It's true; we've all gone a bit mad for Apple's latest and greatest technological triumph, the iPad 2. Gareth, Nick, Kirsty and Kit all have one, and Sally's umming and ahhing too...
And why wouldn't you; the iPad is a very desirable device. For decades, this is where computing has been heading - thinner screens, more powerful processors, and of course the it's-just-so-much-fun-to-use multitouch interface. It's like being in an episode of Star Trek (but with less Klingons.)
So is the iPad 2 worth it?
In a nutshell: we think so, yes. The iPad brings so many features to the table (or rather, to your lap) that it is safe to say that almost everyone has a use for one.
E-mail? Check. Web browsing? Check. Music, video, games, word processing, spreadsheets, photography, maps, magazines, shopping, travel? Check. All without using those long pink dangly things we used to call legs.
Nick loves his for illustration and note-taking, amongst other things. We never see him in a production meeting without his iPad these days. Gareth, on the other hand, is well known for having used his to fix a client's website from the top of a volcano whilst on holiday. Incredible!
That glowing orb in the sky
You may use the web more than you think. Case in point; our Internet goes down in the office occasionally. No biggie - it usually comes back up within a few minutes, and it gives us time to rub our eyes and wonder what that glowing orb in the sky is.
However, during that time, we usually manage to try and load several websites and web-based services before we remember, for the umpteenth time, that they rely on an Internet connection. We groan, we sigh, then we try and do something else - only to recall that we need the Internet to do that, too.
What we're trying to say is that our modern culture of information assimilation relies on an uninterrupted transfer of data, from all around the globe. Need to check Wikipedia for the height of the Eiffel Tower? You're talking to San Francisco. Googling info on Japanese culture? Hello Long Island, New York.
Reading news and killing
The simplest of activities require an almost unbelievable level of interconnectivity, all over the globe. That's the beauty of the iPad - it has never been so simple, so quick and easy, to execute those activities.
Web browsing, e-mail, sharing photos and video, reading news and killing time on YouTube. It can all be done with a few pokes of the finger, wherever you are, at any time.
Tools to enhance our lives
Until now, computing has been an arms race; faster processors, bigger hard drives, sharper screens. These things are now slowly becoming irrelevant, as the average consumer rarely tests the limits of these features.
This average Joe's guess is that the game will change (if it hasn't already - Apple do seem to know something that the other computer companies don't.) Instead of a hardware war, the new battleground will be over software - that magical programming that lets us do all those special things. As software improves, it becomes easier and easier for users to do more and more clever things.
Ultimately though, computers are tools to enhance our lives. To make things easier. Sometimes it is easy to forget that, and get caught up in gadgets and gizmos that do nothing but frustrate.
If you need to get something done - if you have a specific goal that needs to be achieved, even if it is a mundane one (how tall is the Eiffel Tower, anyway?) - then pick up your iPad. They're the best choice for casual computer use, hands-down.
But if you feel your fingers twitching and you don't know why, find a hobby. Be creative. Learn new skills. After all, you never know when the Internet might go down next.