I ended up being without a laptop for about a week, while I sent the one I had back to Apple for replacement. I've always been skeptical about the use of tablets (namely the iPad) despite their popularity, but with the complete understanding that I'm not an average consumer. Having a week with no laptop confirms a lot of my suspicions, that for me, the iPad just isn't enough.
I originally bought an iPad early last year, largely because it was a form factor I needed some experience with since what I do for a living is often viewed on such devices. That, and I'm a sucker for shiny aluminum objects. It's surprising that I lasted that long, as I skipped the first model entirely. Then, this year, Amazon offered almost $400 to trade-in the second generation one I had for the newer one. I ended up taking that deal, but only because the new model could do contract-free data tethering with Verizon, which struck me as absolutely worth it.
The use cases for computer-like devices can basically be split into a few simple categories: Reading, social browsing and creation. I suppose if I take out the creation part, I'd be most consumers, and the love for iPads makes sense. But the creation part is so huge for me. It's mostly writing code, but it also includes working with photos and video, and some graphics on occasion. As a percentage of what I spend time doing, it's at least half the time.
That's probably one of the reasons that my current laptop was so appealing, because it's enormously powerful, but relatively light and thin. I can use it in close proximity to where ever Diana and Simon are, and I can take it to a restaurant at lunch, still free to create stuff. I take the iPad with me to lunch if I plan to sit at the bar and catch up on RSS feeds, but its usefulness kind of ends there.
This makes me wonder where the evolution will go. If it's something like Microsoft's Surface, it's a step in the right direction (the hybrid PC-tablet model, not the straight tablet, which I'll buy just out of curiosity I'm sure). I don't think there's a "right" form factor that meets every need, but a phone and a thin laptop with a decent screen size would appear to be the right pair for me. The tablet still doesn't really cut it for me.