This Wednesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is finally going to raise the curtain on the company's "newest creation" -- something that everyone in the tech world is assuming is a tablet computer.
This computer, should it live up to even the bare minimum of expectations, will be a great gadget for portable computing -- like the iPhone on steroids. But can it do for print media what the iPod did for music -- namely, speed the transition to the digital, and hopefully more low-impact world?
Over at VentureBeat, Tom Slater's got a post looking at how the iSlate (or whatever it'll end up being called) will "save the Earth" (Slater admits that's a facetious headline, but still). He writes:
So how will the iSlate help? For one thing, every time a real, physical CD (remember those?) is purchased, it is the product of an extensive supply chain. Raw oil is processed into plastics. Plastics are turned into CD blanks. CDs are burnt en masse and liner notes are printed with a variety of synthetic inks. The product is shipped (usually) in little plastic jewel cases which are as fragile as they are infuriating to open with scraps of tape sealing them shut. It is all done on costly machinery in large rooms with fluorescent lighting and the product is transported in a diesel burning truck. Toxic materials, electricity and transport can all be eliminated from this industry by going digital.
Slater goes on to explain the tablet's similar impacts on the print world -- reducing the need for newspapers, magazines and books. In short, the hope floating out there in the green tech world is that the tablet really could save the planet.
The end-all, be-all of technology that may or may not be launched on Wednesday may or may not end up being a great gadget, but it won't solve IT's environmental impacts.
First and foremost, the production of electronics has a huge environmental impact. Precious and rare metals to build the gadgets, global supply chains to bring those materials to manufacturers (and bring those gadgets to market), and the energy used during their lifetime are the beginning of the problem.