Will Apple's just-announced 11-inch MacBook Air cut into sales of iPad? Many people own a Windows or Mac PC and a smartphone (iPhone if you're on TiPb, right?) and it was a tough job for Apple to convince anyone but frequent flyer execs to plunk down the cash needed for a secondary computer like the original MacBook Air. Arguably, they failed and it remained a niche if premium product. Apple tried again with iPad. Instead of trimming down the Mac they went IMAX on the iPhone. While it remains to be seen how successful they'll be in the long term, inarguably they've achieved a good level of success with it so far.

With the new MacBook Air, however, especially with the 11-inch model, Apple is butting their Mac OS X line into fairly close competition with their iOS line and iPad. Where before the gap between a $500 iPad and a $1500 MacBook Air came down mostly to cost vs. keyboard, iOS vs. Mac OS X, now for twice the starting price of the iPad you can get a Mac that's almost as portable and a lot more functional.

iPad still has the edge in ease of use (though Mac OS X 10.7 Lion starts to change that) and battery life, the new MacBook Air matches its instant on. Now some thought iPad could never compete in a netbook world and it's doing very well. But iPad is a fantastic value, with incredible build quality and premium materials that really does a few things well. By contrast most netbooks are cramped, underpowered, cheaply constructed, and aren't really optimized for anything. MacBook Air is a Core 2 Duo with unibody aluminum chassis, a full sized keyboard, and an almost full sized, multi-touch trackpad. And it can run Adobe CS5. Well.

(Also, Apple aficionados wouldn't have gone near a netbook but they'll jump all over the newer, cheaper MacBook Air.)

Apple now has two contenders between smartphone and main machine, one more like the iPhone, the other a Mac. Price is still a factor as is priorities, but it feels like now there's a choice for that spot in the lineup where before it was iPad's alone.

Anyone think iPad should be worried?