The question posed at the end is an interesting one: at the moment, the iPad appears to require a regular computer (just like an iPod touch does). Presumably a future version - or even a software update for the existing model - will get rid of this dependency.
Apple's paradigm is that the devices revolve around the main computer, and I don't see that changing. However, it could be that the "main computer" evolves into a headless thing (like the new Mac Mini Server) that auto-magically handles the Ethernet, USB devices, and mass storage for the iPad(s). Plug it into the wall, the router, and the printer, and it finds the iPad(s) via Bonjour on your wireless network. Your Mac Mini Server (MMS) downloads your upgrades for you, stores your media, and backs up your contacts and files. It works like a remote harddrive. Just drag files you don't need any more over to its home screen icon, and they're kept on the server now. It's also your hub to access your digital camera or other USB device, and shares them over 802.11n to the iPad(s).
Then, a few years later, when our Mobile Me accounts have like 5 TB limits and enough people have HD-streaming broadband, that computer can be replaced by a simple dock with an Ethernet port and USB for the printers and cameras. Apple's getting $99/year instead of $500 for the server, but still making bank. You buy stuff on iTunes and it automatically appears on your iDisk. You download it when you sync your iPad with your iDisk and put it in your iPad's library. Tired of that song? Throw it out on the iPad and download it again later.
Most people just want to use the web and email (most of the time THROUGH the web) on a computer. So give 'em what they want.
And if you say "what about Flash!" I'm gonna guess one of two things: you want video (cough cough PORN) or you want to play Farmville.
So this time, Apple's going to have a serious competitor early on. Interesting times for us consumers.
I bet you see iPad evolve into Apple's cloud computing platform while the OSX-based notebooks stay they way they are.
This also has some serious long term problems for Mac OS. What if Apple decides (or has already decided) that the future is closed-architecture cloud computing devices? You'd see OS X (OS XI?) dead before the decade is over.
It raises an interesting question though. Is Apple slightly killing off their supply of future developers? If people don't grow up with programmable machines will the IPad generation be so into programming or as knowledgeable about computers actually work in general. I know a fair chunk of my knowledge has come from diagnosing and fixing faults in computers.
Edit: Also hearing so many people saying: "My mom should get one of these" is really them saying "I wont buy it, but someone else should". Really makes me ponder just how successful it really will be.
The device is not targeted towards the people you interact with on the web right now. All Hacker Newsies* are sufficiently tech literate that the costs of the device in terms of lost freedoms outweigh the ease-of-use gains. Ditto for basically anyone commenting or blogging on the "tech" internet. Over in the other internets^, you'll likely find people who would like that tradeoff, but they won't really start talking about it until it ships. If you drop around those places in March-May as the devices roll out, you'll see more "I want one" posts. In fact, I know at least one car enthusiast who is already planning on building his dashboard around an iPad.
Mac News/rumor sites are unenthusiastic because their average commenter owns an iMac, a MacBook, and an iPod Touch. They were looking for an excuse to whip out their credit cards, and it's not for them.
TL;DR - you're looking in the wrong place.
* - there an official term?
^ - there are multiple "internets" because there's minimal intersect between the community niches.
I don't think that's true. We're regular folks too, you know. We want to, like, just do stuff sometimes. Hands up who owns a phone? What, you don't exclusively use your GPL Ruby VOIP client you wrote yourself one afternoon? Shame on you! :-P
Abstracting away the hierarchical file system is a positive for my mom, who can never find stuff she's saved, but I have no issues using one in the first place, so my gains are smaller. She'll be thrilled not to have to navigate an application installer or download some component from the web to run something, but doing that is nearly effortless for me.
It's no loss at all to my Mom that the iPad can't run some GPL Ruby VOIP app she wrote herself, because she can't write a Ruby VOIP app. By contrast, I would be giving up my ability to write and run my own Ruby VOIP app.
Overall, I (as a very tech literate person) benefit less from the positives and feel the pinch of the negatives more than my mom (or any less tech literate person). It could still be a good trade for me, but I wind up looking at a totally different values proposition than my mother would.
 - I have no interest in writing a VOIP app.
This is utter nonsense. That's the same as claiming, that the more tech literate you are, the more ugly UI you need. Ease-of-use means being more efficient for everyone. Or are most tech
literate still punching cards?
iPad is not the device you will do your tech literate stuff: you will use your computer for that.
Why do people think that iPad has to replace something? Sure, if all one does is browsing, some emails, and a couple of games, iPad may be the he or she they needs. For others (including "tech literate" people), it makes a great complementary device, best suited for browsing, e-books, etc. I wouldn't want to hack in Ruby on iPad, but when browsing on my couch with my iPad, with its IPS screen, portrait orientation and amazing multitouch UI I couldn't care less about all the freedom it has not.
No. Its not about that.
Since most such people already use a laptop throughout the day and have iPhone. So its something they think might be more used by people who are not carrying a computing/entertainment device throughout the day.
However, I was watching the unveiling with my mom, and she thought it might be perfect for her needs. She doesn't have (or want) a smartphone and doesn't really need (or want to spend the money on) a full-fledged laptop. But she does want an easy-to-use portable device, especially one that she can use on trips for emailing, maps, watching movies, etc.
Oh, and the Wii analogy fits perfectly for her, too.
And really, that's not saying "they are inferior people so they should buy this limited computer", it's saying "they don't want to care about the details and I don't want to care on their behalf, and this looks like a good alternative. They might get on well with it". It's a recommendation from mutual self interest rather than scorning the 'lesser' computer user.
They're going to be especially serious in countries with somewhat limited iTunes Store that does not support music, movies and shows.
For instance, Poland, which is rich enough for iPhone but apparently, but not for full version if iTunes Store.
I completely agree with the article, though. I've got very excited about all my non-tech friends, which constantly suffer from tech problems.
The presented problems are no longer purely technical, though, like they were on regular computers. They're just usability issues.
Funny, but have been I doing that with iTunes on a bunch other Apple devices for years now.
Actually, the downloader utilities from eMusic and Amazon pretty much inject those things directly into iTunes.
From what I see, there's no classical filesystem on Apple iPad - just per application resources - so it won't work easily.
Obviously, there are some fixes to this particular problem. However, keep in mind, that I just wanted to give few examples of possible confusions.
Without the actual device, it's hard to give more specific examples of complains.
No need to go into details. From the hackerish perspective, the internals of iPad might be nothing but BSD/Mach combined with touch screen.