Acer Iconia, $1,200,

Sometimes engineers get excited about things without stopping to ask "Why?" Why is this better? Why would anyone want this?

One wonders if such questions were asked in the labs of Acer. Its latest offering, the Iconia, is one of the most bizarre products ever to make it to production. When closed, the Iconia looks like a laptop. When opened, however, all is revealed: The Iconia is actually two 14-inch touch screens joined at a hinge.

It is, frankly, a peculiar product. Instead of a physical keyboard one can actually type on, the $1,200 Iconia (available for pre-order) has a virtual one that is temperamental and twitchy. Supporting the two screens, along with all the other hardware expected of a Windows 7 laptop, means the Iconia weighs 6.2 pounds, too heavy to really serve as a laptop.

Acer would like us to believe that we will be swiping and touching our way to nirvana twice as fast with its dual-screen marvel, but it doesn't take into account the way people are using touch screens (intimately, in lightweight, hand-held devices).

There is a lesson here for every engineering department: Just because something can be done, does not mean it always should be.


OnBeat, $150,

The audio component maker JBL introduced its OnBeat iPad speaker dock this week. The OnBeat, which costs $150, can augment the iPad's audio output while it charges it. A USB port can connect the dock to a computer, so the OnBeat can charge, amplify and sync an iPad at the same time.

If all your music is on your iPad and you want to fill a room with its sound, a dock like this makes sense. But for standard home use, there are probably better and less expensive options. If you have a Wi-Fi network at home, you can connect your stereo (and all of its speakers) to your iTunes library by buying an Airport Express from Apple for $99. You can then control the music from your computer, iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad using Apple's free Remote app.

And then there is AirPlay, a new wireless standard that allows devices like the iPad to stream audio and video to displays and speakers. The current selection of AirPlay devices is limited (and expensive), but more are expected this year.