The New York Times has published an interesting piece covering the tech of the last decade called The Decade Tech Lost its Way. It delves into the fast-moving path of technology in the 2010s through the words of the people who lived it made it happen. What I’ve read has been interesting and insightful and I definitely recommend taking a look at the entire article. That said, I can’t help but focus on the segment covering the development and lead up to release of the original iPad.
It’s interesting that the development of the iPad wasn’t born directly out of the desire to develop a tablet. Instead, according to Phil Schiller, it was focused on developing a less expensive computing device by subtracting components and re-thinking the interface to match. By getting down to a single surface and doing away with the hinges and keyboard and the complexity that came with them, Apple figured they would be able to get the price down without going the cheap netbook route that Windows manufacturers were headed in.
It has been reported before that Apple actually started development on the iPad before the iPhone. As such, the technologies that formed the foundations of the iPhone, such as Apple’s implementation of multi-touch, came about as part of this effort.
And so the team started working on multitouch technology. During that process, a human interface designer, Bas Ording, showed us this demo where he pretended to scroll and the whole screen moved up and down with realistic physics. It was one of those “holy crap” moments.
That gives the iPad a special place in Apple’s transformative last decade.
Thanks to all of the stories that came out during the 10 year celebration of the iPhone, we know plenty about the how things played out from that point on, and this NYT article also touches on that briefly. Apple needed to head off the eventual convergence of music and mobile phones by cannibalizing the iPod themselves. Because of this necessity, the development of the iPhone took precedence.
I think it’s impossible to argue the path that Jobs and company took in retrospect. As we know today, they did beat the competition to the punch with the first truly modern and mass market-focused smartphone. That development effort, the refinement of two generations of hardware and software and the development of the App Store made the refined and ready iPad that we received in 2010 possible. It all came together pretty perfectly.
Walt Mossberg’s contribution to this article is important because he was so close to what was happening at the time, both at Apple and in the tech world at large. He was the go-to guy for computer and gadget reviews at his post at the New York Times and for good reason. He was the best in the business and a true journalist.
In this new NY Times piece, Mr Mossberg relates seeing the iPad for the first time in Steve Jobs’ living room. Just think about that. Moments like that are probably over with in big tech and it seems a little surreal from our perspective over a decade later. Still, it also seems absolutely perfect.
I can relate to Mr Mossberg’s response that the original iPad looked like a device that would cost $999.
He (Jobs) gave me this wicked smile, and he said, “You’re going to be really amazed if that’s what you think. It’s way lower than that.”
During the lead-up to the iPad’s announcement, with rumors of an Apple tablet swirling, I remember thinking the same thing. All through the announcement event, I knew there was no way I would be able to afford this device. It looked like it should cost close to $1,000. Other tablets of that time were priced even higher than that and Apple was certainly not known for producing value computing devices. However, they needed an answer to the netbook craze that was flooding the market with cheap, but in most cases, horribly bad Windows computers. With the iPad, they had the perfect weapon and it single-handedly put a halt to the surge in netbooks.
When Jobs revealed the $499 starting price of the iPad on stage, I was very surprised. I couldn’t afford one right away, but I also knew it wasn’t completely out of reach. That was the exciting part. I was already all-in on iOS (iPhoneOS at the time), so I knew this was a device I was going to get my hands on at some point. After trying on out at an Apple Store, I was hooked. I ended up with a slightly used one in the Summer of 2010 and I haven’t looked back.
I love articles like this one that shed little bits of light on how our favorite electronic devices came to be. This one gives us a small but insightful glimpse into a transformative device from two men who were right there at the beginning. Again, the entire article is well worth a read and I can say afterward that the iPad definitely deserves to be talked about as one of the most influential tech devices of the last decade.
This article also makes me look forward to this coming April, when we will certainly hear more about the development of the original iPad ahead of its 10 year anniversary. It’s almost been 10 years. Can you believe it?