Received a new iPad 2 last week. Since our (my wife, my six year old daughter, and I) requirements are a bit different from many others on this forum, I thought it might be useful to share some observations from our perspective.
First, some background. We have a number of computing devices in the household. Being in the software biz I have a fairly powerful Windows desktop and a similarly powerful 15" laptop. I also have an HP netbook that I've used mainly for air travel for about a year since it's almost impossible to open a larger laptop if I'm consigned to coach. My wife also has a 15" laptop and my daughter inherited her Mom's 13" laptop. My wife and I each have Android smartphones. In short, we're drowning in machines here. I feel like network/system administration has become a second job.
So why did we get an iPad? Well, my brother-in-law (bless him) showed up with an iPad when he visited a couple of months ago. My daughter was enchanted. She spent the entire weekend connected to his (first generation) iPad wrists and ankles. Long story short, it seemed like a good idea to get a multi-use iPad that we could all share.
After spending some time with the new addition to the family I now realize I had assumed we had purchased another computer. That's not exactly correct. What we have is more analogous to a giant iTouch than a small computer. In other words, like a cell phone or an iTouch, the iPad is designed to be a personal device, not a shared computer. That doesn't mean it can't be shared, but it does present some challenges.
First, of course, there is the scheduling issue. My daughter has taken a sudden interest in visiting me in my home office where the iPad is located to convince me that she "needs" to use it. I expect the novelty to wear off a bit, but it's clear that she'll prefer the iPad to her laptop since she isn't forced to sit in her room to use it. (And of course Angry Birds isn't available on her laptop.)
As for myself, I've found (as many others have) that the iPad combined with a bluetooth keyboard can largely replace my netbook on flights. It cannot replace my high-powered laptop but it's far better than the netbook for work and entertainment when crammed into a middle seat in coach.
A bigger "problem" is the limited configuration options the iPad offers for multiple users. With a Windows computer (and I presume an Apple) it's possible to set up multiple user configurations with appropriate software access. The iPad is more akin to my Droid smartphone where I can block access to the device (with a password) but once "inside," it's problematic to control access to specific applications. (It can be done, but only with software from the Android Market. I haven't found analogous software in the Apple App Store. Perhaps I've overlooked it.)
The iPad (at least from what I can tell) is even weaker than my smartphone in this regard. I can move my daughter's apps to her own "screen" but there doesn't seem to be any way to prevent her from accessing "my" applications (like email.) And if I put an app on one of my screens, I don't see a way to put the same app on hers. (e.g. Angry Birds "belongs" on either my daughter's screen or mine, but not on both.)
In short, the absence of Android's "widgets" in the Apple ecosystem is a real shortcoming in a device that is used by more than one person. Likewise, the ability to "hide" apps is (as far as I can tell) simply not available. These problems are less significant in a device like an iTouch or a smartphone where a single person is typically the only user. They become more important in a device that begs to be shared.
Of course, such problems disappear if I were willing to shell out for individual iPads for every person in the household. But in this household I don't need even more computing devices to track, manage, back up, and configure. Not to mention the fact that iPads ain't cheap. The "solution" may end up being an iTouch for my daughter while I (heh, heh) reserve the iPad for my and my wife's use. But I suspect that even that wouldn't satisfy her after experiencing the size of the iPad screen. (My brother-in-law is going to pay for this somehow. I think I may get his four year old drums for Christmas.)
All in all, I'm delighted with the iPad. Sharing it with my daughter enables us to read and play games together. She's a good kid and will (at least for awhile) heed my warnings not to "mess with Daddy's apps." It's truly amazing to see how intuitive the touch screen interface is for her. And the wealth of educational apps for elementary school children is the main reason I bought the iPad. (Now that I have it, of course, other priorities have emerged. )
The issues I've encountered shouldn't discourage a parent from purchasing an iPad for the family. But be aware that such issues do exist, at least in our household. Frankly, I wasn't even aware that I had mistakenly assumed that the iPad was more like a full-fledged family computer than a smartphone (or an iTouch) until I began configuring it and discovered that it is a truly personal device. Overcoming that bias in its design to make it usable for several family members can be a challenge. Not an impossible challenge, but a challenge, nevertheless.