The iPad laptop
If you have an original iPad lying around that you aren't really using, I have a suggestion for what you can do to get some more life out of it. Simply put, make it into a laptop. It is easy to do and, thanks to the big drop in the prices for type one iPad accessories, really cheap.
The very laptop looking machine you see in the pictures is really my old iPad in a fancy leather case that includes a bluetooth wireless keyboard. The net result is effectively a cheap netbook or mini laptop. It obviously won't win any performance contests against a new Mac laptop or even a Windows box but, for word processing, web surfing and email, it works pretty well.
An iPad is clearly at a disadvantage compared to any real laptop in the software department. The iOS is pretty cool for what it is on phones and tablets but it is really very limited in its abilities when compared to what a machine with MS Office can do. There are, however, some ways to lessen the effect of this issue. At the free end of the spectrum, Google Docs (now available through the free Google Drive app) works pretty well and includes cloud storage for your documents. Beyond that, Apple's own Pages word processor is really quite good and both Documents to Go and QuickOffice offer well equipped MS Office style software packages for the iPad that are reasonably feature rich.
Now, none of this so far would make much sense if the cost of making a laptop out of your iPad was high. That's where the cheap part I mentioned above comes in. Look around on ebay or Google shopping for an iPad keyboard case. There are loads of different styles and colors out there. The one you see in the pictures accompanying this review cost me all of $28 (shipping included. From geeks.com btw). Bearing in mind that the iPad was paid for long ago, $28 seemed like a very good deal to give it a new range of capabilities.
As for how it all works, the bottom line is, quite well. The keys on my keyboard case are reasonably responsive and I can get text into the iPad many times faster than I otherwise could with the onscreen keyboard. The case itself seems to be a well made piece of leather that uses magnets to hold the whole thing closed (the magnet at this point could be stronger. I think it will hold better as the leather loosens up with time). The keyboard itself is mounted on a stiff leather pad that is held in place by magnets but can be removed if the user wants to put the keyboard in another position relative to the screen (the bluetooth connection should work reliably up to 15 or so feet away). I actually typed up this review in Pages on the iPad. It was significantly easier and faster to do with the keyboard.
I'm really quite pleased at how this little project turned out. With my kids monopolizing our other computers for homework and the like these days, I needed my own laptop for after-hours work. Rather than spend a pile of cash for one though, this little solution is proving to be a cheap and effective alternative. I still have to tap the iPad's screen in lieu of using a mouse but there are inexpensive styli available that make the process more mouse-like I have heard. For now, this does get the job done. And, in tough times like these, it feels good knowing that I was able to get a bit more utility out of something I already had without breaking the bank.