Photos of an early iPad tablet computer design have surfaced as part of deposition that Apple design guru Jonathan Ive recently provided in an ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung. Based on the pictures, which are dated sometime between 2002 and 2004, you can clearly see that Apple had been considering the idea of a device that looks like the present day iPad.
“My recollection of first seeing it is very hazy, but it was, I’m guessing, sometime between 2002 and 2004,” wrote Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple. “I remember seeing this and perhaps models similar to this when we were first exploring tablet designs that ultimately became the iPad.”
The tablet computer is much bulkier than the current iPad form factor, which evidently shows the technological limitations of the time. The mockup has a dock connector akin to the iPad, although Apple chose to ditch the white polycarbonate backing and use an aluminum design in retrospect. Apple also added a home button to the iPad, which this early design lacks.
Steve Jobs once acknowledged that Apple had long been working on the idea of a glass tablet with multi-touch, but decided to implement the technology into the iPhone. Speaking at the AllThingsD conference in 2010, Jobs talked about how the situation transpired. In all likelihood, this is why it took nearly three years after the iPhone was released for Apple to launch the iPad.
I’ll tell you a secret. It began with the tablet. I had this idea about having a glass display, a multitouch display you could type on with your fingers. I asked our people about it. And six months later, they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He got [rubber band] scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, ‘my God, we can build a phone with this!’ So we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the iPhone.
It is quite interesting to see that Apple had indeed been considering the idea of a tablet computer, especially when you consider the number of rumors surfacing about such a device in the five years or so leading up to the launch of the iPad. It’s also interesting that the front of this early tablet mockup looks almost identical to the iPad one knows today, which is quite a testament to the design and engineering team at Apple.