In any case, Nintendo never said anything about the WiiU having a(n internal) hard drive in the first place, only that it would support (presumably third-party) external hard drives (though I'll bet some of them may or may not be officially licensed). Now, while Nintendo never said anything about this either, I'm personally assuming (until if/when they say otherwise) that this is just going to be for data storage. That is, even if you could load the downloadable ones from the external hard drive (similar to loading VC and WiiWare games off of SD cards), the games themselves--downloadable or retail--are still going to need to run on the actual system memory. For this reason, I'm also assuming (again, until Nintendo announces otherwise) that the system will be using flash memory instead just like the current Wii uses, although it will likely have more of it (at least 1, maybe 2 GB, if not more than that). Also, Nintendo never called the WiiU's a controller a "tablet" or anything of the sort; they personally don't see it that way. We also can't really be sure if or how it will make the system more expensive. Besides, Nintendo has always made it a point to make their systems as affordable as possible. Yes, they messed up with the Nintendo 3DS's price, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will happen with the WiiU (benefit of the doubt and all that).
This is Nintendo we're talking about. They aren't going to be following Sony or Microsoft's example in this (no offense to either of them; I'm just saying). While they've made mistakes in the past, they've also had too many (long term) successes and accomplishments to start now. Also, Nintendo never implied itself to be "embracing" online in any way, shape or form. This isn't about online (gaming or otherwise), or direct downloads in or of themselves, they are merely something Nintendo is incorporating into it's overall strategy, something Nintendo has always done with any new technology used for gaming. The bottom line is that Nintendo has no intention of "joining the big boys" as it were, not now and not ever. If they had, the company would have never been the same, and they never would have had any of the aforementioned long term successes they have now. The WiiU isn't going to be any different.
I'm really sorry if all of the above sounded like a rant, but I really needed to get it out this time.
Cartoons aren't "just for kids"...but they're not just for adults either. They're for everyone.