Apple iPadYou saw the iPad event video, or at the very least have read one of the numerous feature reviews currently littering the Mac Web. The Apple iPad has finally been released to the masses, ending months of speculation, rumor and wishful thinking.

While tech journalists focus on what the iPad is and isn’t, the lack of a camera, Apple’s choice in 3G providers, and a host of other topics; I’m having one of those light-bulb moments. The iPad is the ultimate school supply!

When you consider some states are handing out $1,000 Macbooks to students and teachers, it’s not hard to imagine Apple’s true reason for the iPad’s existence is to get more product into more hands at a young age.

Think about it. The purpose of the laptop program is to make the Internet available to kids, and to give them something to produce their homework assignments on (even though we know they use it for much more). But in this economy, schools are certainly rethinking these “laptops for every kid” programs.

Enter the iPad. It offers word processor, spreadsheet and presentation capability via the new iWork suite, and a stunningly gorgeous browser experience. Savvy schools and teachers can add instructional materials, as well as entire lectures in audio or video format.

iPad iWork apps

Now consider that even if schools opted for the most expensive iPad model ($829), they’ll be saving $170 per student by purchasing iPads rather than the Macbooks they currently purchase. Frugal school districts could instead choose the $699 WiFi-only model and save $300 per student. We’re talking huge savings here!

Not only would this increase Apple’s marketshare, but it would most likely result in more AppStore income from the potential landslide of education apps. And then there’s that whole “get ’em while they’re young” thing.

Yep, I see a host of parents sweating in anticipation of their 10 year old kid bringing home their school supply list with a $700+ total at the bottom.