I agree whole-heartedly with everything you’ve said. The degree of iPad ire is a little surprising to me. And I say this as someone who generally dislikes Apple.

Part of what is surprising about the iPad-hate is that Apple itself has never been a great friend of open source or “freedom.” iTunes restricts what one can do with an iPod (and, btw, there is no Linux version, making iPod compatibility a dickens of a problem for Linux folks… or it used to be; it is no longer). And Apple has been pretty aggressive about asserting its IP on OSX to keep it running only on Apple-produced hardware. Such are the profits and (I am more than willing to admit) the nicely-designed pleasures of a closed platform. So the iPad is hardly a departure in this regard, is it? (Putting aside the production/consumption binary which, I agree, seems to oversimplify what is at stake.)

(As others have noted, the virtues of the iPad as an educational device seem very questionable. But there are uses/environments for a device beyond the purely educational I think.)

What seems potentially significant to me about the iPad is its attempt to increase the ubiquity of one’s internet access by establishing a device between the laptop and the smart phone: a “lean back,” but full sized internet device. If Apple is good at anything, it is designing user experiences. And this device certainly seems like the best candidate the “tablet” form factor has ever had. It may just be a “giant iPod touch” (as many have described it), but if it changes people’s habits of internet use, that seems like something important.