By D. Beall“When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical,” a new advertisement by Apple says. “And that’s exactly what the iPad does.” By that logic, my microwave, my digital sports watch and those little disposable hand warmers are also magical. But I wouldn’t mind one as a gift and know a lot of people are looking forward to it. It hits stores early this month, reasonably priced at $499.99. Apple founder Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in late January to a mixed response. A lot of consumers were noticeably underwhelmed due to the lack of game-changing features, among other things. Many people look at it as an oversized iPhone. It is, to a point. It runs on the same operating system, though it is slightly improved. It’s somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop, with ebooks. It’s got Wifi and the version coming out later in the month runs on a 3G network. You can watch movies on it, listen to iTunes, type sh*t up on its undersized keyboard, look at your photos, surf the internet, pretty much everything you could do with the iPhone except bigger and prettier. The ebook capabilities on the iPad are one of the most interesting parts about it, hinting at a day when you can read ebooks with animations or video clips built right in. You’ll be able to subscribe to magazines like Esquire within the coming months. Expect that it might put Amazon’s Kindle reader out of business, but not the Kindle store (stock tip: expect a merger, buy now). There’s no webcam, Flash support or USB. No widescreen aspect ratio for when you’re watching movies. You can only get applications for it from the Apple store, and you can’t run more than one app at once. At 9.5 inches, the iPad could make a good coaster for an entire six-pack, if one were so inclined, and it will definitely not fit in your purse. Overall, it’s best to look at the iPad as an appliance, not a computer. The thing is gorgeous, and looks like a helluva lot of fun to mess around with. Those of you interested in the immediate utility of your various appliances might want to pass. There are a ton of people who love Apple products, in case you didn’t know. This is at least partially because Apple’s marketing tactics involve making consumers believe that creativity comes from the device they express it with, rather than from the consumers themselves. With this kind of strategy, we can expect some interesting developments from Apple in the coming years. It’s only a matter of time before Steve Jobs begins touting iPaper- glossier than usual loose leaf paper that is made from ground African baby teeth rather than precious trees. Or iPens that dispense Jobs’ cloned semen onto the page rather than costly ink. “This way, your creative instinct peaks when I do.” Jobs will say in the advertisements. Meanwhile, there are those that are suspicious of The Cult of Jobs’ assertions that the best way to display your individuality is to buy a product that millions of other people will buy along with you. This begs the question: How much is your individuality worth to you? Is it worth 500 bucks?