Tablets: The iPad gets lots of love from critics and consumers alike, but is actually a step behind.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in June that the iPad was the company's media missing link: Developed before the iPhone, but released much later. The problem is that, as a giant iPod Touch, it's less functional than the iPhone that preceded it.
"The iPad is very much a media playback device with a focus on video due to this large screen and relative lack of portability compared to a handset or MP3 player," NPD's Rubin says. "In the case of media playback, there's not much that is outside the scope of handset design to accommodate that, so these players are particularly vulnerable to cannibalization by smartphones -- which is something Apple likely realized."The iPad isn't alone, as perfectly functional Windows tablets face the same plight as users drift toward what Dulaney calls the "moveable experience" -- with wireless outputs enabling much smaller devices to display on much larger screens in airport lounges, classrooms and elsewhere. With Android tablets hitting the market, Research in Motion (RIMM) launching its BlackPad in the fall and even Best Buy (BBY) hinting at a tablet, the platform is growing -- with Gartner predicting 10.5 million sold this year. Unless it slims down or integrates, however, excuses for its existence will shrink. "What made the iPod so cool and so desirable are things that are done on other devices that do so much else as well," says Robert Thompson, a pop-culture professor at Syracuse University. "I imagine we're going to be making fun of the new iPad pretty soon, too."