I keep seeing a lot of blood shed by tech writers on this issue. People think that because tablets are popular, they will somehow un-invent the desktop or laptop personal computer. I know lots of people who own both a regular car to commute with and a motorcycle. Myself, I've got a handgun, but I've also found that a good shotgun can be useful as well.
Do I think the vast majority of the world could get by with a tablet form factor like the iPad? Sure.
Most people purchase electronic devices for the purpose of consuming media, checking email, communicating on social platforms and other tasks. A tablet device can often perform better than a traditional PC for your average consumer. I'm beating a dead horse here.
For people who create the content other people consume, the tablet represents both a potential tool and a marketplace for their products. I've written quite a bit about the MacBook Air and the iPad and how one measures up agains the other. At lunch today, my Aunt Julie asked me if my MacBook Air had replaced my iPad because it was what I happened to have with me.
For me, the answer is somewhat complex but I boiled it down to this:
The iPad is what I reach for when working a project from the front end. For me, the front end is thumbing out the first few visuals, creating a few thousand words of plain text or mapping the relationships between characters in a book. Things that you have to do before you get serious about composition or finishing a product.
When I'm working on closing a project, or the back end, I need something that has a full desktop OS. Because I'm not just handing my work off to a traditional publisher I have to arrange and edit those works myself. The iPad simply can't do those things yet and I don't know that it ever will. There are some things that require the precision that only a cursor can give.
The folks at Notion Ink might actually bridge the gap if they can conquer their supply issues.
Anyone serious about independent writing and self-publishing have to get the most they possibly can out of their time. Sometimes you can't or don't want to sit at a desk for that purpose and need a mobile device to fit the occasion. I use an iPod Touch, an iPad and a MacBook Air to that end. I lucked out being able to afford the devices that best fit my writing style.
Touch screen devices that are both a laptop/netbook and a tablet are beginning to head toward the market, possibly filling both roles. The one's I've seen are running mobile operating systems and a keyboard doesn't mean they could be used to work a project from the read end. Would you buy a MacBook Air that became an iPad when the screen was detached?
Asus has something called a Transformer that possesses that form factor, sort of. It's running Android though, a deal breaker for me. Something running WebOS or Linux would be better in my opinion. I think the only way manufacturers are going to find out is if they build it and put these devices in the market and see what people buy.