I find it interesting that I often get asked, "so will the iPad replace laptops?" I'm not really sure why some people think that the iPad was designed to replace laptops, or smart phones for that matter. I personally don't think optimal performance can be achieved in a single device (let's call it a form-factor) for the vast array of computing functions we as a society need. While I was driving home last night I was thinking about multi-functional devices and how in most cases a set of single-function devices almost always outperforms the multi-function device that is intended to replace it. In most cases, something has to suffer in order to provide the additional functionality. Sure, a riding lawn mower can mow the lawn and an attachment can be added to plow snow in the winter, but there are disadvantages to this multi-functional device as well such as size, cost, and mobility. Any good carpenter will tell you that a single function device (what they call 'the right tool for the right job') is infinitely better than devices that try to do too much. All this brings me back to the iPad. Do we really want it to have the ability to make cell phone calls? I can tell you that I definitely do not. It adds unneccessary complexity and my smartphone is the correct form-factor for making calls. Do I want the iPad to replace my laptop (even though it is a PC), no I don't. The file structure, computing power, storage, screen size, etc. are the correct form-factor for doing research and writing papers and many other tasks that make up a big chunk of my life. Do I think the iPad is convenient, fast, useful, highly-mobile, and incredibly efficient? Absolutely! Therefore, I ultimately think I'm going to be a three-form-factor person and I'm pretty comfortable with that.
Ok, so here's the 'however'. However, even though I'm happy with 3 form-factors, what I see emerging is that my primary computing device (ex: PC or Mac) becomes in a sense my central computer - almost akin to the mainframe of old. This central computer allows my other form-factors to interact seamlessly with it. In addition to the central computer, I will also use 'cloud computing' in the form of storage and processing power through such services as Dropbox, Evernote, Quicken.com, and lots of other Software as a Service (Saas) applications, depending upon the function I need at that very moment. The interesting piece of this is that there would be overlapping features and functions between form-factors but it would be context specific, location specific, form-factor specific, and function specific and ease of use, usefulness, and convenience are likely to drive the decision on which device is used.