mercredi 4 juillet 2012

L'histoire de la tablette Ipad

"Bob Mansfield prend sa retraite mais la relève est assurée", promet Apple. On doit  à Bob Mansfield la conception de l’iPad qu’il a dirigé depuis les premiers jours.

Bob Mansfield, qui occupe actuellement le poste de vice-président pour le Mac et l’ingénierie matérielle, part à la retraite après 13 ans passés à travailler pour la pomme. Il était entré dans la société de Steve Jobs en 1999 lors du rachat de Raycer Graphics par Apple.

Dès 2005 il prendra la vice-présidence du développement des Mac, puis celle des iPod et iPhone en 2010.

A la presse, Tim Cook a déclaré : « Bob a joué un rôle décisif dans notre équipe de direction, supervisant l'ingénierie matérielle et l'équipe qui a sorti des dizaines de produits novateurs au fil des années ». Voici l'histoire de la conception de l'Ipad.

Apple: Their Tablet Computer History

Apple: Their Tablet Computer History

*Please note: iOS-Safari (iPad/iPhone/iPod) is limited to loading just the first 6-6.5 MB of images on a webpage. To see all images, please use another browser. Thank you.*
The Apple Newton MessagePad, Apple’s ‘failed’ PDA, is sitting on my desk. It’s a late model 2100, which was the last iteration Newton MessagePad to ship back in 1998. Every time I use one, I immediately think of a tablet computer, both because of its size and functionality: it’s much more than just a small, simple PDA.
But it’s more nostalgia than anything: the Newton was pretty much before my time. Today’s technology is quite a bit more advanced than when the Newton had its run. From powerful mobile processors and graphics chips, to high-resolution screens and high speed wireless connectivity, mobile devices today well eclipse not only the Newton, but even the most powerful consumer desktop computers of the time.
The Newton is an interesting device though, not the least of which because it spawned an entire industry of handheld PDAs. It’s what the Newton exemplifies that is notable. That is, it was the peak of Apple’s prior research and development on portable, slate-like (tablet) computers.
Now that Apple has released the market-leading iPad, with a barrage of other tablet computers and dedicated eReaders flooding the market, it’s worthwhile to look back and see where all of this came from. The focus will be on Apple, and their history with tablet computers.
Apple’s history with tablet computers dates back to at least 1979. A good stock of the following pictures and associated captions/background information are themselves derived from the book,AppleDesign, The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, by Paul Kunkel/Photos by Rick English (1997).
Roll the curtains…
The Apple Graphics Tablet (1979) – pictured at left – was the beginning of tablet computers at Apple. It’s a crude example of a modern Wacom Tablet. As illustrated in a 1981 Apple Spring Catalogue, “The Apple Graphics Tablet turns your Apple II system into an artist’s canvas. The tablet offers an exciting medium with easy-to-use ”tools” and techniques for creating and displaying pictorial information”. It was developed by Summagraphics, and uses magnetostriction. The built-in alloy wires localize a stylus on the x, y, and z axis points. Software entitled, “Utopia Graphics System”, developed by musician Tod Rundgren, was the paint program that it worked with.
Moving along to 1983…

It was 1983, and a new firm, frog design, was hired by Apple to come up with designs for many of Apple’s new products, both real and imagined. bashful was the start of Apple’s research into ‘true’ tablet computers. frog design was the primary design firm that was responsible for Apple’s Snow White industrial design language used throughout much of the 1980s. It was this new design language at Apple that separated its new products from those products predicated with their old design language.
Apple initiated this new design movement because it wanted to be a world-class computer company with beautiful design. It was truly design first, worry about the engineering later. In fact, many of the designers involved with the designs you are going to see had little-to-no experience designing computers. But they were top designers in their fields.
At a time when the personal computer was in its infancy, it was an ambitious approach to operate this way. Most all other computer companies were led by the constraints of engineering. Things are supposed to be big and ugly first, then beautified much later when the underlying parts become miniaturized and simplified. But Apple sort of took the approach of putting the cart before the horse. Today, Apple carries the same policy: design leads, engineering follows.
The Snow White design language permeated Apple’s products from about 1984 through to the end of the decade. It was characterized by a subtle off white color or light gray (platinum), minimalistic design elements, among others. Examples of products that used this new design language were: the Apple IIc, Macintosh II, Macintosh Portable, and more.
The bashful models, some of the first known Snow White driven designs, were mere concepts. They did, however, lead to more design work on tablet computers.

