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iPad History

Sep 2 2014, 11:31pm CDT | by , in News | Apple

The long history of iPad

iPad History
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iPad History

There are a lot of incredible innovations in the tech world that have come out of Apple. They were, after all, the first company to release commercial PCs that could reach a mass market audience, but they are also responsible for making smart phones popular as well as the world changing iPads.

There are plenty of companies that have released tablet style computers over the years, although no one has been able to do it in the same way as Apple. There have been several false starts throughout the history of he company, but they finally found their stride in 2010 with the release of the original iPad. The movement started long before then, though, and here we will take a look at everything that led up to the world changing launch.

Tablets are generally seen as an extension of something called “pen computing technology.” In fact, the original patent for a system recognizing handwritten information was filed back in 1915. The first public demonstration of a handwriting recognition system for a computer even goes back to 1956. In the time since then, there have been companies from companies like Communications Intelligence Corporation, Pencept, Linus, and more, although lately companies like Microsoft have gotten into the game. There is no topping what Apple did for the tablet world, however.

The Original Idea

The true history of the iPad starts with the introduction of the first tablets, even though perhaps ideas went back to before the start of the twentieth century.

There were a number of different references to tablet style computers in science fiction stories throughout the world. Arthur C Clarke designed the NewsPad, which was a part of the 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Isaac Asimov, the father of modern science fiction, also had the Calculator Pad as a part of “Foundation,,” his own 1951 novel. Perhaps the most common example is the famous “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” created by Douglas Adams in the 1970s. The Kubrick version featured videos playing on a tablet style device, which many people do today, but the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The galaxy was much closer to what we now today, with videos, touchscreen controls, and limitless articles filled with information.

What may be the first device to use a stylus to control the screen was the RAND Tablet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t much resemble the tablets that we use today. This “Tablet” was simply a panel on which a person could write or draw and have it appear on the computer screen. Released in the early 1960s, it was the the same idea as tablets today, although it didn’t feature the built in monitor that tablets do now.

Into The Golden Age Of Computers

Through the 1970s and 80s, computers went through a golden age of sorts. Whereas computers had previously been available to researchers and colleges, they began to find their way into the homes of people across the country, even if they still were relatively large pieces of machinery.

During this time, the imaginations of computer scientists were set on fire with possibilities. Computer technology was rapidly changing and people like Alan Kay were already dreaming up the next big thing.

In the early 70s, Alan Kay was working for Xerox PARC. As a PhD candidate, he came up with the idea for a “personal computer for children of all ages.” This “Dynabook” was complete with a GUI, which was virtually unheard of in 1972. Using a software component known as Smalltalk he hoped to create a device that would make learning easier than ever. He took the ideas of developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, along with Jerome Bruner and Seymore Papert, to develop a device that could be used by children no matter how young and hoped it would retail for less than the $6,000 terminals that were being sold for the same purpose.

Eventually, his concept would be used as part of the design for the Xerox Alto, which is considered by many to be the first personal computer that came with a graphical user interface that resembles what we have on modern computers. The project was just never meant to be, unfortunately.

Later on in the decade, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy hit the airwaves in England, exciting a new group of people about the possible potential for a tablet style device. It turns out, there were already companies that were working on how this might work in real life.

It was 1982 when a company called Pencept was started and began marketing “pen computing” technology to the masses. This was long before major players got into the game, but it was considered at the time to be a true computing breakthrough. The gesture and handwriting recognition algorithm that it possessed was above anything else that researchers had developed.

The idea was to create a panel that could control existing software, compared to other groups that wanted to create a completely new operating system. This would make it much more appealing even though it didn’t have a keyboard or mouse at all, something that might have turned many people away. Unfortunately, marketing it wasn’t as easy as Pencept would have hoped and after releasing the PenPad 200 and others, they shut their doors.

Surprisingly enough, the very next company to start working on a tablet computer, although they did it secretly, was Apple. Back in 1983, they were working hard on the successor to the Apple II line, but they were also interested in finding out what else they could put their incredible design skills to work on.

That is why they brought in Frog Design to help create a few mock-ups of potential products. Recently, they unearthed photographs of the Bashful device that they created, which resembled a modern-day tablet computer with a carrying handle and a keyboard attached. There might not have been the sleek contours that today are recognized as Apple’s signature, but it is easy to see that this is something that they would have come up with at some point.

This 25 year old device was designed with a few different variations on the theme. In addition to the model with an attached keyboard and handle, there was one with a floppy drive and one that even came with a phone, although it would be another 20 years before they made a breakthrough with a phone of any kind.

Just two short years later, in 1987, Apple began work on the Knowledge Navigator. John Sulley, the former CEO of the company, detailed it in the book “Odyssey,” written in 1987. This, to once again use the reference, was almost identical to what you would imagine the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy looking like. This device, or at least the concept models that were built, look similar to an open book with a large screen instead of pages. Two speakers were located on either side and it was built to work with either a stylus or just your fingers. Several videos illustrated what it might be possible, including showing gesture based technology much like the iPhone uses now. Vignettes such as college students giving presentations, professors researching topics for class, and a person finally learning how to read after scanning a newspaper into the device. These was all handled by the “butler,” a bow-tie wearing man that worked as a notification reminder for calls, messages, and whatever else the device could receive. In fact, the date of the video was September 16, 2011, just one month before Apple’s virtual “butler” Siri was finally released to the public.

