It's NOT an either/or proposition, people!
@ DavCrav -- "A tablet cannot work for typing unless you want a back injury from leaning over. This resigns tablets to passive consumption of media, like books, films, music or the Internet. "
@ nichomach -- "No, I think they won't. They really won't, and I'll tell you for why; people who really use netbooks (for) creating and editing documents, emails, whatever, will not want to give up the keyboard for a number of reasons"
The point that a lot of people seem to be missing is that Apple. with the iPad has shown that it is possible to build a (relatively) economical tablet-format computing device. As has been noted, previous tablet-PCs have tended to be high-end, high-price-point products -- generally standard laptop chassis with extra stuff bolted on -- rather than something designed from the ground up to BE a tablet at a lower price-point.
Having now seen that it IS possible and seeing that (potentially) there IS a market for such a device -- and NONE of us will know whether that market is there until these actually become available to buyers; anything else is rankest guesswork and prejudiced thinking on both sides -- I would not be at all surprised to see Asus or someone else trying to build a low-cost tablet-PC. They won't do this to REPLACE their clamshell-format line, but to AUGMENT it. Reaching into a new market while ditching the costs associated with keyboards, hinges, and suchlike mechanical kludges will be attractive in a business with such narrow profit margins.
It seems to me that most of the people who say "But you NEED a physical keyboard," only say it because THEY need a physical keyboard and can't think beyond that.
Who would POSSIBLY find a tablet without a physical keyboard useful as a traveling tool, suitable for on-site preliminary to show a client, or work that is later downloaded to the "REAL" computer for the heavy lifting, or work that requires minimal alphanumeric data entry but frequent (if not continuous) updating with the home office...?
Hmmmm... How about --
Artists/Photographers/Graphic Designers/Web Designers
LAN or A/V Designers
Law Enforcement Agencies
Pollution Remediation Agencies
...and THOSE are just off the top of my head.
Now, many of these already HAVE bespoke tools that serve their functions. But these ARE bespoke tools, not off-the-rack tools with the cost-savings associated with OTR over bespoke.
And, sure, you can rightfully point out that these are all niches, but of many niches with similar needs an industry is made.
MY expectation is that, within a year, at most, you will see netbook manufacturers building and selling low-cost tablet-PCs alongside their traditional clamshell products and marketing them as BOTH media-consumption devices at Best Buy AND mobile productivity tools at OfficeMax (or local equivalents), and many of the software engineers that were writing industry-specific custom software for custom systems will be porting their software to these more generic platforms.