What's in the future for Slates, Tablets, iPads?

I’ve been following these PC form factors for quite awhile now. They’ve actually been around for a very long time when one comes to think of it; at least a decade from what I can tell. There also definitely seems to be a ton of hype on them all of a sudden too since Apple released the iPad roughly this time a year ago. So where will they go next?

Will Consoles try to jump on the band wagon? Perhaps; it seems logical, even if they do run the risk of looking more like an OEM PC competitor that way. What would the Console Mfgs really care? It won't be a question of if, but when, Slate form factors are able to play video games that are using advanced techniques such as DirectX 11. While the people who know me know I believe Consoles are a dinosaur business model that likely won't stop the Console MFG's from pursuing a more 'mobile' form factor. (It's what I'd do)

Will they truly be able to displace laptops? Perhaps a little bit. However; I definitely do not think they’re the laptop ‘killer’ that some are touting them to be. After all… what’s the #1 peripheral bought for them? Keyboards! I think the Asus eee Pad Transformer is an interesting, potentially evolutionary next step. Good coverage here:

What about Netbooks? That particular form factor may be at the highest risk. I’m not really sure what I’d do if I were in the Notebooks shoes at the moment. They definitely need some sort of extra super compelling thing to stay relevant in my opinion. I myself bought an Alienware M11x (11” screen); which approaches the size of a Netbook. For me personally it’s about as small as I can go in terms of the screen and keyboard without it becoming a painful experience. (I’m all thumbs when it comes to typing)

Then we have Windows 8 coming down the pipe. It’s probably a good bet that Microsoft will throw a ton of eggs into the Slate basket. Windows 8 would also make sense for a good marriage of the ‘Your Entertainment, Everywhere’ direction wouldn't it? I’d be surprised if they didn’t. IF and when they do it’ll be interesting to see how they reconcile the word ‘Entertainment’; will it include both Windows and Xbox games since it’s likely originating out of the same division? Will the Kinect somehow connect to my Windows Slate; or in the future be integrated? I'm sure a Windows 8 based phone most definitely would tie into this equation. It’s definitely fun to muse on; and I really have to wonder if it'll truly be a surprise. Microsoft needs a rabbit…and a hat for their next release. Windows 7 from what I can tell will likely be their biggest competitor.

What are my predictions? Honestly; I think these Slates, Tablets, iPads etc are pretty cool, but the lack of a keyboard is the real Achilles heel. Sure.. we could create some sort of perceptual, or virtual keyboard for them. Continue to view keyboards as a great way to up-sell a peripheral to a consumer (ugh..I hate the line of thinking. Just include it!); and so on. My guess is that they’ll evolve into something more akin to the Asus ‘Transformer’. To me they just seem like another evolution, or iteration, of the laptop. I'm all for it regardless of the semantics of what we call them...Slatelets, Slablets, etc.

Let me know! Inquiring minds would love to hear your predictions on these evolutionary products.
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