So far, though, there had not been any devices that actually made it to the market. Much like other eras of technology, there is a lot of research and development, although it doesn’t get much past that stage. This would change with tablet computers once the world was reaching the close of the decade.

1989 brought the release of the GRIDPad from a company called GRID Systems. This was created by Samsung for GriD Systems and it was essentially the first tablet computer that was aimed at everyday consumers. The United States Army was confident enough in it to begin using it.

The GriDPad closely resembled what would eventually become the iPad, but for years it was simply the predecessor for the Palm Pilot that was created by Jeff Hawkins. Measuring 9 X 12 X 1.4 and weighing 4.5 pounds, it was incredibly small compared to many consumer devices. Users could control it with a stylus that could also recognize hand writing. The processing power was still low, although this was understandable in 1989. The GRiDPad ran on MS-DOS and had 2mb of system memory, 256kb of RAM, and a 640 X 400 pixel display. Much like the industrial marketing for the iPad, this was helpful for streamlining things for delivery drivers, book keepers, and more. The retail price came to about $3,000 for models that came with software and there were $30 million in sales over the course of the year at its peak.

There was no hope for replacing personal computers at the time. It may have run the same operating system as many personal computers, but it was meant to be an accessory to PCs, rather than a replacement like the iPad and many other modern tablets.

The 80s were great for the world of home computing, but there were perhaps a number of letdowns and false starts when it came to working on something more portable. Many people simply weren’t interested in having them, for instance, because it was still taking convincing to get people to purchase a regular sized computer. Apple began changing that in the 1980s, but it wouldn’t be a common sight for a few years yet.

Entering The 90s

The 1990s were a powerful time. The internet was finally reaching a larger audience, computers were in many homes and schools, and Generation X was coming into their own. For the tech world, there were also very early tablets coming from a large variety of companies, rather than the offhanded concepts that were tossed around perviously.

In 1991 it was revealed that the Momenta company was going to release a Pentop computer. This computer was entirely self contained, with the exception of the keyboard that attached to it. It came with handwriting-recognition capabilities and weighed around seven pounds, incredibly light for a piece of technology at this time. The idea was that users would be able to write notes at times when typing would be disruptive, send faxes from the device, mark up documents, and more. There were several pieces of software included with the $5,000 price tag, including plenty of office applications.

That might have seemed expensive, incredibly so for what might have been a small market, but the CEO pointed to the success of Apple Computers for reassurance. Many people thought that the Macintosh was nothing but a toy when it was released, but it soon caught on. The hope was that this would happen with the Pentop, although it wasn’t meant to be.

Not long after the launch of Momenta’s tablet computer, a company called GO Corporation released what is know known as the first operating system designed specifically for use with tablets. Developed by Robert Carr of the Alto computer from Xerox PARC, worked hard to create something entirely unique. PenPoint OS would eventually be used on many of the consumer tablets that became available in the 90s, although originally it was exclusively for use in special devices. By the end, it was used in products produced by AT&T, IBM, NCR, GRiD, and several others, although they all struggled to find the right market.

In fact, there were several options available now that there was a specific system for tablets. Many companies chose to include all of them, which led to companies like NCR producing tablets that could run either MS-DOS, PenPoint OS, or Pen Windows, Microsoft’s answer for the tablet market.

Pen Windows was able to make a larger name for itself due to the fact that many people were already familiar with Windows as an operating system. The long time Apple competitor, and one time partner, created it to make use of much of their existing operating system, although it had an onscreen keyboard and a special notepad program that could be used to write notes with a stylus. They would eventually release version 2.0 of the software after releasing Windows 95.

That same year, both AT&T and Atari released their own versions of tablet computers.

The Atari ST-PAD looks close to what we now know as the iPad, although it was still in the form of a tablet computer, with emphasis on “computer,” meaning that it was not a special proprietary operating system. This tablet combined the Atari TOS operating system with PenOS and used a pen to operate the controls. Without a backlit screen, it was difficult to read, nor did it have a hard drive, but it did use high density RAM cards for storage and it came with 1mb of memory and an 8Mhz 68000 CPU. Unfortunately, it never made it to market.

If it had been released, it could have been an early breakthrough in the healthcare industry as well as businesses that have a need for inventory control. It simply came at a bad time, when Atari was also announcing that they were going to be shutting down their computer division. Feeling like they couldn’t compete with Windows, they cashed out. Had they followed through with this tablet, however, they might have been able to take over a niche market that could have kept them afloat and led to even more breakthroughs in the future.

AT&Ts offering came in the form of the EO Personal Communicator. In fact, PC Magazine recently called it “the first true phablet,” or tablet sized phone. This was created to directly compete with the Apple Newton devices that were getting ready to be released, although it had been in development since as far back as 1987. With the help of several other companies, they created what was seen as a large PDA that could also handle wireless communication signals. Retailing for $2,000, it was fairly expensive, but they had quite a few major clients that made it worthwhile.

