iPad, the tablet shift, and what this means for the laptop

Of all of the bold statements made surrounding the iPad, one of the most notable came from Shervin Pishevar at SXSW Interactive. "The laptop is the rotary phone of our generation," he quipped.  This quote has been resonating with me over the last couple days as I've been thinking through what tablet computers and tablet apps mean for how we will use computers in the short months and years to come.

On the eve of securing my own iPad, I've been thinking through the types of apps I'll want to load on it for both fun and productivity.  Presumably, I'll carry the iPad around more than my three year old MacBook Pro, even though that machine has my most used applications (including Microsoft Office, iWork and Adobe Creative Suite in addition to handy programs like TextWrangler and Omni Outliner). However, the iPad will fill a fundamentally different space. I imagine I'll still use the laptop for the heavy-duty work like long-form writing and building presentations, where I'll mostly use the iPad for things like email, note-taking, social networking, and perhaps video editing.

OmniGraphSketcher for the iPad OmniGraphSketcher for the iPad
But this is a fundamental shift, so my expectations now could end up being very wrong. Given the sophistication of some of the apps I've seen (for example, the Omni Group's productivity apps), the iPad may well become a primary productivity tool when I'm on the go. In fact, with the proven ingenuity of the iPhone developer community throwing all of its collective creativity at a larger screen, it most likely will.

In essence, the app paradigm scaled up from a phone to a tablet takes the "computer" out of the picture.  Purpose-built touch-based apps for iPhone OS, Android and other emerging platforms make both fun and producivity more accessible to the mass market of people who don't consider themselves particularly good with computers—so much so that popular tech pundit David Pogue wrote a comprehensive iPad review from both the perspective of "techies" and non-techies. Pogue says;

"The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they’re absolutely right."

David Pogue

The new touch interface, app paradigm, and end-to-end user experience that results creates a new generation of computer users who won't even realize that's what they are.  Some day soon we may see the word "computer" disassociated with portable devices; people will still refer to Desktops as computers, but an iPad?  "Oh, that's my tablet." The laptop may eventually fade into memory.

So now my question is this; two years from now when I had planned to replace my laptop, will I even want one?