Apple has famously avoided introducing a netbook for more than a year. As Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said last January:
We're watching [the netbook] space. But, right now from our point of view the products in there are principally based on hardware that's much less powerful than we think customers want. Software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, small displays.
Of these issues, the iPad only addresses software. Apple customized its iWork suite for the iPad, and all 100,000-plus iPhone apps can be used on the device.
I think the success stories here are companies that already have similar technology. Let Apple recreate the tablet category; then others can file in with equally good or even better technology. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) has a chance to do that with whatever follows its not-quite-a-Courier. Smartphone stars Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) and Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) also use touchscreen technology, and could follow suit.
There's one way in which the iPad's silly name works: It connects the device to its iPod heritage. This isn't a low-grade Mac, Fool -- it's a souped-up iPod touch. Consequently, I'm not convinced that Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) and other netbook vendors have much to fear from the iPad.
How to play it
There are a few ways to play the iPad's proximity to the netbook market. HP might fare best, given what we know about its prowess with touchscreens. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is also a possibility; it'd be a short leap from a Chrome OS netbook to a Chrome OS tablet.
Yet I find myself most drawn to Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI ) . Someone's going to figure out how to make smart peripherals that extend the iPad for those who want to use it as a netbook substitute. In this area, Logitech has no peer.
Do you agree? Disagree? Make your voice heard using the comment box below, then check out the rest of our series on how the iPad could change the world.