Running on hardware that was a take on the GO hardware, this tablet was powered by AT&T’s Hobbit chip and PenPoint OS. PenPoint OS was very simple and easy to use, although it never quite caught on. In niche markets like executives, accountants, dock workers, or others that require this kind of data entry, it remained popular for a while, but without a mass audience it is hard to support tech equipment like this. In the modern age, this is what Apple is known for. Not many people had a use for a tablet that had a phone attached to it at the time. Now it seems like commonplace since technology has advanced to such a point that it can all be contained within such a small case.

Apple’s first serious attempt at creating a primitive tablet came in 1992 as well. In 1987 the company began developing the Newton platform, although it would be five years before a product was ready that could fully use it, including the first time a piece of software was referred to as a “digital assistant.”

The first incarnation of this was the MessagePad, which was closer to a PDA than a tablet. There were a couple of different incarnations of this, but the central idea was that they would be easy messaging systems that could also recognize text for notes and scheduling. It also featured a port to connect to Apple computers. Unfortunately, it never quite took off and it was eventually canceled by Steve Jobs in February of 1998. It lived on in some form, though, since both the operating system and the platform design were licensed out to companies like Digital Ocean and Sharp, who created their own versions of what Apple had done unsuccessfully.

In 1994, we had the first look at what the future of tablets could look like, even if it was simply a concept video. A company called Knight Ridder produced a video that featured a tablet that came with a color display and could focus on media consumption. They never had any intention of creating it as a commercial device, since the weight and energy consumption would be so problematic, but it is the first thing that resembles the modern incarnation that is almost entirely marketed as a way to watch videos and listen to music wherever you go thanks to things like iTunes and Netflix. In fact, it is almost looks exactly like the original commercials for the iPad that advertise it as the perfect way to read newspapers and stay up to date on the news.

Later on in the year, there was an effort to create the NewsPad that was made famous by the movie by Stanley Kubrick, and the screenplay by Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was the goal of a European Union initiative called the “OMI-NewsPAD,” which aimed to create a consumer device that had the ability to receive newspapers and multimedia streams. The device that was created by Acorn Computers included a hard disc, docking station, sleep mode, and touch screens. It featured a lot of the same hardware as their Stork computer that was a very powerful and small laptop that was an incredible innovation at the time. Unfortunately, this project just wasn’t meant to be. It was distributed throughout Barcelona for a few years before the trial ended in 1997 and it was discontinued. Acorn itself says that they fear it was simply ahead of its time, judging by the current interest in iPads and iPad like products.

As 1996 rolled in, one of the largest names to ever be in the game was introduced to the world. Palm Inc released a PalmPilot that ran Palm OS and used a touch based system for inputting information. Available for only $299, it was also the most affordable device of this type that had been on sale up until this point, especially when you consider that there was a base model available for only $129.

The PalmPilot was a signature device of the 1990s when it came to business people or anyone that had a schedule to keep and data to store. The combination of a compact design, back-lit display, and the ability to connect wirelessly to computers made it an innovative device that was just what the public was looking for. For the first time, a mass audience had the chance to send emails, schedule appointments, keep track of contacts, and even more thanks to third party applications like internet chat programs. As we have seen, there were several companies that produced similar products, but they didn’t have the ability to create an audience the way that the PalmPilot did. This is considered by many to be the first true step towards modern day tablet markets and appeal.

As the new millennium drew closer, there were a lot of attempts to figure out how to reach a larger audience with tablet computers. This is when many larger companies got into the game, although they had varying degrees of success.

1999 brought a few different options for consumers. Intel introduced their own tablet, called the WebPAD, which was later re-named the Intel Web Tablet. This tablet was advertised as being capable of visiting “your favorite spots on the Web from your favorite spots at home.” By sharing your home computer’s internet connection with it, users could access the web and access all of their information without having to be in front of a computer. It might not be the fully wireless capable tablets we have today, but it was a large step in the right direction.

PC World hailed it as a “taste of the future” and commented on the fact that this was, as many have pointed out, similar to many of the science fiction tablets that were made famous decades before. Touch screen technology was still in a primitive form, but it worked well enough here that it found an audience among tech junkies and everyday consumers alike. There was one problem, though, it wasn’t good for much more than surfing the web. Internet access is a very important thing, but computers can do far more than that so it was important that tablets be able to do that as well.

The 90s were filled with a great deal of experimentation when it came to technology as a whole, even though tablets might have been a relatively small portion of that movement. The end of the 20th century came with a lot of hope for what was going to happen in the next millennium, once everyone got over their fear of y2k.

The New Millenium

After the y2k bug failed to cause a global collapse, the tech world was ready to take on the next challenge. In just a few years time there would be a groundbreaking device that would change the way that we view tablets forever, although there would be yet more false starts before the day arrived that the iPad was ready for launch. This is also when other major players got into the game, putting a lot of weight behind the movement that they hoped would become an incredibly profitable venture for everyone involved.

Microsoft put in place a series of standards that they wanted manufacturers to follow in order to create tablet PCs that could run on Microsoft products. They created a Tablet version of Windows XP that they would allow the manufacturers to install. PaceBlade developed the first of these and actually won an award for their design in 200 at the VAR Vision awards.

