With a hearty hat tip to commenter Chris Armstrong, whose comment reminded me that I had somehow not posted these thoughts here. Must’ve posted them on a forum somewhere. Chris’ comment also helped galvanize my thinking. Anyway…
I speculate that we’re going to see a great deal of convergence on both the hardware and software sides of Apple’s offerings.
The software side: iOS and Mac OSX will become one and the same. Think about it – Apple has continued to hone the size of Mac OSX and native apps (that’s what Snow Leopard was really all about). I think that trend continues – a smaller, more efficient, less resource-intensive codebase over time. And another trend will emerge: increasing amounts of touch-based UI elements embedded in Mac OSX. We already have them on the touch pad. The screen will follow.
Simultaneously, iOS will get more and more robust – things like simple but powerful tools for file storage and management, simple but powerful multi-tasking, etc. By ‘simple’ I mean *anyone* can use them, including those with little to no technical training or inclination. By ‘powerful’ I mean that all but the most tech-intensive types will happily embrace them.
Sooner or later, Mac OSX and iOS become the same thing, effectively if not literally. From an experience standpoint, the end product more closely resembles iOS than it does Mac OSX today.
The hardware side: The iPad will continue to evolve up the food chain: OLED screens, carbon shells, larger screens and higher capacity batteries, beefier (but still efficient!) CPUs, higher price points, etc. In the near term, Mac laptops benefit from the increasing amounts of touch-based UI elements in Mac OSX, adding touch to the screen in addition to the touchpad.
Ultimately though, “laptops” as we know them will effectively go away but for the very few (as have gone desktops…) and/or develop exotic form-factors: detachable screens, crazy foldups, etc. The iPad and its ilk become the de facto “computer” for the masses. And yes they’ll always sell a BT keyboard for you crazy people 😉
Timeline: I think it’ll happen sooner rather than later.
1) In calendar 2011 (the second half year of iPad Rev A and the first half year of Rev B), iPads will outsell all Apple laptops combined.
2) In CY 2012, iPads will outsell Apple laptops by a 3:1 margin.
3) In CY 2014, iPads will outsell Apple laptops by a 10:1 margin.
4) In CY 2015, Apple will sell a de minimus number of what we think of today as ‘laptops’
Yup, in 5 years I predict laptops as we know them today will all but disappear from Apple’s sales. How’s that for an aggressive prediction?