I really do see the iPad becoming a primary computing device for many people much of the time. And what I believe Apple needs to do is drive the iPad that way -- not to make it into a laptop but to let it become a laptop or PC as needed. That's why support for peripherals through wireless docking (using AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi) so the iPad can adapt its capabilities as needed is so important.
Making this vision happen mean enhancing the connectivity capabilities of the iPad and API support within iOS. It also means making iCloud more sophisticated and multilayered. And it means making a major push on creation apps on the iPad, Mac, and even Windows -- figuring out, for example, how to pull Office into the iPad's fabric, or revamping iWork to satisfy Office users' core needs and making it available for Windows and not just iOS and Mac OS X.
And there could be something done with the iPad that lets it work with a Mac in a way in which the sum is greater than the parts (that is, not just for something obvious as being a second monitor). Although, I have no idea what that might be. Likewise, if the rumors of an Apple iTV are correct, having it and the iPad become something greater than either when used together could be a game-changer.
The key to the iPad's future is not the device itself but the communications, application, and computing fabric in which it operates. That's the extended ecosystem that once Microsoft defined in the more circumscribed world of PCs. Apple has shown with iTunes that it can think that way for content (and make a ton of ongoing money beyond the initial device sale by doing so, something that Google and Microsoft so far cannot). And iCloud shows some thinking along these lines for computing. But so far, not enough.
An iPad evolved this way with measurable, meaningful, and compelling capabilities in spring 2013 would not only keep the iPad well ahead of its competitors but also redefine the competition in a disruptive way. This is the approach that made Apple's initial Macintosh such a touchstone of innovation and that made Apple the juggernaut of meaningful innovation it has become today under the vision and execution strategy set by the late Steve Jobs a decade ago.
More important, it could again meaningfully redefine computing itself, making it as delightful as the iPad has made tablets.
This article, "Where the iPad needs to go from here," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.