Annie Leonard, Ben Bradlee, and an iPad walk into a bar…

How do you sell a newspaper in the 21st Century?  Well, The Washington Post is on to something with this new iPad app and campaign.  This video blends the past successes at the Post, personified by Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee, with the contemporary moment.  Here you have Bob Woodward, typing away on a Watergate era typewriter, interrupted by some young reporter with an iPad.  He doesn’t know what to do with it, and in that moment Bob Woodward is like a lot of us, how exactly could you use this fancy new product?  Bob walks by some folks using the app, and I have to say, it does look intuitive and appealing.  Woodward asks Bradlee, the old lion of journalism, how does the iPad fit in to the Washington Post?  Bradlee, sagely says to Woodward: “These kids think tweets twit themselves.”  Brilliant.  This is very effective marketing for the iPad.  However, my enthusiasm is tempered this morning by the latest from Annie Leonard.

The Story of Electronics examines what happens to electronics before and after their useful life.  In the context of the iPad, I wonder, what is its useful life?  If I could count on daily use for at least 10 years, that would be a start.  However, given the shelf life of cell phones these days, I am not so certain that it will still be useful in 10 years.  The MacBook Pro I am typing on is 4 years old, and I hope to get at least two more years out of it.  What if the iPad was designed so that critical components could be upgraded in the future, easily?  That way, I could take the costs of the iPad production, in water, resources, and waste, and spread them well into the future.

What toxic chemicals are used in the production of the iPad?  What will happen to those chemicals when the device breaks? Apple does take back old products, which is good.  All electronics manufacturers should follow suit.  The recycling should be incentivized at purchase, so that consumers have it in their best interest to return the device to the manufacturer for safe, effective recycling, instead of throwing it out in the trash.

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