I just read a very insightful piece on SeatllePi about the iPad, and the split it represents in computing. Go read it. It's better than anything I'll write here. The premise is that the iPad is the first in an oncoming wave of computing devices that represents as large a shift in computing as the microcomputer did. For the non-nerds among us, you know the microcomputer as the Personal Computer. Before the PC, computers came in mainframe and minicomputer sizes. A minicomputer was furniture sized.
The above article does an excellent job putting a point on thoughts I've been having since the iPhone came out. The iPhone and iPad completely hide and eliminate all the "power" features that I love about computing–and that frustrate everyone I know who isn't a geek.
Clearly Apple is a leader in this movement. I think people forget that Google is trying the same thing with Android and Chrome OS. The action in computing appliances is Apple and Google, and I would not be surprised if this becomes a market that is much larger in units and revenue than the PC market is today.
Where's Microsoft in this? They dominated the PC era, but they seem as flatfooted in the NC era as IBM was in the PC era. Surely the brains in Seattle are waking up to this threat–but Windows 7 and Windows Mobile represent a pitiful response.
IBM has thrived by maintaining ownership of Big Computing. They're still the dominant mainframe company. Perhaps Microsoft will do the same with PCs, and step aside as someone else takes the lead for the next generation.
Here's to hoping no one gets a monopoly this time. Our world is a better place with Apple and Google keeping each other on their toes.