I got an iPad on launch day last Saturday. The atmosphere was surreal. There was a huge throng of people at the Tysons Corner Apple Retail Store (which happens to be Apple’s first store to open.) They were crowded around the few iPads they had out on display. Meanwhile, I had one on Reserve and I was met at the door by one guy, led to another lady, then to another fellow, who finally walked me to the back where the iPad Diva handed over one of the prized iPads. I felt like a VIP. It was a buying experience that had few rivals.

Apple looks out for the little things, for the most part. I unpacked the iPad and noticed that the box seemed scratched. No big deal. The box fit perfectly and the instructions were minimal but nicely designed. Even before I turn on the thing, I’m having a good experience.

Then I turn it on and horrors – it looks like the screen is scratched. I realize that it is some sort of camera shot of shooting meteors or something. OK heart attack averted, I venture on.

Simply put, I was playing with the iPad for hours and hours and hours. I spent a lot of time exploring all the built-in apps, the buttons, all the “HD” apps from the App Store… On Monday morning, I felt like I had an iPad hangover. There were so many new computing experiences, it was hard for my mind to process it all.

Bottom line: The first generation iPad is going to be a huge hit. The iPad pushes the boundaries of touch screen technology in ways that stylus/pressure-oriented touch screens like the Tablet PC and even Nintendo DS have not. It simplifies computing in a dramatic way that we haven’t seen in technology since the way the Nintendo Wii shook up video gaming.

The Wii was criticized by the gaming elite, like the iPad by the computing elite, as having so many flaws but ultimately it unlocked the gaming experience for a large population that didn’t enjoy gaming before. I think iPad will do the same for computing, but people won’t think of it as a computer. I don’t think we have a name for it yet.

Laptops and desktops won’t go away. Mac OS X won’t go away. There’s just a lot of things that are better done on your MacBook, like writing this blog entry. The iPhone won’t go away – the iPad is way too big to fit into your pockets and would look ridiculous for making calls. But I think Apple has found a Third Device that will help improve our daily lives.

I will try to catalog the different ways I use the iPad in future blog entries. I think that’ll be more insightful than trying to write one uber-review.