Inspiration from bashful is seen in both the 24HourMac and the BookMac, in addition to the TelephoneMac, all of which are pictured above. An interesting question in association with BookMac: did Apple get its name for its current line of notebook computers from BookMac? BookMac >> MacBook…
At any rate, while the designs for, in particular, the 24HourMac and the BookMac were underway, Jobs was working to make the flat-panel liquid-crystal display (LCD) a practical reality. Without the technology and means of production, none of these designs had any chance of being produced, since the flat-panel screen was the most important element of each. But the technology was virtually non-existent in the consumer space, other than being on small calculators, and a few early-PDA-like devices.
Jobs was in contact with college drop-out Steve Kitchen, from a small company named Woodside Design in Silicon Valley. Kitchen had invented a flat-panel display, and it was portable and efficient enough to be used in an Apple portable just like the BookMac or the 24HourMac. With word of a tenable flat-panel display technology, a flat-panel design quickly revealed itself at Apple (see picture at left – 1985).
Not long after these designs came to fruition, Jobs presented a working 4 x 4 inch flat-panel display to Apple’s board of directors in 1985. With a $20 million investment, he claimed that he could have 20,000 flat-panel displays coming off the production line, per month, by the second half of 1986. The board turned Jobs down.
But it was a tumultuous time for Jobs, since he was on the verge of being ejected from Apple for a variety of reasons, all at the behest of then CEO John Sculley. By the time 1985 was over, Jobs was no longer working at Apple.
Had Jobs still been in favor at the time, there’s a good chance that he would have not only stayed at Apple, but he would have been granted the money to proceed with his flat-panel display initiatives. If that had been the case, slate-like devices like the BookMac and 24HourMac, in addition to flat-panel desktop displays across all of Apple’s desktop computers, would likely have existed by 1987/88.
That alone would have changed the course of the entire computer industry’s evolutionary timeline. It’s flat panel displays that have made mobile computing possible. Without them, smartphones and tablet computers can’t exist. Thus, mobile computing would have evolved at much faster rates because the centerpiece technology – thin, flat-panel displays – would have existed in forms tenable for manufacturing and consumer use much earlier. Thus, the 1990s would have been a much different decade for computers. It could have been a decade of mobile computing.
And for desktops, it would have been a decade where most all desktop computers came with flat-panel displays. More advanced flat-panel display technology would also have trickled over to cell phones, laptops, and televisions. This, in turn, would have spurred mobile microprocessor development from companies like ARM and Intel.
Even though Apple did have a flat-panel display option for the Apple IIc (pictured at right), it didn’t sell well, and was met with mixed reviews. The technology just needed work, it wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet.
And even though Jobs went on to found another computer company the same year he was ejected from Apple (Next Computer, Inc.), NeXT workstations were themselves devoid of LCDs. Jobs likely would have wanted his NeXT desktops to sport LCDs, but with resource constraints in terms of time and money, it probably wasn’t an option he was able to pursue at the time. Couple this with the fact that other computer manufacturers did not have very many options for flat-panel displays either, the age of the flat-panel display never really happened during the 1980s.

The “P2″ Portable Computer was a concept device developed in 1989. Designed in-house at Apple, the P2 was to be a portable tablet-like device that was easily taken with a user, like a folio bag. Just strap it over your shoulder, make sure the screen protector is in place, and go about your day. The P2 as a concept device has a design heavily influenced, whether intentionally or not, by Alan Kay’s Dynabook (1968).
Figaro was a project code-name within the Apple Newton group associated with a personal digital assistant [PDA] research and development initiative at Apple.
The Knowledge Navigator (pictured at left), an Apple concept tablet computer from 1987, was the archetype of what Apple was trying to create in the beginnings of the Newton project. Later on, however, Apple would opt for a much smaller, simpler design as in the Original Newton MessagePad.
Here is the Knowledge Navigator in action:

