On April 3, Apple's long-awaited tablet computer, iPad , hits the streets. Despite the initial mixed reviews it received when it was introduced, there is no denying this new device will change the way you do web business.

I'll get to exactly how it's going to do that in a moment. But first, let's take a quick look at the iPad, and its key features.

An Overgrown iPhone?
When images of the iPad first came out, many observers called it an "overgrown iPhone"--an obvious comparison, because it looks so much like Apple's popular smartphone, and shares so many of its capabilities. Like the iPhone, the iPad allows its users to send and receive e-mail, surf the Web, play music and videos, store photos, and download utilities and games from the iTunes App Store.

It also allows user to read eBooks via a reader built into the device -- making it a direct competitor to Amazon Kindle and other e-reading devices on the market with far fewer bells and whistles. However, the iPad is being marketed as more than just a tool for consuming online content. Apple has revamped its iWork suite of applications to work on the iPad as well as standard Mac notebook and desktop computers. You can use "Keynote" to create multimedia presentations, "Pages" to create word processing documents, and "Numbers" to create spreadsheets. And you get to do all this via the same simple touch-screen interface that iPod Touch and iPhone users love so much.

But Who's Going to Buy it?
When Apple introduced the iPad, a lot of tech geeks were disappointed. The iPad didn't have a camera, and it couldn't make phone calls--two big iPhone features. And it doesn't support any sort of Flash-based programming, which puts off many designers and programmers.

But when you consider what the iPad does do, it soon becomes clear that the device just isn't meant for hardcore tech geeks. The iPad target audience is clearly people who spend most of their time on their computer doing leisure-type activities, including browsing the web, reading books, watching movies, consuming online content and interacting on social networking sites.

More specifically, the iPad is going to hold huge appeal for:

  • People who don't like computers: The iPad's touch-screen interface is exceptionally easy to use. Anyone who has ever got lost moving from program to program on their computer is going to love Apple's new tablet. Key demographics fitting this description include middle-aged people and senior citizens who enjoy e-mailing friends and family, surfing the web, watching videos, and sharing photos--but hate all the hassles associated with a regular computer.
  • People who travel: The iPad is a smaller, more lightweight alternative to a traditional laptop--which makes it ultra-portable. This ensures that people will take their iPad to places you normally wouldn't imagine taking a laptop. Imagine being in a restaurant with hungry kids--kids growing restless and fidgety as they wait for their meals. Why not distract them--and save your fellow diners some frustration--with a movie or game on your iPad?
  • Students: Kids are used to lugging around backpacks crammed full of heavy, expensive textbooks--textbooks that are used for one course or semester, and then never opened again. As more textbooks get converted into an iPad-friendly format, students will flock to the Apple Store to purchase this tablet in droves.

So What Does This Mean for you?
Even if you have no interest in ever buying an iPad yourself, you need to pay attention to how Apple develops and markets this device.

As the iPad and other tablet computers become more popular over the next few years, the amount of time people spend consuming online content is going to explode. If you want your internet marketing to take advantage of this emerging trend, then you'll make sure your website provides them with the kind of appealing content they're looking for.

Make sure your site has a blog that features regularly updated articles your target audience will find useful and entertaining. You can even create videos to satisfy their desire for multimedia content. And as your business grows, plan to include more interactive social media features on your site. These features are the most effective way to encourage your users to pursue an ongoing relationship with you and your other customers, and form a community around your business.

Finally, consider offering e-books. They're easy to produce--you can hire writers and designers to create professional-looking eBooks for you, or do it yourself. And they fit into all kinds of objectives:

  • Main product: Great if you've got an info-heavy site, and they're almost 100 percent profit once you've paid for the initial production.
  • New stream of revenue: You can add e-books to your site to complement what you already offer. They're a good upsell or standalone product.
  • Opt-in incentive: They're cheap to produce so you can offer them free.
  • Sales tool: Use them as an online sales rep, to demonstrate the value of your product. eBooks can contain text, video, audio, graphics--the whole multimedia deal.

As more people use devices like the iPad to access information online, e-books are going to become increasingly popular and widely used. Even now, the demand for good books to read via electronic reader outweighs the supply. If you want to take advantage of this new electronic information gold rush, the time to act is now. So what will you do to make your business more iPad-friendly?