In any event, I think what A. was getting at was that if you give a young person an expensive device, when they get older, they will expect that as a part of their life and they might not be able to afford it on their own. You could be setting them up for adult disappointment when they cannot reproduce the lifestyle they have grown to expect. Trivially, this is a stupid way to attack the iPad: by this argument, we shouldn't drive nice cars or live in nice houses, because when kids grow up and move out, they can only afford to share crappy dorm rooms and apartments or rented rooms and zipcar. I don't think A. would think we shouldn't house our families and transport them in a comfortable and enjoyable way, so something else must be going on here.
A.'s comment, in many ways, was how amazing the device is. Yes, it is expensive, but computing devices of the recent past were larger, more annoying and much more expensive. I think what tripped me up about A. was the idea that as computing devices become less expensive and more powerful and easier to use (cheaper and better), children shouldn't be allowed to use them because it sets their expectations too high. I would argue this is comprehensively confused. The devices of the next few months will be much cheaper, and probably not a lot worse -- and it's not a trend I expect to reverse any time soon. I keep _thinking_ it'll slow down, but mostly it just changes, so that instead of more or faster of any one component, it's something else entirely, like e-ink or touch screens or whatever.
After talking to M. about the conundrum (why would people assume a $500 device is for executives to be more productive, when anyone who actually uses it recognizes it's the most fun toy ever and probably most beneficial for the developmentally delayed and/or extremely young?), I've concluded that A. may well be remembering past expensive electronic devices and how they tended to be rapidly destroyed or at least damaged by contact with young people (particularly young people who didn't have to pay for it themselves out of newspaper or lawn mowing money -- I'm speaking about the comparatively distant past now, before today's parents were attempting to conceive the under 18s of today). Handing a beautiful, fun, powerful, $500+ device to a young'un who is just going to break it grates. A. doesn't realize -- because no one really can, until they've seen it in action -- how freakishly durable an iPad is. It survives toddler temper tantrums, sticky fingers and chocolate milk spills. It is a miracle. And a much more affordable miracle than, say, a new car.
Just to be clear: I know most families cannot afford iPads for their children. It _is_ expensive. But I'm not seeing the argument for a family which can afford one or more for their kids to not buy them. If the money is needed for more important things (food, shelter, heat/cooling, medical care, savings for emergencies/retirement/college fund, etc.), each family needs to figure out its own priorities. But having the money to spend on an iPad and not spending it on one because it might set expectations too high seems silly. I've seen what people spend on American Girl dolls and their outfits. (I have in fact contributed to that spending.)