Not a tablet, not a laptop, it's a third category of device.
I have a confession to make: I have a crush on Microsoft Surface.
My crush is carried on from a distance, like all the best crushes. I've only spent about five minutes one-on-one with Surface. My own tablet of choice is my trusty Nexus 7, although I'm tempted by the iPad.
And yet Surface -- or something like it -- has a great deal of appeal for most users. It fills a need not met by the current generation of laptops and tablets.
Notebooks are, of course, great content creation devices. You can take them around and about, put them down on a desk or table, and work. The human brain and WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) have had 30 years to adapt to each other. WIMP computers have become extensions of our own minds, like cars. We don't have to think about using them most of the time. The latest MacBook Airs and Ultrabooks are so light and thin you can slip them in a briefcase and go, like a legal pad. And you can attach a laptop easily to a keyboard, mouse and big external monitor.
But laptops aren't great content-consumption devices. Laptops are, ironically enough, awkward to use for hours at a time on your lap top. You're pretty much limited to sitting upright at a flat surface if you want to use them for long stretches. That's a lousy way to read long prose, or watch a movie or TV show.
Content consumption gets a bad name. Say "content consumption" and people think of watching Two and a Half Men reruns and cat videos. But content consumption can also be high-value. You might be consuming a Dickens novel or Citizen Kane.
Content consumption is important to business. Business users need to read reports, email, whitepapers, business news, presentations, spreadsheets and information delivered over analytics dashboards.
That's where tablets come in. Tablets are great content consumption devices. You can bring 'em anywhere, use them standing up, lying down, or sitting around. You can easily tap out a couple of paragraphs of response to email, or annotation on a PDF.
But tablets are lousy for creation. For most people.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.