On January 27, 2010, exactly 10 years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPad, the first Apple-branded tablet. Everyone present at that event that day knew why they were there, although none of them really knew what Steve Jobs was going to offer them and what he called “a truly magical and revolutionary product”.
Thanks to the iPhone (which already existed at that time), everyone at Yerba Buena Center had a vague notion of what the Apple tablet would be. There were false leaks of information all over the web, even though tablets were not new.
The only thing people correctly assumed was that the Apple tablet would fit somewhere between an iPhone and a Mac, both physically and functionally, but where it would fit was a complete mystery. This made the operating system and the applications that the tablet would bring the big questions that all the people in attendance had that day.
Ten years ago, the world of technology was a very different place, and Apple was a very different company. It’s fun to remember those days, because they serve to better explain the path that the iPad took over the next decade.
Rumors, rumors, and nothing more than rumors
Rumors that Apple was working on a tablet device began circulating in the early 2000s.
However, it wasn’t until the first iPhone model was released in 2007 that the rumors really took off. At that time, many writers tracking Apple competed for the scoop by reviewing patent applications, domain registrations and any other information they could get their hands on, looking for evidence of what the new tablet would look like.
This was a time of wild speculation. Rumors and possible models abounded everywhere, and although they may seem like unimportant historical relics today, they serve to understand all the expectations that were generated by the launch of the iPad and that we now bring up.
Many people imagined that the tablet would run the OS X system. Again and again, the imagination led to the idea of a windowed environment with a user interface very similar to that of a Mac. Even though the iPhone had been around for over two years, surprisingly nobody considered the iPhone design as a starting point. Instead, it was assumed that a tablet with a screen closer to the size of a Mac would naturally inherit the Mac operating system as well.
There was no one who knew the name
There were many rumors that were created around the possible name that the Tablet would have, and even many of them were curious rumors, some even funny. While the possible names that would have the tablet “Apple brand” appeared in all Internet sites predictions of the time (many of them dedicated exclusively to Apple), the truth is that there was not a single “visionary guru of technology” at that time that was even remotely close to the name that Steve Jobs had imagined for his new creation.
Similarly, there was speculation that its price would be similar to that of a Mac and that it would be around $1,000. People at the time suspected that Apple’s tablet would be quite expensive because of the simple speculation process that surrounded its entire launch and that it would later benefit Cupertino’s company.
However, on January 27, 2010, people expected an expensive $1,000 glass tablet and none of them ever imagined that it would cost only $499, which is what Apple finally announced.
In fact, so much was going on in people’s imaginations at the time, that everyone imagined that the new tablet would actually be the rebirth of the netbook, which was nothing more than an inexpensive laptop that was based primarily on web applications. However, Steve Jobs himself disproved those rumors when he stated that for the time being, the iPhone was the Apple’s answer to netbooks.
But what the hell is an iPad?
On January 27, 2010 Steve Jobs began the event by talking about Apple’s recent achievements. He promoted the sale of the 250 millionth iPod and mentioned the iPhone 3GS, which was still relatively new. He also mentioned the 140,000 applications in the Apple Store app, which his customers had downloaded no less than three billion times.
By this time, the Apple Store had become a legitimate cultural phenomenon that had captured the imagination of people around the world.
When Jobs finished talking about his company’s accomplishments, he resumed his speech, asking the crowd if they thought there was room for a device that sits between a mobile phone and a laptop. Of course, the general response from the audience was ‘yes. After that, Jobs went on to say that while his iPhone was very good at some of the key points, that new device had to be “much better at some of the other key things”.
Before revealing Apple’s new surprise to attendees, Jobs knocked down a netbook, stating that “the problem is that netbooks aren’t better at anything… they’re just cheap laptops.”
As the crowd laughed at Jobs’ blow to the netbook that accompanied him, he explained that Apple had an answer for its users’ concerns about the new class of devices that had been so widely speculated about and that its name was: iPad.
The device then appeared on a large screen right behind Jobs as he approached a small table to sit on a sleek black leather chair with a chrome frame. Underneath a cloth on that table was an iPad. Jobs took the iPad in his hands and proudly showed it to the gathered crowd, almost in the same way that Mufasa shows Simba when he’s born in the famous “Lion King” movie.
From here on out, everything else is history. People are eagerly awaiting a new Apple release that will generate as many expectations and surprise them once again as the iPad did. However, many surprises have stopped happening in Cupertino, since when Steve Jobs’ light went out forever.