A year ago I could have agreed with Eric Grevstad, writing this week in PC Magazine:
…..for all the talk about whether the iPad 3 will have a quad-core processor or a retina display or a VW Beetle bud vase, we already know one thing about it: It won’t be a laptop. And we know, if we’re honest, that the iPad is no substitute for a laptop. Never will be. Isn’t supposed to be.
But I do agree with John Gruber. While the iPad is not a substitute for a laptop for everyone does not mean is is not a substitute for anyone.
An iPad is capable of doing everything that the average computer user needs. In some respects, for those who just want to write emails, browse the web, read news and check their photographs, the iPad is a better bet than a “proper” computer. It is more intuitive for non-specialists and therefore much easier to use than a Mac or a PC.
This is not to say that the laptop has had its day; far from it. I see growing Mac sales fuelled by the halo effect of the iPhone and iPad and I believe the best days for the Mac are ahead, rather than in the past. But the iPad is carving out a whole new market segment and is opening up the pleasures and opportunities of computing to a wider audience. I have first-hand experience that many older people, who would never have considered buying “a computer”, have become seasoned iPad fans.
In this sense, the iPad is a substitute for a laptop.