The goal for the Microsoft Tablet PCs was to target them at specific business needs, especially with people that have a need to take a lot of notes. It was also meant to be sturdy enough to take field notes with, making it far easier than if employees were being forced to carry around large laptops with them instead. That also makes them ideal for health care positions, where people are constantly on the go and having to take notes on each patient, while keeping them organized. Patient record keeping has been a long time problem in this field, although no one has quite figured out the best way to handle it. This was definitely a great push in the right direction in terms of ideas, though.

The first public display of one of these was in 2001. Bill Gates himself attended COMDEX and showed off a prototype that had a lot of people talking. He described it as a “pen-enabled computer conforming to hardware specifications devised by Microsoft and running a licensed copy of the “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition” operating system. Cnet posted an article at the time claiming that he “wowed” the crowd at the Las Vegas event. 12,000 people waited for his announcement and he detailed just how they were going to push out rivals like Sun Microsystems by having a full plan of attack for their tablets. Even sleek portable devices, he argued, needed the full power of a PC in order to be effective.

What was perhaps years ahead of its time was what might be seen as an early version of cloud computing. Gates said in the announcement that computers have traditionally been either locally based or centrally based. What he said was important was a blend of both and that the tablet could be capable of interpreting both kinds. Software on it would be meant to interpret a variety of forms of data and information, making having many of the actual pieces of data on the device unnecessary.

The first actual device that made it to market was a Microsoft Tablet PC designed by HP, although others came out after a period of time. Even though there were plenty of options for Microsoft Tablet PCs, customers never quite found an interest in them. The unresolved problems with tablets at this time turned many people off of them, primarily that they weren’t much easier to carry than the bulky laptops that they had been using in the past for the same kinds of tasks. These tablets were too heavy to be held with one hand, required specific software that wasn’t always available, and many pieces of software were simply ported from their desktop versions, making them fail to work properly on a consistent basis.

Microsoft is known for getting into a market before it is ready for mainstream acceptance, much like they were with their own version of the smart watch long before people had a real interest in it. They were surely on the right path regardless of this failure and other companies would copy a great many of their ideas in creating their own version of the tablet.

What was still missing up until this point are the famous gesture controls that Apple has now used in all of their devices. Users could selection options with a pen, or their finger in some cases, but in 2003 Fingerworks developed and introduced gesture based controls that many people now couldn’t live without. FingerWorks is known for other products as well, including introducing multi-touch products as early as 1998 and a TouchStream Keyboard for people with RSI, although this was their largest contribution to the tech world. In fact, they are still the company that files the gesture control patents for Apple. They have their own line of products, including finger and gesture based mouses for computers, although their technology is what still stands out.

Tablet manufacturers were still not ready to get rid of the keyboard completely, though, as evident from Motion Computing’s M1300 tablet that was released in 2002, with a new model coming in 2003. These had larger screens than many other options that had been released until this point, as well as the longest battery life of those released. Measuring 9.4” x 11.7”, it was even larger than the iPad, although users still used a keyboard in addition to the touchscreen controls. It also weighed 5 pounds, which was heavier than most modern tablets, but still lighter than many that were on sale at the time. With a long list of features, including USB inputs, it could replace a computer entirely for some customers that only needed basic functions, or were a part of the market that tablets traditionally appeal to.

The iPad Begins

With all of the excitement that surrounds the development of Apple products, it is no wonder that there are so many rumors about what is coming out, what they might be working on, or what rumors inside of the company might even be. Even if you aren’t a fan of Apple, it is hard to deny the fact that they are a source of fuel for the rumor mill twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Whether it is a photo that could be fake or could be real, patent forms, analyst speculations, supposed reports from Asian suppliers, or virtually any other source you can imagine, there is no shortage of tidbits that can keep fans of the company guessing and speculating about what will be the next hot product that the company releases. With that being said, it is hard to nail down an exact history of the iPad, but there are a few things that we know for sure.

All the way back in 1983, Steve Jobs gave a speed that said Apple’s strategy is to “put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry it around with you and learn how to use it in 20 minutes... and we really want to do it with a radio link so you don’t have to hook up to anything and you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers.” Obviously, this is a suggestion that tablets would be a big hit in the future, although very few people could even imagine what the final product would look like. At the time, personal computers were a very new concept, so how could they picture taking these large devices and make them fit into something the size of a book. For many people, this was always the Holy Grail of the tech world, so it only fits that Apple would be the company that made it a reality after so many others had tried and failed to bring something worthwhile to the market.

Their first tablet release, as covered above, was the Newton MessagePad 100, which was released in 1993. It used an ARM6 processor that was created by former Acorn Computers employees, a company called ARM Ltd, which Apple had previously invested in. That wasn’t the only project that they were working on over the years, however.

A prototype PowerBook Duo-based tablet called the PenLite was developed, although the company feared that it would be involved in too much competition with the Messagepad line that was still on sale, until it was eventually discontinued in 1996.

Since 1996, there were very few people thinking that a high quality tablet would ever happen. No photos came out showing new prototypes, no patents were filed for technology that could be used in a tablet, and no suppliers reported orders for anything smaller than usual. In 2002, however, I4U News covered the rumor back then that Apple was working on some kind of tablet. What surprises many people is that this was even before work on the iPhone began, suggesting that they could produce a small phone with the power of a computer, but had to spend a great deal more time on creating a tablet that would be able to both sell well and perform well.

