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Are iPads and other tablet computers mobile devices? That was one of the lively discussions today at the MobileNorthwest conference in Seattle. Starbucks director of mobile K.C. MacLaren got things rolling in a morning keynote when he said that tablets are not considered mobile devices in his mind given their large form factor. MacLaren’s remarks led to additional analysis in a later panel. As you’ll see by the remarks below, the five panelists were a bit split on how to classify iPads and other tablets.

Hans Gerwitz, technology director at Frog Design: “The paradigm in which you use a tablet falls closer to how you use a mobile device than it does a PC. The fact that it is inherently mobile. It goes with you. The touch paradigm. You carry a lot of the same mobile conventions with you, and for that reason I think probably closer to mobile than not, but time will tell.”

Geoff Harrison, Vice President of Design Services at Blink Interactive: “As far as UI goes it is going to be much more like a mobile device. But I hesitate to refer to it as a mobile device — probably just because it is big and I am not always going to have it with me. And because of that it doesn’t serve an important purpose, and I think you see more mobile devices as a totem for identity which is going to lead to payments, etc.”

Ted Woodbury, AT&T: “I think looking at the tablet as a shared device is an interesting way to look at that … which definitely puts the phone more in the personal space than it has ever been before. I think tablet as shared (device) is not something that people talk about a lot.”

Anders Rosenquist, director of mobile strategy Zaaz: “Looking around the room, those of you with tablets don’t have a laptop. It is kind of a laptop replacement…. It’s what do you do with the device? People are not going to carry around five devices…. I think the place where it has really put the pressure on is in personal computing…. You are not going to pull out a (tablet) while you are walking down the street.”

Scott Yoneyama, Director of Business Development Teleca USA: “I think it is really up to the individual user, and one more extension beyond that is that it is up to the content and what does the application do. People can use it as a mobile extension. I think it is important to remember that it is a connected device. It is not something that you are always going to (be using) sitting in an office on a Wi-Fi connection…. Whether we choose to classify it as a mobile device or not, it is going to be used on the wireless network at points and you have to design for that.” More on the MobileNorthwest, including a GeekWire interview with Starbucks’ MacLaren, in an upcoming post.

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