How many netbooks have a touchscreen like the iPad? It's expensive as netbooks go and doesn't do a lot of things that normal netbooks can do, but then it has the cool touchscreen capabilities. If you're in the market for a netbook and you're willing to sacrifice functionality to be "cool," then the iPad is a viable option.
I feel that many people who use a netbook-style laptop for just taking notes or browsing the Web will be able to use the iPad. In my opinion, this is a much better form factor for casual use cases. But it also has the power to watch video and play casual (and some not so casual) games. Time will tell.
Both the iPhone and the iPad have the hardware capable of multitasking (running simultaneous apps). They're plenty powerful enough. I think the better question is, why not allow multiple apps to run simultaneously? What reasons would make sense that Apple would limit the functionality to just one app? One of the better ones is to limit the amount of bandwidth it can use. AT&T's networks are already straining under the current load. So Apple's reasoning is probably partly about the user experience -- the bandwidth just isn't there for a great user experience, trying to surf the Web while streaming Pandora. That's the "soft" side of the argument.
However, the "hard" side that's pure business is that AT&T's bandwith/capacity issues would multiply exponentially if users could run more than one bandwidth consuming app at one time, and it would almost certainly have to cost more than $30 per month for unlimited use. So, multitasking capability while on Wi-Fi might be a reasonabe alternative, but only if such a limitation couldn't be hacked to unlock it on 3G, too. My guess is that once AT&T addresses its current capacity issues, it'll come out with an "enhanced"
data plan that will cost more, and for that, users will be able to run multiple apps.
I personally think Jobs is out of sync with this product. As you stated, this satisifies a niche market. Most of us either need a pocket device (a la PDA/smartphone) or a laptop with real power to run development apps and perform real work. I was thinking maybe it could compete with in-car GPS-dedicated devices, but no real GPS. And only one speaker for movies or stereo? My laptop already has nice stereo speakers.
I own an iPhone and love it. It does almost everything a pocket device should do. But I can't see a use for the iPad. And it is missing a camera.
If the iPad were priced higher or it was more capable, it would cut into Apple's MacBook line. As for me, I like the Apple iMac/iMac line. However, I see no need to purchase a Kindle on steroids. As you stated, for the same price you can purchase a well-sorted Windows-based laptop.
I think Microsoft has proven itself as a survivor (relatively speaking). With its size and everyone gunning for it, it can withstand a few bad quarters. When it has a good quarter, it's really good.
By the way, has anyone accused you yet of comparing Bill Gates to Lindsay Lohan? (Tongue firmly in cheek.)