The 2002 rumors offered very little to go on. There were people like a reporter for eWeek saying that Apple was working on a large iPod that would run OS X and have an 8” screen. The release date? Early 2004 at MacWorld. This was a lone rumor, however, and not many people paid it much attention, especially as MacWorld drew nearer and there were no other reports that they were working on anything that sounded like the iPad we know today.

Not long after the MacWorld that was supposed to mean the release of their tablet computer, the first ever solid piece of information came to light showing that they were working on something, although people weren’t entirely sure what it would mean. Apple filed design patents in Europe that year in May. Steve Jobs and Jony Ive were listed on the application that was for a “handheld computer,” which certainly sounds like a tablet of some kind.

The Register was the first to report on this, as well as a suggestion from a Taiwanese supplier that they had been asked to produce a “wireless display” for the company. With that being said, the editor of the magazine said that he was very skeptical about the story, since everything was simply based on a single patent filing and a handful of rumors from someone who claimed not to be a part of the supplier, but someone “close to the company.”  I4U News covered the rumor back then and this was the first rumor of a product that was actually going to one day be released to millions of happy customers.

Once again, things grew quiet in the tablet world. Fortunately, if there is one thing that never quite goes away it is a rumor about something Apple is working on or is thinking about working on. Two years later, in 2005, another patent was filed by Apple. This time, it was in the United States and could be viewed by tech writers who were anxious to get a closer look at something that was rumored about two years earlier. That look included an oddly proportioned man touching what appeared to be a tablet computer that was large and incredibly slim. It is easy to see why it was so thin, however, when you consider the fact that it was simply a design patent, meaning it wasn’t something that they were necessarily working on. This patent was more for an imaginary design that they would like to figure out later, only showing the outside and nothing about potential hardware that might go inside of it to power the device.

That wasn’t the only news that year. A blogger by the name of Rob Bushway had supposedly met with a new source that could provide him with details about how the tablet device would actually work. He also said that this source had at least five other sources that he could in turn talk to, providing exponential source growth on a product that had up until this point been in the imagination of Apple. According to his chain of sources, this “electronic device” would feature instant-on, a new customized chip from Intel, run a basic version of OS X, and come complete with a touchscreen that controlled everything, ditching the keyboard entirely. How much of this could be proven at the time was unknown, or at best unlikely to happen.

Months passed without a word from Apple or any of the “sources” that magazines and bloggers had, although Apple gave out another tidbit in the form of more patent filings in the United States. This time, a touchscreen interface was unveiled. Not just any kind of touchscreen either, but one that could use multiple fingers and different gestures to control different aspects of the software that it would run. This was all vague since we had no reference for the iPhone yet, so many people were left scratching their heads. What was clear at the time was one feature that has now become incredibly popular and that is the pinch to zoom control, along with the virtual keyboard that so many companies have now emulated.

We at I4U News found out  a release date came out later in the year. This again was from some of the famous “unnamed sources in Taiwan,” who said that a mid-2007 launch was coming. The product that launched, it was said, was going to be an Intel-based tablet that was going to be marketed towards enterprise users and educational institutions. Included would be a docking station, HDMI input, speech recognition, and a wireless version of Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi. There would also be home appliance integration, something that hasn’t been seen as of yet in current models. The source was very confident in that prediction, although Apple remained silent and the rumors seemed to stop for a time, leading to another dark age in iPad rumors.

iPad news seemed to come to a complete stall in the early half of 2007. The predicted release date was approaching without an official announcement and no “unnamed Taiwanese sources” said that anything was happening at the supplier’s factories. What was taking up the rumor space was the iPhone, though, a truly innovative device in its own right. It did also feature many of the features that were supposed to be a part of their tablet, leaving many people thinking that their hopes were for nothing and that Apple turned them into components of their phone, leaving the tablet on the backburner.

What was even worse for their hopes was a New York Times piece that was printed just before the official launch of the iPhone in June of 2007. The former Apple employee that was interviewed discussed the touchscreen innovations that they had worked on and how keen Steve Jobs was on the multitouch technology that they were using. The man said that it was originally proposed by Jobs for the “Safari Pad” tablet that Apple had been working on. Unfortunately, he said that the technology that was going into the Safari Pad had since been abandoned and used, instead, as a part of the iPhone design, thinking that a smart phone was a wiser decision.

That report didn’t last for long. Just three months later there were fresh rumors about the tablet computer that was supposedly off the table.  We at I4U News found out that the successor to the Newton was going to be about 1.5 times the size of Apple’s iPhone, come with a 720x480 resolution touchscreen, and be packed with power. If that sounds familiar it is because that isn’t far off from what the product looked like at release.

More patents came out in November of that same year. In the patents, detailed were a touchscreen that had raised “dots” that would make typing easier. This was thought to be a compromise between a keyboard and the highly anticipated touchscreen keyboard that iDevices currently use. yet another patent came out that revealed even more about the touchscreen that they had in the works.

