That was my takeaway from many of the E:D videos and streams i've seen so far Gax - huge potential, and tons to do, but ultimately it seems relatively shallow, which is why i'm looking forward to SC; the scope is insane.
Nah, you only need the dock if you want external screen and multiple USB inputs at the same time. As for using it primarily in his lap he may want to actually try it first. Since all of the weight is in the device and the keyboard itself is light, some people find its better for desk usage.
And if he's only doing those things he could even get the cheaper i3 model if he doesn't need much hard drive space. Otherwise the i5 should be a great choice if he needs a bit more space. Don't forget to get a keyboard cover