Yes I hear the cry: '£429 (16GB iPad) and £849 (MacBook Air) aren't exactly comparable' and you're right, but £699 (64GB iPad + 3G) isn't far off and – most dangerously of all – it has gotten PC laptop makers thinking. Just two days ago Sony announced it is releasing an 11.6in version of its excellent 13.3in Vaio Y Series. The 13.3in edition costs £649.99, so how low could this drop with its little brother? Meanwhile the 1810TZ retails for well under £500 which makes splashing out £530 on a Galaxy Tab look rather silly. Netbooks may have alienated many consumers with their substandard user experience, but these new machines look set to win them back.
Naturally tablets aren't going to lie down. RIM has announced its highly anticipated PlayBook will be priced "under $500" (£309) and we can expect Android tablets to gather force once the tablet-friendly Gingerbread (either Android v2.3 or 3.0 depending which rumour you believe) is released and competition drags down RRPs. Furthermore there's the little matter of a second generation iPad which should – by Apple's release schedules – land by April. In addition there are those who have their hearts set on buying a tablet and nothing will convince them otherwise. Nor should it, depending on their needs.
Back in September I wrote a feature entitled Why Apple Will Build an 11.6in Laptop and central to that was an argument that Apple didn't want to build it, but was being forced to by consumer demand.
Having had no crossover between the iPad and its MacBooks, suddenly the company's famously distinct product boundaries were in risk of overlapping. As it turns out Apple managed to keep their prices separate, but Jobs' knew should the new mini Air prove a success Windows-based mini laptops would come and well and truly blur it. PC makers are typically as creative as a box of rocks and here was Apple handing out free inspiration on how to counter not only the crisis in netbooks, but the tablet sector.
As such expect tablets to be one of the biggest stories of 2011, but the rejuvenation of the laptop to be a bigger one. Thanks Apple...
Update: Looks like 11in MacBook Air sales are indeed cannibalising the iPad. Game on.