Sarah Rotman Epps and I have just published a new report: “The Windows 7 Tablet Imperative.” Dell gained some publicity this week with its release of the 5-inch, Android-based Dell Streak device – but that device has more in common with mobile Smartphones (or even the iPod Touch) than it does with the iPad.

What we’re watching closely is the next generation of tablet PCs – larger form factor devices that make up a fourth PC form factor. Regardless of OS – the iPad itself runs iPhone OS, but we see it as a PC – these tablets will be used by consumers for media, gaming, light communications, and casual computing in new rooms in the home.   

To compete with the iPad, these devices must embrace Curated Computing as their design approach – tablets that work exactly like laptops don’t make sense.  Without Curated Computing, a tablet would take away features (keyboard, mouse) while not fundamentally tailoring the user experience to the tablet form factor.

We believe that Windows – and specifically Windows 7 – needs to be a player in this market. Tablets are an important form factor, as the iPad has already proven. Windows OS will be soon facing competition in the netbook market from both Android and, later, Chrome OS devices. Perhaps most importantly, getting a tablet right means truly understanding Curated Computing. The learnings from a successful Windows 7 tablet will be needed to feed into the design of Windows 8 – and beyond.