People anticipate iPad release this weekend

(NBC) – After a preview in January, the world will finally be able to get their hands on the iPad Saturday.

Smaller than a laptop yet bigger than a Smartphone, the iPad packages familiar functions into a clipboard sized gadget that has options for both wireless and wi-fi.

"I think the iPad's a game changer already," said media reporter for Ad Age magazine Nat Ives.

The base model runs $500, with a high-end version going for $800.

"It's a matter of whether people who already have a smart phone and or a notebook computer decide, 'I need this, too,'" said tech columnist for the Houston Chronicle Dwight Silverman.

Adding to the potential allure is access to electronic books through the popular iTunes service. This makes the iPad a direct competitor to Amazon's Kindle.

"It does things the Kindle doesn't do," Ives commented. "It's much cooler, sexier and in color."

The magazine and newspaper industries are also sensing opportunities with the iPad.

"We've already seen with the iPhone, people will buy apps," Ives explained. "They'll pay for an app that provides news from the newspaper, when they might never pay for the website."

The gaming industry is also zeroing in on the iPad's potential.

"With the graphics on it, it's going to be a killer game device," Silverman said.

Analysts predict anywhere from 3 million to 6 million iPads to be sold by year's end.

"Over time, this is going to have some kind of an influence, we just don't know yet how much," Silverman said.

Consumers will provide the answer in the months ahead. Already, Apple's competitors have products similar to the iPad in the pipeline, ready to capitalize on what could turn into a new breed of computer devices.

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