Nintendo is never one to shy away from innovation, whether it's needed or not. This latest console Looks like your average handheld except for the fact that it has a second touch screen, hence "DS" (for dual screen, duh.)
Haven't gotten around to getting one of these yet so the only experience I've had with it is at the store, which is pretty limiting. Seems to be pretty nice size and weight (although I couldn't tell as it was attached to this kisoks via a long plastic arm) and both screens are incredibly clear.
Most games so far use the second touch screen to some degee, be it a map or inventory or as a secondardy control mechanism. It's also got a built in microphone port, so eventually we may see some games that use some kind of voice recongnition, as well as real time chat while playing games over the internet (nice!) Once again, Nintendo made the right choice and made it backwards compatible with all GBA games (sadly, original GB games are not supported. So hang onto your GBA SP.) Plus the DS screen makes them look 10 times better.
The carts are about half the size of GBA carts, and have the contacts exposed, which means you have to store them in a cool, dry place or they'll get corroded. DS games are not region specific (so you can play import games easily. Wish other console makers would follow Nintendo's lead here.)
Abilites-wise, it has graphics capabilites on par with the N64, although in real life N64 games never looked this good. There's no jagged, edgey, simplistic characters with low polygon counts here. Mario DS looks closer to Mario Sunshine.