not the same when you’re actually here. So different from when you’re sitting at home watching.”? You know how often you’ve heard that? Well, you’ll hear the same from anyone who’s handled an iPad. The moment you experience it in your hands you know this is class. This is a different order of experience. The speed, the responsiveness, the smooth glide of it, the richness and detail of the display, the heft in your hand, the rightness of the actions and gestures that you employ, untutored and instinctively, it’s not just a scaled up iPhone or a scaled-down multitouch enhanced laptop – it is a whole new kind of device. And it will change so much. Newspapers, magazines, literature, academic text books, brochures, fliers and pamphlets are going to be transformed (poor Kindle). Specific dedicated apps and enhancements will amaze us.

Engadget editor-in-chief, Josh Topolsky, however, thinks Apple hasn't told a compelling, must-buy story for the iPad (yet?):

There's no question that much of what the iPhone and iPod touch do translates nicely here, and there's no question that some of the tweaks made to native iPad apps are impressive, but nothing I saw made me sit up and think, "Wow, I need this." It's telling that the most intriguing user experiences shown off today were the iPad versions of the iWork suite. iWork? If Steve Jobs hoped to answer the question about why we need this third device, or how it's better than a netbook, he didn't make a compelling case. Where is video chat? Where is multitasking (honestly, only one app at a time for a device of this size and speed)? Why is the lock screen so embarrassingly empty? Why are there no active widgets to fill that huge homescreen space? Where is the expansion of the multitouch user experience? And seriously, where are the media partnerships?

iLounge's Jeremy Horowitz thinks many of us missed the "Minority Report" moment:

Apple didn’t bring flashy demos. It dropped the ball on a few arguably trivial parts of the UI and didn’t bring any really showy software to the event; rather, it focused almost entirely on updates to old apps. The biggest hint of what the iPad will enable was a two-second reference in the N.O.V.A. demo to opening airlocks by putting your fingers on the screen and turning the door handle. It was shown, and if you knew what it was—basically, Metroid Prime using your fingers rather than a Wii controller—you realized what this meant for games, and for other apps on the iPad. This is just not possible on the little iPhone screen unless you have baby fingers.

Mobile analyst Michael Gartenberg, writing for SlashGear, thinks the iPad is neither an iPod touch nor a MacBook:

The form factor is excellent. It’s not too light to feel fragile and, at 1.5 lbs, it’s also not something that’s going to tire you holding it long term. The screen is amazing with a full XGA resolution. I could easily imagine reading for hours on end on this screen and far prefer this idea to e-ink. For one, there’s no annoying refresh that happens with every page turn and, as a backlit display, it’s perfect for reading in dark places, like airplane seats or in bed without disturbing anyone else. The performance of Apple’s silicon is wicked fast. I was pretty skeptical about running existing apps in a pixel-doubled full screen mode. Action games, I figured, would be pretty much out of the question and Apple came fully prepared to answer that question. Existing games ran ridiculously fast and titles optimized for the device make this the ultimate mobile game device. Personally, I’d buy it just for gaming alone.

So it's sounding like, if some aren't convinced about the utility or place of an iPad in the greater computing ecosystem, most who've actually used the hardware have come away impressed. Again, these aren't mainstream opinions -- strictly inside baseball here -- so it will be interested to see how people take to it when they can start walking into their local Apple store and trying it out.

When that happens, will the iPod touch have to duke it out for buyer attention?