pixies: you hit the nail on the head. In fact their development platform shown in this video multiple iPads are being used as robot controllers. iRobot would not confirm that they are working with Apple to incorporate its tablets as "eyes" and "ears" of roving bots in living quarters.
So Nic, you said that they do not want just to sell vacuum cleaners...will there be smart robotic home appliances in the future or there will be only military applications due to high costs? Can this be teamed up with let's say smart grid concept to save electricity.
I believe Colin Angle's and iRobot's vision is to entrust robots with "skills" that would make them "helpers" in everyday life: to enable the handicapped and the elderly to control robots to bring them the correct medicine from another room or to perform other mundane chores around the house. Today it is only a start but in time (in Colin Angle's estimation--five years) robots will be available as "helpers" humans can rely on.
The robotics hardware and sensors have come down tremendously in cost, to the point where they are well within the reach of hobbyists. Between that and the military applications, robotics software to do interesting things is becoming available. I judged a contest at the Del Mar Fair where Jr High kids were building Lego robots and making them do things. The High Scholl kids were building them from scratch. These kids are growing up programming robots just like my generation programmed microcomputers. That's what it takes to make this happen.
I would think that an elderly service robot would be a major success. Given the numbers of our aging population and our desire to remain independent as long as possible. I would suggest that there are a number of tasks that could be performed by a robot that would be a significant help in a home setting. I wonder if they are already working on this?