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You Don't Need the iPad 2

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) had itself one heck of a house party last week. Steve Jobs stepped out of early retirement and into his patented jeans and turtleneck (Ever wonder what he wears at home?) to fan the media flames of the iPad 2 ($499 for the 16 GB version).

An upgrade to its legitimately groundbreaking predecessor, this iPad Next Generation, is thinner, lighter, more powerful and HD cam-enabled. That all sounds fab for the overburdened small-business set. And in fact, everyone in my small-biz circle wanted to know whether to ante up for the Le iPad Deux. It seems that entrepreneurs, for better or for worse, consider Apple technology to be sort of a techno garlic that, if worn prominently enough, wards off evil, money-sucking vampires.

Steve Jobs stepped out of a health-related leave and into his patented jeans and turtleneck to introduce the iPad 2 last week.

So I'll cut to the chase: The iPad 2 is nice, but what's available from the competition -- and from Apple itself -- is probably nicer.

Should I pony up for a new iPad if I have an old one?
Absolutely not! Yes, the iPad 2 is a solid tablet, but it's a minimal upgrade over the original. The improved processors and two-way video cameras hold productivity promise for groups working remotely. And the protective Smart Cover, whose omission was a glaring oversight with the original iPad, is a major improvement. But for small firms, getting productivity out of the iPad is about the apps it runs, not the iPad itself. So paying to get rid of the iPad you have in favor of this unit makes no sense. At all.

Should I consider an iPad 2 if I don't already own a tablet?
Probably not. The iPad 2 costs $499; For a hundred bucks less, you get a perfectly decent iPad that gives you the app fix your business so desperately needs, but for way less money.

And keep in mind, the rest of the tablet market is not letting Apple dominate these devices. Motorola (MOT) is betting big on its mondo-fast XOOM, stoked with an impressive Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system. Samsung, too, is shipping the way-sweet Galaxy Tab for just $250 ... which is a hell of a buy. Even ailing smartphone giant Research In Motion (RIMM) -- remember them? -- is launching a decent tablet called the BlackBerry PlayBook. The unit is small, offers blistering performance and has a custom, business-friendly OS.

The fact is this: The iPad 2 cannot touch these devices on any level save cool factor. And that, friends, does not keep your firm's lights on.

Should I get an add-on keyboard for my iPad or other tablet?
Definitely. No matter what tablet you try to do real work on, you really do need a real keyboard to do that work. So as cool as the iPad's touch keyboard might be for limited data entry and simple emails, a physical add-on keyboard for this device in the office is a must. Add-on keyboards let you type, email and otherwise conduct business as you should -- and not as some low-ranking crew member on the bridge of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Here's some I like to give you a feel of the market: the Apple iPad keyboard Dock ($70); ZAGG (ZAGG - Get Report) ZAGGmate ($100); and Adonit Writer, due out at the end of March (estimated price $100).

>To submit a news tip, email: tips@thestreet.com.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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