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It’s been a while since anybody found Dilbert particularly incisive in its once barbed portrayal of corporate life. And of course the cartoon’s depiction of North American cubicle  dwellers was always a bit of a curio for Europeans. Now news reaches us from across the pond that the days of space hungry cubicles are limited for US offices too. Data published by property trade association CoreNet Global at the end of February showed that for the first time the average allocation of space for each office dweller in many North American companies will drop below 100 sq ft (approx 10 sq m) for the first time over the next five years.  According to the research, over 40 per cent of the companies responding indicated they would reach this all-time low benchmark of individual space utilisation by 2017.

Of course, this has been the case over here for some time. In the eyes of some organisations, 10 sq m per person might even be considered a bit roomy. What is telling is the reasons behind the increase in space densities  in both the US and Europe reflect a convergence in thinking as a response to similar challenges and changing working cultures. Even the comparative affordability and availability of land in the US have been unable to staunch the tide of cost cutting initiatives and the need to make buildings more collaborative.

More proof that when it comes to office design, we Brits are the true pioneers.

People queued in droves today as Apple’s iPad was released in the UK.  The device was released in the US in April where it sold more than a million units in its first month.

Many high-profile tech companies have entered the tablet and netbook markets in the past but have struggled make an impact on the market due to devices failing to lure people away from the increasingly popular multifunctional laptop.  The tablet has remained more of a niche product and has not quite managed to pull widespread adoption not until now anyway. So why has the iPad has fast become a major success for Apple, which marks a significant point in the history of mobile devices?  The iPad is not a netbook or a tablet, but both in one.  With its multi-touch capability, portability and range of features inherited from both the netbook and tablet worlds, the iPad is a crossover device, which so far seems to be one of its’ greatest selling points. Apple’s marketing has always proven key to their products’ successes, and the iPad holds no exception to this rule.  With each new release, Apple is accused of using ‘style over substance’ marketing to sell their product.  Is this true of the iPad? The ‘style’ of the iPad will be already well known to many; most of us will either own or know several people who own a Mac, iPod, iPod Touch or an iPhone (or all of them!), and will be aware of the elegant and simplistic approach Apple takes to the design and usability of their devices.  Again, the iPad is no exception to this rule.  With regards to ‘substance’ though, many questions have arisen as to whether Apple is selling a product or a vision.

As with its predecessor the iPhone, the iPad has drawn criticism on the matter of vendor lock-in.  Apple is notorious for using vendor lock-in to control the feature sets and extensibility of their devices.  As a result of this, the iPad is currently unable to perform (or, more accurately, is restricted by design from performing) some tasks that would be generally expected of a basic netbook or tablet-based device.  This is not an uncommon complaint of Apple.  Apple has also drawn criticism for selling the iPad based on what it may do in the future once iPad application development takes off, rather than what it can do right now. Is the iPad a perfect example of style over substance and ‘form over function’?  Time will tell; it will be an interesting year for the portable device.