DON’T GET ME WRONG: we love Kris’ new iPad2. On the cool scale, it rates a solid nine. Once you work your way up the learning curve — and it’s a steep one — the performance is big-time slick. Even with the important ability of composing copy mostly missing, it can still rival many of the functions of a laptop. In fact, I’ve pretty much postponed any thoughts of replacing my aging Dell — the one with the busted camera — given the easy mobility of the iPad2. Then too, I can continue to write with serious intent on our desktop.

The iPad2 can work email, display PowerPoint presentations — which is a real wow in the conference room —  take pictures and display them on a nine-inch screen; you can simulate Skype (it can do Skype as well) with another owner of an iPad2; and it can put you on the Internet with ease, download and display books — just like a Kindle — plus rock and roll with thousands of apps. Super stuff.

Still, your smart phone can do all that in a package that you can put in your pocket, is also wireless, and works on this thing called the 3G network (don’t ask, ’cause I don’t really know what it is), which means you can virtually talk to anybody anywhere. You can get that flexibility with the iPad2, but you have to pony up another 100 bucks, plus $360 a year for what they call a “data package.”

So what you end up with is what amounts to a prestige item. Same functions, but in much more snazzy duds. Is it worth it? Well, depends on your needs. A friend in sales and marketing says it’s a fabulous tool for pitching her product line, especially now, while the technology is still fresh. And again, that big and mobile display is impressive; we bought ours largely because we found the potential to communicate from various points on the planet to be so attractive — that is, being able to see each other on the big screen.

But that old technological bottom line still reads overkill. We now have five machines that essentially do the same thing. It’s all part of a stunning step, to be sure, from the ’50s where a computer that could do worlds less and filled a single room, but, but, but, but… And, when we finally sat down to see what the $700 we’d just dropped could do, Kris and I looked at each other and said, “Oh [f-bomb], here’s something else we have to learn how to use.” This was after a preliminary getting-to-know-you session at the Apple store, where the average age of the help looked to be 18. So ultimately, the issue at the time — and still — was “Do we really need this? Just how important are cosmetics?

I guess what it comes down to is that we’ll get used to it and decide it’s essential to our lives (and isn’t that just a bit sick?), in the same manner that you’ll now return to the house if you’ve driven off without your cell phone.

This all reminds of my days back in the audio business when we pushed a technology called “Dolby noise reduction,” a process that supposedly reduced a problem called noise in the playback of cassette recorders. We sold it and people bought it because they believed the pitch. Except that the “noise” wasn’t actually removed — listeners just decided that it was because we clipped most of the high frequencies in the music where the “noise” seemed to reside.

The point being that people will always buy what is new, assuming an enhanced quality of life because of clever marketing. And aren’t we smart: We did. 

Comments, anybody?