The magic word in computing these days is "iPad." Or at least that's what Apple would have you believe. It's getting a lot of buzz for good reason: it's super-thin and it has a big screen with crystal clear resolution. It can run eBooks, games and HD movies like there's no tomorrow. The only drawback is, there are also some things that it rather significantly won't do. You might want to consider your options before rushing out to buy one.

The most significant drawback is a big one. The Apple iPad will NOT run multiple applications at the same time. It has zero multitasking capability. The current speculation is that Apple purposefully omitted this feature because the iPad was never designed to replace a laptop PC. It was designed specifically to do what it does – to zip from site to site with awesome resolution inside a half-inch of electronic thickness.

It is a tablet PC only in the sense that it is tablet shaped, and does some of the things you can do with a PC. For many people, that will be enough, because an astonishingly large group of people really don't need full-fledged PCs. They want to have e-mail access, and it's nice to read the news online, but that's about all they do.

This group of people will never use any Microsoft product other than IE, and the only reason they would ever open multiple applications at the same time is because they accidentally minimized the first one instead of closing it. These people, IF they don't already have a smart phone, would benefit from an iPad.

Even computer geeks may want an iPad, if they don't already have a smart phone or a Kindle. It's a lot lighter to tote around than a laptop, and e-Books are gorgeous on the crystal-resolution screen. But, most computer geeks already have an e-Book reader, and a smart phone for checking e-mail on the go. What they don't have is an extra $500 lying around the house.

As far as PCs go, you can find much better merchandise. A standard Lenovo tablet PC will cost more than a $500 iPad, but it will do more also. Lenovos are solid tablets with multitasking and they will run any application you care to load on them. Lenovo also manufactures a Thinkpad x60 which converts easily into a tablet. With an x60 you get the best of both worlds.

Of course, you aren't going to buy a tablet PC for cheap. On a good day you will pay at least $1,000, and maybe half again as much if you buy a high-end machine. But, as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. A $500 iPad does what it does quite beautifully, but it doesn't begin to compete with a laptop or even a true tablet PC.

Again, that is by design. The Apple iPad is being rolled out to combat the march of $500 netbooks, not $1,000 laptops or tablets. Keep that in mind when you go shopping. If you have realistic expectations, you'll be pleased with your purchase when you make a decision.