My 2010 Best Mobile Computing Device Category Co-Winners: Apple's iPad and MacBook Air for Revitalizing the Dead Tablet & Netbook Markets

In Technololgy Review’s article,

The Year in Mobile

writer Erica Naone claims that in 2010 Apple invented a new category of mobile device. I humbly disagree with that notion. Microsoft’s Tablet PC appeared a decade earlier. And, one could make the argument that Apple’s own Newton MessagePad appeared even earlier than that. Conceptually, Alan Kay’s Dynabook concept emerged in 1968. And, I’d argue that Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek prop designers had props that appeared close to our current concept of tablets in various forms way back in 1966.

Although Apple can’t take credit for inventing the tablet category, it did something ever more remarkable, in my opinion. It introduced not one but two products that each redefined what had been a dead or dying category: Tablets and Netbooks.

1. It succeeded where others had failed by re-inventing the tablet and creating the mega-successful iPad. In fact, Apple succeeded where Microsoft failed twice (so far) – the Tablet PC and UMPC.

2. Apple’s iPad somewhat unexpectedly destroyed the previosly strong netbook market momentum.

3. Then, Apple reinvented the netbook in the form of the 2010 version of the MacBook Air. This is all-the-more surprising for two reasons:
3.1. Earlier MacBook Air models could be considered to be a market failure.
3.2. The MacBook Air, at two to three times the cost of a typical netbook, is probably much more profitable per unit sold than netbooks which were probably generating low single digit percentage profit margins.

The MacBook Air not only revitalized the very category it had nearly destroyed with the iPad but also introduced a netbook-like device that is probably reasonably profitable.

It is for these reasons that in a year of many terrific mobile computer device releases, Apple’s iPad and MacBook Air are tied in my category of 2010 Best Mobile Computing Devices.