Here is a fascinating and comprehensive (i.e. long) look back at Apple’s history of tablet computer designs. Believe it or not, Steve Jobs was trying to come up with a tablet before he left Apple for the first time, in 1985.
If he’d succeeded, 2010’s iPad might have appeared 10 years earlier. On the other hand, you could argue that the company (and the industry) had to go through 25 years of development, frustration and failure before the iPhone (and then the iPad) could offer a solution.
The problem all along, it seems to me, was the insistence on using a pen and having some kind of handwriting recognition. This kind of system can be frustratingly stupid in use (you can try it today with a graphics tablet and the Mac OS built-in “ink” technology) and a colossal waste of time.
This is why Jobs was so insistent when the iPhone launched that people don’t want to use a pen. Not off the top of his head, that opinion. You might complain about the touch screen’s built-in pop-up keyboard, but it’s way better than trying to teach a computer your handwriting.
What this history shows is that Apple, as ever, were years – donkeys’ years – ahead of the competition. It’s also easy to forget that Apple did in fact have an ahead-of-its time tablet computer (the Newton) during the 1990s. It was a flop, but the company learned lots from it – and Steve Jobs cancelled it almost as soon as he returned to Apple.
This is a good read for anyone planning a case study on the iPad. It fills in the background. Snip:
However, the Batman design was still too bulky to fit into Sculley’s pocket, so the design team was ordered to make it smaller. Frustrated, they had the idea to sneak into Sculley’s office and sew his pockets so they were just big enough to fit the Newton. But they went back to work, under tight deadlines, and submitted a revised design, with a more flattened lid and pen, with streamlined corners. It fit.
- How The Newton And ARM Holdings Saved Apple From Death (AAPL, ARMH) (businessinsider.com)
- You can now run Newton OS on your iPhone (geek.com)