This patent showed something incredible, that the screen would be capable of detecting all ten fingers at once and know whether or not the user is holding a pen at the time. After this patent was revealed, the first “confirmation” came out from Crave, who said that they talked to someone at Asus who was helping Apple create a new tablet PC. Unfortunately, there was not a single piece of evidence nor any other details as to what that meant and what Asus was actually doing for their part of the development process.

2008 was a different story. There are typically two stages to Apple rumors about upcoming products. The first stage is when there are supplier rumors and unnamed “sources” that claim to know what the next big thing will be. After a period of that, the second stage starts, when fake mockups start coming out and everyone starts releasing their take on what it is going to look like. 2008 brought us into the second.

Right before MacWorld was starting up, a few mockups surfaced, which essentially showed a giant iPhone, complete with virtual keyboard and Home button. Engadget was quick to point out that this was a “crappy” fake, although it was only the first of many. This fan-made version of the tablet had the same docking station that was rumored before, two screens, and a SSD inside to hold everything. It was called the MacBook Touch and was incredibly far-fetched, even laughable to many. It was, however, a signal that the public had almost made up its mind about what the tablet was going to look like.

The iPhone 3g, the updated form of the original iPhone, was unveiled in the middle of the year and it brought fresh rumors with it. According to a report that was published on ZDNET, Apple was working with Intel on using their new Atom CPU in a tablet that were to be released soon. Unfortunately, it was all unfounded, although any rumor, no matter how false, helps produce more rumors than ever. This effectively kept the rumor mil in high gear even though there was no sign that anything was even in the pipeline.

In August, a massive patent was filed that showed a great deal about what Apple had in the works. Their August patent was 52 pages in length and served to clear up many things about the future iPad. A seemingly mangled pair of hands were seen touching the screen, showing the size of something that could be nothing other than a tablet. What stands out, though, is that it was simply a refiling of an earlier patent that wasn’t granted in 2004. This attempt was granted, however, but whether or not it meant that there was an actual update wasn’t known at the time. Redesigns are always taking place, since patents are rejected frequently, although they all began to share a few features that made it obvious that they were surely working on including certain features. Whether or not the product was ever going to be released was still uncertain, but they were definitely working on a touchscreen that could work with multi-finger gestures. No one could deny that.

What followed was more silence. There are usually a lot of these in the development cycle of an Apple product, but this was quiet even for them.This happened following the announcement of the iPhone 3g, along with Snow Leopard, an update for OS X. With so many things in the pipeline some started to doubt that Apple would have another product in the works at the same time. Once the first few months of 2009 rolled through, everything kicked into high gear like never before.

I4U News covered the first rumor back in 2009 that Wintek was going to soon begin providing touch panel displays to Quanta, the company that assembled Apple’s products in some cases. They were in a hurry to do this, they said, because a third quarter 2009 release was a certainty. As for the size of those screens, the sources said they would be somewhere between 9.7 and 10 inches. Would the tablet be released this year? Apple would be making an announcement soon if that was the case.

Just a month after that rumor surfaced, Businessweek published a story that came from two people who were “familiar with the matter.” They said that Apple was in the midst of the development of two devices for Verizon. One of these was stated to be a “media pad” that was meant for playing video games, listening to music, making wifi calls, and watching hi-definition video.

Only two days after that story, AppleInsider also had a story coming from people “familiar with the matter,” but this time it was speculation about why Apple was going to cut prices on their MacBooks. This was seen as a move towards releasing a tablet computer that was going to be able to compete with netbooks that were becoming incredibly popular portable devices at the time. This could be a powerful move for Apple, since they had previously been a source of premium priced notebooks and didn’t have anything that was seen as affordable to most people. With the release of a cheaper tablet computer that was also much more portable, they could use the same power they used in overtaking the cell phone market to take over the portable computing world. That wasn’t the last rumor of a netbook competitor, though. In September there was a report from the ChinaTimes saying that a 9.7 inch Apple “netbook” was on the horizon, costing around $800 on its October, 2009 release date. At this kind of price, they could easily have the upper hand. Unfortunately, this non-existent product would never see the light of day.

With the start of the netbook rumors, however, there was unleashed a fury of out of hand rumors that seemed as if they were never going to stop. On a daily basis there was a flurry of rumors, reports, and unnamed sources that said a new netbook, an incredible tablet that did it all, and practically any kind of device you can think of was suddenly in the pipeline at Apple, although they all centered on some kind of tablet like device that would be what gave Apple’s stock price a boom like nothing it had seen before. On July 24, 2009 an article was published saying that Steve Jobs had now given the go-ahead on the tablet and they were ready to get started. This had been reported many times before, although this was the go-ahead on a 10” tablet with 3G support and a custom processor. Only two days after that was published, someone at Barron’s said that they had even held it. Unfortunately, many of the other  details that were included didn’t make sense given what we had learned earlier about the supposed tablet that was going to be released that year. According to the new details, it was going to be released earlier, in September, and it was also going to be around $700 with a tie-in for the Apple TV as a major selling point.

There is a reoccurring theme with Apple products that haven't been released yet. First we have a report saying that there is going to be a definite release, then ones saying that it won’t be released until the next year. That is the case with the next report that came out, a week later, that dashed all hopes of a 2010 release for the long awaited tablet.

