(The following comments are from David Dixon, Developer at Mubaloo, Mubaloo, a company who creates and develops business applications for smartphones including the iPhone including a new AXADent car insurance application and AA Fuel Prices UK application.)

Last week Apple announced their iPad family of devices which are scheduled for launch in late March of this year. Building upon the success of the iPhone and the App Store, Apple are on track to once again revolutionise the mobile application business.

The iPad is aimed at bridging the gap between smartphones and laptops and is taking on the netbook industry. The iPad runs a modified version of the iPhone operating system, and this means there are 80 million potential customers out there who already know how to use the device.

But how will this device really affect the mobile industry? It’s just a bigger iPod touch right? Wrong... Cosmetically they are very similar but when you delve even slightly into the iPad’s hardware and software additions you begin to realise the incredible capabilities offered by this mobile device.

At heart, the iPad is powered by a custom chipset developed internally by Apple, and codenamed the ‘A4’. This new chipset, responsible for the ultra smooth animations and graphics, opens up the device to huge possibilities such as the advanced photo editing you would expect to find in desktop applications.

Alongside this new hardware the iPad also brings a large number of new software based features for developers. These range from outputting application data such as presentations onto a projector, or external display to external file access which allows applications to save documents to the file system so they can be accessed from a Mac or PC in a similar way to using a USB flash drive.

Apple has also included the three and four finger multi touch gestures as found on the Mac. These advances show the way in which Apple is continuing to reform the way we interact with mobile devices.

However, there are still a few things we’d like to see, and hopefully these might be introduced in a future software update. The first problem is that there is still no multitasking, meaning only one application can run at a time. Apple puts this missing feature down to the effect multitasking would have on reducing battery life and general system performance.

The second missing feature is Adobe Flash player. Last week Steve Jobs spoke publicly on this subject, blaming Adobe for a poor buggy implementation of flash for the Mac, and citing this as the reason why Adobe Flash player was not featured in these Apple devices. It is worth noting however that both these features have been requested since the iPhone was first announced, and the iPhone has grown to be incredibly successful, so one has to ask if these features are really necessary to the experience.

What do these changes mean for the Apple App Store? Whilst the iPad runs all current iPhone applications, developers will need to redesign their applications to get the full power of the iPad across to users. The development time for an iPad application will be significantly longer than that required for an iPhone application. This means that the price of an iPad application will inevitably go up, and this will lead to the iPhone application being bundled with the iPad application (classified by Apple as a universal application) in order to warrant the higher price point.

In conclusion, the iPad is a welcome addition to the iPhone OS family alongside the iPhone and the iPod touch, and it will undoubtedly lead to another gold rush for developers. For consumers, despite some initial controversy, it looks likely that the iPad will become a common fixture on desks, in homes and in briefcases over the coming years.

By David Dixon, Developer, Mubaloo