Since the original iPad hit the tablet market in 2010, tablet use has exploded. As of 2012, Apple iOS is the most common mobile platform used in corporate environments, according to Forbes. Research by Vertic points out that between 2010 and 2011, tablet adoption among enterprises rose by 30 percent. Plus, according to statistics released by Forrester Research, more than one-third of the adults in the U.S. are expected to own a tablet by 2016.

OK, so tablet computers, and iPads, which as of 2012 are still leading significantly in terms of market share, are a big deal. But beyond digital natives and gadget geeks, not everyone gets what all the hype is about. So for all those out there who are still in the dark, we take an introductory look at the iPad.

iPad 101

The iPad is a feature-rich tablet that combines computing power with efficiency. The intuitive design gives users the ability to access data with simple hand gestures via the touchscreen display. Besides the touchscreen display, the iPad only has one other button on its surface, known as the "Home" button.

The iPad has a multitude of uses. And thanks to applications, the iPad can be an e-reader, a media player and a way to browse the Internet. That means that many typical consumers use it every day to read the news (53 percent), send email (54 percent), for ocial networking (33 percent), gaming (30 percent), reading books (27 percent) and watching TV or movies (13 percent). It's popular because it's portable, it's easy to use and it can replace a number of other things people might carry around, such as a laptop, books, games, etc. While the iPad is mostly consumer driven, it can also be used in business.

The History of the iPad

Introduced in 2010, the third generation of the iPad was released in March 2012. Although iPad was not the first tablet created, it was the first to have widespread acclaim. The iPad brought multi-touch technology to the forefront of the tablet market and introduced natural user interfaces as a tablet standard - not to mention some stellar marketing that helped draw consumers to the product.

The iPad, along with both iPhone and Android devices, introduced a new trend colloquially known as the "post-PC" era. Earlier tablets, such as the HP Compaq, used specialized desktop operating systems that required a stylus to operate and typically had a physical keyboard. Post-PC tablets, such as the iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and the Kindle Fire, use mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android while featuring virtual keyboards.

These post-PC tablets were mainly created as a convenient way to consume media. Being lightweight and having a battery life that lasts longer than a modern laptop, tablets can be used in a variety of ways a laptop cannot. (Learn about some early tablet models that failed in Tablet PCs: Why Don't More Manufacturers Get It Right?)

Using the iPad

When it comes to its user interface, the iPad is very similar to the iPhone. Applications show up on the home screen once installed through the App Store, and icons can be rearranged by simply holding down on the icon and dragging it to a different location. Once the icons begin to wiggle, an "X" will show up on the top left corner of the icon. If pressed, this will uninstall the selected app. If the home screen becomes too cluttered with apps, it is possible to create folders by dragging one icon on top of another. It's functions like this that make using the iPad so intuitive, causing many reviewers to exclaim that their grandmothers could use it right out of the box. In terms of broad appeal, that's a feature that certainly doesn't hurt.

Clicking the "Home" button brings users back to the home screen, while double-clicking the "Home" button opens up running apps. Switching between running apps can be done by clicking on the apps icon. To force-close an app, simply hold down on an icon and tap the minus sign on the top left corner of the icon.

Getting new apps is done through the App Store. Once inside, users can navigate the catalog of more than 500,000 apps by looking through featured apps, the most downloaded apps or selecting various topics and categories.

Why Is the iPad Important?

While the iPad is a consumer-driven product, it isn't just fluff - it also works well in a highly mobile workplace. Given its lightweight design and form factor, it's easy to operate in a variety of settings. The top three industries in which the iPad is being integrated are the financial and technology sectors, as well as the healthcare industry. In 2011, the New York Times reported that 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using iPads in their workplace.

The use of iPads and smartphones - and employees' devotion to them - has brought on a trend known as bring your own device (BYOD). This means that employees bring their own devices from home, but use them to access company resources. This can save the company money, but it can also pose a security risk. And many BYOD experts say that much of the move toward this trend came with the iPad, and pressure from top-level employees who wanted to use it in the workplace. (Read more about BYO in BYOT: What It Means for IT.)

Within the healthcare industry iPads have gained momentum due to how mobile doctors and nurses tend to be. With the iPad, a doctor can pull up an electronic medical record on the fly. There are also several apps dedicated to healthcare professionals. Doctors have the ability to make paperless prescriptions with the iPad as well.

One final area where the iPad is making a strong appearance is in the classroom. The iPad can be used both to assist teachers and enhance the learning experience for students. With more than 20,000 education apps, teachers can track students' progress, update lesson plans and provide students with new, more interactive ways of looking at a subject.

When it comes to integrating iPads or any mobile device in the workplace, mobile strategy is important. Part of a mobile strategy consists of how to manage various devices. Luckily, there are several options for mobile device management. This includes a number of device management companies, such as AirWatch, MobileIron and Zenprise, which help companies manage their devices, provide compatibility and maintain security standards.

Welcome to the Post-PC Era

In 2010, Apple launched a post-PC revolution. Since then, the iPad has found a home in multiple sectors, largely because it works well and is easy to use. To compensate for the tablet trend, mobile device management companies have begun to arise, allowing for easy control and security. With the growing number of tablets populating the market, it seems the trend will only grow and new innovations will be made in the workplace. That means the iPad - and perhaps competitor tablets like it - will become increasingly common. Why? Because they're simple, they're portable, they're useful and they're fun.

Yes, an iPad is just a PC, but it's a new take on many functionalities we've come to take for granted. And when it comes to the iPad, anyone can pick it up and use it, with little instruction. Now how's that for digital progress?