That didn’t mean that there was not anything being worked on. The iPad was mentioned for the first time in a survey distributed by Borders Bookstores, although this should never count as an official announcement by any account. By this point in 2009, everyone was taking the potential release seriously, even without any input from Apple on the topic. There were some people saying that no one took it more seriously than Steve Jobs himself, who was putting almost all of his attention on the tablet. He did, however, manage to tear himself away from the iPad project long enough to write several outlets and inform them that they had incorrect information.

While it was rumored that the iPad would be released at some point, many thought the official announcement would come at the 2009 September event that Apple has become famous for. There was not a hint at anything other than an iPhone, though, as the date came and went. It was an iPod event, though, so it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise.

Many said that it wasn’t unveiled because they had a special event planned for February of 2010. The Taiwan Economic News was once again on the case, reporting a 9.6 “ multitouch screen with a custom processor and a $799 to $899 price tag. That same article repeated the detail that Wintek would be producing the displays for the tablet, who was already making the iPhone displays at the time.

Around the same time, there came a report from iLounge. They detailed the 10.7 inch display again that would come with 720p resolution. They also talked about the two different versions that were going to be coming out, one that would come with 3G and one that wouldn’t. They would both be running the iPhone OS and wouldn’t have their own type of operating system. DigiTimes backed that up, saying that Foxconn was going to be producing it instead of Quanta, however, something that had been rumored several times in the past. They also gave out a few other details that they had obtained, including that it was going to have ebook functions and come out in the first quarter of 2010, something that previous sources had disputed.

As 2009 drew to a close, there were plenty of people putting their input in on the story. Fake mockups were coming out on a daily basis as everyone imagined what the final product might look like. Some of these were based on actual patents that Apple had filed, while some were pure figments of their imagination. Some were close when we finally had a look, but some couldn’t be further off. The specs were still largely guesswork as well. Would it be announced in 2010? Would it come out in 2010? Are they actually working on a tablet that they want to release or did they put all of their resources into the iPhone for good? It was hard to know for sure and many were starting to doubt that we would see one in the next year or even two.

The Final Release

2010, the year that some had said would bring the iPad and some had said would be another year of waiting, started off with a bit of total silence. Rumors and official news was completely absent for the first few days of the year. Then, we made contact.

On January 4th, several news outlets started reporting that there was going to be a large Apple event centered around the iPad on January 27th. They had already confirmed that Apple had an event in the works, but this was the first time that a source stated that it was going to be an official event for the iPad. Also on display would be the beta of iOS 4.0, which had already been given to developers. The very day after that report, there surfaced a patent that was filed in 2008 that had more details about the iPad, with accompanying sources saying that they had gotten their hands on it and described it as essentially a “big iPhone, but it’s not just a big iPhone.” “It’s pretty,” they added.

Just before CES 2010, it seemed as though it was all but officially announced. An LCD display, camera, multitouch technology, and more was on schedule to be included and definitely happening this time. Could this really be it? Could we really be seeing a tablet computer from Apple that would change the way we view them and actually bring them to a mass audience?

All signs pointed to yes when Gawker Media started offering $100,000 for photos of it or even a chance to play with it. They successfully did this with the iPhone 4, even though the police and Steve Jobs himself ended up getting involved with the story. Apple sent Gawker a letter informing them that this would be an illegal breach of their employee’s NDAs, however.

On the 18th, Apple themselves confirmed that they were going to have an announcement on the 27th. It was to be at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, although other people were still saying that there were going to be three things included in the announcement. Apple has been famous for their “On more thing...” announcements, so in addition to iOS 4.0 and iLife, it was not beyond reasonable that they would be announcing a new product like their tablet computer.

All of their announcements typically come with obscure, hard to find clues about what they will be announcing, so the internet was set ablaze with guesses from everyone and their grandmother about what it might be, although many stood by their iPad stance. The iPad seemed like a certainty, although there was no more official word than there had been back in 2004. Anything is possible before an Apple announcement when all you have to go on are patent filings.

That didn’t mean that the rumors were done since we were waiting on official word that was finally going to be revealed after years of waiting. Reports from China Times and Ars Technica were coming out arguing over what the final size was going to be, going between the rumored 9.7 inch and 10.1 inch screens that would either be LCD or OLED technology. Which of these was true remained to be seen.

Then, it happened. What everyone had been waiting for these long years. On January 27th, Steve Jobs stepped on to the stage in San Francisco and announced that Apple was releasing the iPad, a tablet computer for the masses. He made the case that the original Mac computers had been released almost two decades before, making it a good time to introduce a new type of device, just like they had done with the iPhone. In order for this tablet to work, however, he pointed out that it was going to have to be capable of surfing the web, sending emails, watching videos, reading books, listening to music, and everything that a person could want out of a portable device.

He even went so far as to call Apple a mobile device company, pointing to the success of their MacBooks, iPhones and iPods. They were bigger than any of the competition, including Samsung, Nokia, and Sony, who had been in the game for much longer. Jobs particularly took interest in shutting down those that had suggested they should create a Netbook competitor. He thought that those were nothing more than cheap laptops, something Apple has no interest in. The 9.7 inch tablet, however, would be better than the netbook at everything it does, but also remain more portable and shine in every single way.

