The iPad is simply Apple's brand name for the company's line of tablets. The basic functions of the iPad are almost identical to those of other types of tablets, but a key distinction is that Apple only officially supports and allows applications to be installed through its own store.
A tablet is a computing and entertainment device with a touch screen that is self-contained and does not require outside peripherals, such as a keyboard or mouse. Tablets are distinguished mostly by their manufacturer and the operating system that they run. As of 2014, the major alternatives to the Apple iPad are Android and Windows tablets.
Apple's iOS operating system requires users to download new apps through the company's App Store. Google and Microsoft both have similar app stores, but also allow users to also install third-party apps. Apple's system has the advantage of almost completely eliminating the possibility of malware and viruses, but at the expense of user freedom. Apple's iPads can be "jailbroken" to allow the installation of unapproved third-party software, but this may void the warranty on the device.
The use of Adobe's Flash software, which is commonly used on websites, also represents a significant difference between tablet types, as Apple has disallowed the use of Flash on its devices. As of 2014, Adobe has officially cut support for Flash on Android devices, though it can still be added with workarounds. The software continues to be available on mobile Windows devices.