Wouldn’t you like to see what Apple’s earliest iPad prototype looked like? Now you can, thanks to NetworkWorld which uncovered a deposition by Apple’s design guru Jony Ive containing photos of a three dimensional mockup of a tablet that Apple produced as part of the discovery process some time between 2002 and 2004.
It’s referred to as the 035 mockup and depicts a thick device made of plastic and without the physical home button. It’s a far cry from today’s iPad, but at the time must have been pretty futuristic. Looking at these pictures, we’re happy that Steve Jobs axed the tablet project a couple times due to weight, excessive power requirements and sluggishness exhibited by the early prototypes…
NetworkWorld relays parts of Jony Ive’s deposition and quotes his response to questions regarding the 035 mockup.
My recollection of first seeing it is very hazy, but it was, I’m guessing, sometime between 2002 and 2004, some but it was I remember seeing this and perhaps models similar to this when we were first exploring tablet designs that ultimately became the iPad.
Asked whether the 035 mockup is a design he personally worked on, Ive said:
It was the best of my recollection, this was a design that was modeled as a consequence of the way that we work, which is a team.
Asked whether he recognized the 035 mockup as a mockup that the Apple model shop had produced, Ive responded:
I actually don’t know which model shop made this, but I recognize this as a model that was produced during our exploration.
Look Ma’, no home button on the face!
And this is how Apple envisioned real-life use for this thick, bulky prototype.
As MacRumors pointed out, drawings accompanying an Apple patent application from 2005 basically depict the same design, as seen below.
The iPad of course influenced the tablet design as much as the iPhone defined the direction for all smartphones to come.
Illustration via Everaldo Coelho.
Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs told journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the 2010 All Things D conference that Apple actually began work on a tablet prior to a smartphone project:
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.
But the first tablet prototype Apple began developing in the mid-2000s had a seven-inch screen, said a former engineer at the company who helped build the smaller prototype and declined to be named to avoid upsetting people at the company today.
Regardless of its size, Steve Jobs hated early prototypes.
Mr. Jobs thought the device was too small and wondered aloud what it was good for “besides surfing the Web in the bathroom,” this person said.
Jobs wouldn’t hesitate killing a bunch of early iPad prototypes that were ready for manufacturing, sending the engineers back to the drawing board.
I imagine Jobs simply couldn’t envision people wielding such a bulky device with terrible battery life and unresponsive interface. The technology just wasn’t there yet and wouldn’t catch up until 2010, when the iPad came along.
Good thing Apple had someone back then to make such important calls.
Imagine what a shame it would have been had Apple released this prototype and it spectacularly flopped?