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Tablect ComputerThe iPad 2 announcement was mostly as expected–thinner, lighter, faster, two cameras built in, and a gyroscope! A new dual-core processor, branded the A5, is included and promises significantly faster performance. The positive surprise is that all the new features come with the same great battery life as the first iPad, and an innovative new magnetic cover with a choice of two materials and ten colors that helps keep the glass clean and doubles as a stand to elevate the iPad for typing. The only disappointment was that an upgrade to the brilliant retina display of the iPhone 4 was not included.

The new iPad comes in various models based on storage size and networking preference. As far as storage goes, I always recommend getting the maximum available for two reasons. First is that the shift toward more video in our lives requires a lot more storage. Secondly, assuming you want to get an iPad 3 as soon as it comes along, you can get more value on eBay for your prior device with the larger storage capacity. As for network options, if you want WiFi only, the iPad will work in most places but not everywhere. If you want it to work more ubiquitously, you can select a 3G model which will work with your favorite network operator– either AT&T or Verizon. Too bad there is not more competition in the network operator space as neither of these giants is great. The good news with them is that you do not need to commit to a contract. It is pay as you go. If WiFi is available where you are, then that is what you use–automatically. If there is no WiFi then the cellular connection kicks in. The cost is $15 per month for 250 megabytes of data from AT&T and $20 per month for a gigabyte from Verizon. There are significant differences between the two operators as far as what happens when you use more than your initial limit. I have found 250 to be adequate to get email in out-of-WiFi-range and to use the web moderately. If you plan to stream Pandora music or Netflix movies you will use up the 250MB in a hurry. For very heavy use of 3G, the Verizon offering looks better. I plan to stay with AT&T.

There are going to be many thousands of apps spurned by the iPad2 that will take advantage of the faster processor, the gyroscope, and the two cameras. I think the built-in FaceTime app is mot significant because of how easy it makes it to connect with friends and family. It will work with another iPad 2 or with an iPhone 4. If you have grandchildren, you need FaceTime! I view FaceTime as profound. We have a remodeling project going on right now more than 100 miles from our primary home. The builder has an iPhone 4 and can call not just to ask about a bathroom fixture but to show us the wall and point his finger at where we want something installed. He marks the wall with an X while we are looking at it. If you have an injury and need your doctor to look at it, the iPhone is the perfect way to show him or her. There are issues of scheduling time with the doctor and the doctor getting reimbursed for time spent with you on FaceTime but I am confident these issues will be worked out. FaceTime can extend our lives into other places and other’s lives into our space — if any of us so chooses to do so. As for the other apps, I can’t wait to try the new GarageBand for iPad 2.

If you haven’t watched the keynote where Steve Jobs introduces the iPad2, I found it an enjoyable 63 minutes. He is justifiably proud of this latest Apple innovation. I don’t know where the limit is, but at the current price of Apple stock, the company has a market capitalization of 1.5 times GE, IBM, or Microsoft and is catching up to Exxon, the world’s most valuable company.