What many people were shocked by was that Steve Jobs said it was the most important product in his life, a life that has been filled with brand new devices that could easily change the way that we view technology.

This revolutionary device came with an ambient light sensor to help automatically adjust brightness, an accelerometer, a manometer, and everything that you could possibly need to have your information on the go without having to carry around a laptop. Apple teamed up with AT&T for the launch, offering a 3G connection for a monthly fee.

It wasn’t only a larger version of an iPhone either, at least in the way that it displayed information. This special version of iOS typically shows things in a sidebar and main column, which opened up the software to a lot of new application options that wouldn’t have been possible before.

It shipped on April 3rd and 30th for the wireless and 3G versions respectively. At release, there were a lot of varying opinions over what this tablet device meant for the future of Apple. Some dismissed it immediately. They stated that it was blatantly unimaginative and “just a big iPhone,” although that may have been the point. An extremely large iPhone could be just what it took to kill much of the laptop competition that Apple was facing at the time. In fact, Engadget’s review pointed to people buying it that could truly see the potential of the product, not only the current uses.

The first month was a good one for the company. In the first weekend they sold 300,000 iPads. In the first month they had already sold 1 million of them. The iPhone took over two months to reach that figure and it was half the price with a contract.

That was precisely when the competition started as well. While plenty of companies had tried to successfully create a tablet that people would buy in mass amounts, Apple was the first to successfully do it, and they made a lot of money that other companies would have liked to have had. Samsung was the first on the move. Against the advice of Google, they stretched out the Android OS onto a tablet that they dubbed the Galaxy Tab in an effort to compete with the brand new market that had just been blown wide open.

That first model was, simply put, the worst tablet that they have produced and it was light years ahead of anything else that was on the market, or had ever even been prototyped.

By the same time in 2011, they had sold an incredible 15 million units. This might not be much in terms of iPhone sales since then, but for a tablet computer this was absolutely unheard of for any other company on the face of the planet. It was more than the original iPhone sold in the first year and there were already 65,000 Apps designed specifically for the iPad.

This original launch was only the beginning of a new era in portable computing, all thanks to Apple.

The First Upgrade

After a year of solid sales, Apple announced that the iPad 2 was going to be released. It was going to be 33% thinner, a feat in itself, but it would also have a brand new dual core A5 processor that they claimed was twice the speed of the original. Front and back cameras and a three-axis gyroscope were also included.

They didn’t waste any time in upgrading that as well, though, since the third incarnation was unveiled almost a year to the day, coming with yet another new processor and a boost to quad-core graphics processing and a retina display, something that many of their actual computers have yet to receive in 2014.

The first major change came in the form of the iPad Mini, the 4th generation model that came with a smaller 7.9 inch display that could easily compete with the smaller tablets that were on sale, such as the Kindle Fire or the Nexus 7. It had the same hardware as the iPad 2, meaning they made very few sacrifices to create a smaller product. They did the same with the iPad Air, which was on sale November 1, 2013. This retina model was incredibly slim, but just as powerful as the other parts of the product line.

The Future

The future of the iPad looks far brighter than many people think, or would have ever thought. When it comes right down to it, iPad sales might be down, but it isn’t out. With everything that is in the works at Apple, there is no reason to think that the iPad is going anywhere any time soon.

In the pipeline right now are a number of iPad options that are going to spice things up and make it even more powerful than it has ever been before. Much like the MacBook Pro line, there is supposedly an iPad Pro that is in the works. This model promises to be, if the rumors are to be believed, the most powerful option yet and will easily have at least twice the power of any other tablet on the market, even if others might have similar specs. With a larger screen and a processor that is as powerful as their desktop computers, this might be what it takes to make up for lagging sales over the last year. There has been a fair amount of criticism around the iPad after Apple’s recent earnings report that showed a massive drop in revenue coming from their iPad line, even though iPhone sales and computer sales set new records for the tech world.

A new iPad Mini is also believed to be in the works, keeping the small size but boosting the processing power to use the newest A7 processor that they have, in addition to perhaps a sapphire glass screen that Apple is producing in massive numbers, even though we have yet to see it in an actual product.

These will not be the last upgrades, however. Even if iPad sales have slowed, Apple’s tablet computer broke open an entirely new product line. Other companies are steadily releasing new tablets on a regular basis, so as long as their is a market you can rest assured that Apple is going to be in on the action.

The History of The iPad

The long technological history that led up to the iPad is an incredibly interesting story. Science fiction movies for decades have been making use of computers that were small enough to hold in your hand, but many people thought that it would always stay as fiction. Computers that were once the size of entire rooms can now be crammed into a small tablet that has access to the entire world.

Apple went through a lot to make it happen and there has been a great deal of uncertainty about where they will take the iPad next, but it is very hard to deny that it has had a massive impact on the tech world. With the dozens of tablets on the market today, it is hard to imagine that they would have been created without Apple taking the first leap of faith and producing something that consumers love. Even when Apple isn’t the first company to produce a type of new product, they are the company that sets the standard. It will be interesting to see what they do next and what kind of impact it will have on what everyone else shows an interest in developing.

 

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/27" rel="author">Bijon Kumar Pramanik</a>
Bijon Kumar Pramanik is an experienced technology writer working since years in the consumer electronics field.

 

 

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