If you are a causal user, then it might very well be.
For a power user like me, the tablet is a complimentary device to my laptop and not a replacement- at least not yet. However, for the average user, it just might be sufficient enough.
I discovered this when the hard drive on wife’s MacBook Air died. In the interest of full disclosure, I had actually opened up this Air two years back to replace it’s 4200RPM hard drive with an after-market Samsung SSD. But that’s not the point of this article. With her laptop dead, I gave her my iPad to try out for a few days to act as a replacement to her laptop.
She primarily used her laptop for three things- email, web browsing and consuming media. My guess is that a lot casual users do just that with their laptops. Lets look at how the tablets handle each of these three activities.
Email is a non-brainer- your average Smartphone handles it well so it only makes sense for a tablet to handle it better which is what all tablets do. My wife has an Apple .me account so setting this up on the iPad was as easy as entering her email address and password and all her contacts and calendars synced right away. If you use GMail, then an Android based tablet might work better for you.
Coming to browsing, yes, we all know that the iPad doesn’t do Flash but my wife has yet to complain about anything “not working.” If Flash is important to you then the BlackBerry PlayBook or any of the Honeycomb tablets will let you play Flash without much of an issue. The large screen of a tablet and it’s touch capabilities make it very intuitive and ideal for something like browsing.
Lastly, consuming media is also a big strength of tablets. Watching your loved ones pictures on a big screen or the YouTube video surely makes for an excellent experience. Not only are tablets being used for audio and video but books and magazines as well. With your SD card equipped digital camera, copying pictures to your tablet is possible through most tablets.
So for a casual user, the tablet might very well be their next laptop. I have introduced my wife to some Apps and the simplicity of finding and installing them as well as the brilliance of some like Flipboard have made her liking the iPad very much. I have a feeling that I won’t be getting my iPad back.