But others in the industry believe the expected demise of the laptop may be premature.
Instead, the line between laptop, tablet computer and smartphone will likely blur as a variety of new products emerges that will appeal to different types of consumers.
As a result, investors will be watching closely just how quickly laptop makers such as HP , Dell , Acer and Samsung adapt to this new environment.
Few expect the laptop to go away completely. And the question remains whether tablets could ever fully replace a laptop.
“That is the great debate,” says Rhoda Alexander, Director Monitor Research for IHS iSuppli Corporation. “My perspective is that the iPad is having an impact.”
Alexander suggests that the major PC vendors including HP and Dell are already moving quickly to develop their own tablet devices. But it won’t just be a case of copying the iPad, she adds.
“They will likely take a twin approach to it,” says Alexander. “This means they’ll continue with a full OS tablet but in a slate form factor, as well as offering a mobile operating system version.”
At present, she says, the markets are developing side by side, with a substantial portion of the tablet sales occurring as added devices.
However, the long term could be a very different story, especially if tablets develop full-function operating systems that can manage the same tasks as laptops.
One vendor, China-based Lenovo , is gearing up to bring its own tablet to market, first in its native China in the New Year and to the North American market by March or April.
Rory Read, president and COO at Lenovo, says this device, called the Lepad, could be a mobile “third screen,” between the traditional laptop and smartphone.
“The Lepad is going to be an interesting convergence of technologies between the laptop, the smartphone and all smart devices," Read said in a recent interview on CNBC Asia. "That trend is going to drive innovation for the next three to five years.”
For now, there are strong doubts that there is room in the market, let alone inside business traveler’s carry-on bags, for another device. Yet the convergence of the devices could drive innovation, and with it the market.
“People are already carrying two screens, and I don’t see it going to a third,” says Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group. “The tablet is going to have to replace one of them and most of us think it could replace the laptop.”