iPadApple's new tablet PC -- the awkwardly named iPad -- has much of the internet's gadget and IT bloggers in a frenzy today. It looks like an oversized iPhone to me, but there's much more to the iPad than the device itself.

There are already a few stories about the environmental impact of Apple's shiny new gadget. CNet was first out of the blocks with this green angle, and Inhabitat asks "Still, few people are likely to replace their iPods or laptops with the iPad. So we have to wonder -- is this really anything more than an unnecessary luxury item?"

Kate Mackenzie wrote an Obligatory iPad-emissions post on the Financial Times website this morning. Mike Gaworecki in our US office was even faster off the mark with this blog post last night. They both move beyond the e-books versus paper debate, to the less obvious concern of energy use in production of these gadgets and in the data centres which support them. Definitely worth a read!

According to Apple's website, the iPad has a mercury-free LCD display covered in arsenic-free glass, and it's free

of BFR and PVC too. They should be commended for making greener electronics than ever before. Lots of their competitors are still hooked on the toxic stuff.

The Register's Rik Myslewski may have put his finger on the iPad's biggest environmental story: Apple's new $1bn data centre in Catawba County, North Carolina.

Will the iPad's data centre (and those of all other companies building cloud data centres) run on coal, or green energy? Duke Energy's coal-fired power station in Catawba County bellows out a whopping 14.5 billion tonnes of CO2 per year (more than six times as much as Iceland).

Undoubtedly digital media is becoming far more important and amounts of media consumed will only rise. The wrong way to look at this is how green is digital media versus traditional media (e-readers v books etc) Digital media is the future and should be powered by renewable energy. That's the real important question to ask and the challenge for all companies leading the charge on cloud computing. Will it be a green cloud or brown?

(Image credit: Gizmodo via Flickr)