Tablets are catching up to laptops, even surpassing them, but the big downside of tablets is the touch keyboard. The first to offer better text input, no matter how it is done, will find a ready market.
I do have an external wireless keyboard for my iPad, but have yet to use the iPad for writing anything much, even with voice dictation. I would want to use my external monitor.
But, with easy text input, the tablet could overtake the laptop for portability and capability.
I remember my original hopes. Some time back, I bought one of the first 7" netbooks, and I was recently getting ready to dispose of it, an EEE PC 701, It was loaded with bloated software from the past, Linux and Windows. The screen was entirely too small to be of any use. The little netbook is just book-sized. If only it could run smartphone or tablet software designed for smaller screens. I looked around the web again recently.
WAIT A MINUTE!! There it was!! Click here for the details.
Surprise!!!!! It CAN now run tablet software, even the latest and newest Android 4.0! It HAS a real keyboard The cell phone based system has been ported to other computers.
Now, suddenly, the old became new again. I installed the new and latest Android 4.0, of course, with absolutely stunning results. Now the little device is highly readable with small screen applications. Not only that, but it runs the latest tablet software for Android, called Ice Cream Sandwich, even before it generally available. It is lightning fast with ICS, and ICS is a marvelous system.
Of course, I need to use a mouse or touchpad, and so far you cannot connect a large display. Even so, it makes a great eBook Reader and browser. It also demonstrates just how good ICS is. And I think it shows what a future small device might do.
Update 4-9-2012: With the lightweight and superfast operating, the EEE PC 701 is everything I hoped it would be. Instead of selling it, I ordered a new battery. If this software runs on other old equipment, I can recommend it to anyone. It can be run "live" to check it out without disturbing what is on the old computer at all, then installed later. Add a comment if you give it a try!!