Under the Figaro competition, beginning in 1989, a set of designers, both within and outside Apple, were tasked to create designs for a PDA through a friendly competition. The designers had to create designs for a handheld tablet computer, with pen input. Most of them had never designed a computer before. The pen would be used to input information via handwriting or printed strokes. The strokes themselves would be translated into text characters.
The screen was to be a touch sensitive active matrix display. In addition, it would have a built-in hard disk. For wireless data, an IR port was to be built-in, allowing owners of the devices to share data in close proximity to one another through ‘beaming’ their information between devices. Also, a spread-spectrum attachment was to be made available for beaming data across town or across the country. The target price was $6000.
During the first Figaro competition (see image plates below), all designs were assessed, and it was determined, after an internal review at Apple, in addition to focus group testing, that Giugiaro’s work was preferred (top 3 images in below image plate). It was the simple, clean design that won everyone over. Since Giugiaro had previously been hired to work on other projects at Apple, this confirmed to people at Apple that they had made the right choice.

In the follow up Figaro competition later that year (next 2 image plates below), these designs had the most favorable feedback from focus group testing of any previous designs. But Apple was skeptical of the design, as they thought it was too cute, not quite Apple enough.

Sculley then ordered a new design competition for Figaro. This was Part Deux. Wanting to out-design Giugiaro, the Italians, Robert Brunner of Apple’s Industrial Design Group/Lunar Design competed against the February 1990 people’s choice design (pictured directly above). And Brunner’s team designed the concepts for no cost to the Newton Group. They did it on their own time, and at their own expense. It was a rivalry for the ages: Californian designers against Italian designers. Brunner and his team were set on beating them out.
It was now late 1990, and the results of the second Figaro competition were in. The first image plate below contains the Californian design. The notable designs are on the bottom row. The design on the bottom left was a concept for a mid-size PDA (“Newton”), whereas the design on the bottom right was a concept for a larger PDA (“Newton Plus”).
These designs by the Californians were an improvement over previous ones. They sported new shapes and colors, more functional placement of the stylus and the IR window, a unique ribbed pattern on the back of one, and so forth. Even Apple’s lead designers liked Brunner’s designs better than Giugiaro.
But, once again, the focus groups sided with Giugiaro’s designs. The problem was, Brunner’s designs looked too much like Silicon Valley designed computers, whereas Giugiaro’s was simple, unique, compelling, and different. Michael Tchao (head of Newton Marketing), and the rest of the Newton team were set on the design that Newton would eventually ship with (people’s choice award, Giugiaro’s design pictured above – top image plate).

But eventually, the larger designs were not favored by newly acquired Tchao. He had concerns, as did others on the Newton team, that a no-compromise, expensive product would have serious problems gaining any reasonable marketshare. No, it had to be much smaller, and cheaper, which meant all of the work put into Figaro was to be scrapped in favor of newer, more portable designs. But half of those associated with the Newton project at Apple still preferred the Newton Plus, so Tchao, et al. weren’t out of the woods yet.

Giugiaro submitted yet another design at the end of 1990/early 1991, the Montblanc (pictured above), a final Newton Plus design with a gorgeous black exterior and elliptical IR port. But the team was having second thoughts about the IR port. However, it was so integrated into all of the Figaro designs, including Montblanc, that the Newton team was sort of stuck with it. Yet, during the spring of 1991, the team realized that, at a price of between $4-5000, Montblanc was still too expensive and too big, even for the high-end, executive crowd it would have been marketed to. Realizing this, Tchao convinced Sculley to support a “PocketNewt” design over these larger, Newton Plus designs.
Sculley agreed, and the team focussed on a pocketable Newton, named “Junior”. In May, 1992, Newton Plus was officially cancelled. This caused some dissension amongst designers associated with the Figaro project, some resigning from the company. This included Sue Booker, who had not only been a key member of the design team from the beginning of the Figaro initiative, she also had spent several years co-designing an interface for it.
After all of this, a portable version of all of these tablet computers was created (pictured below). It was the favored design over Montblanc. A pre-production design, it was code-named “Batman”. On a cursory viewing, it looks like the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s Batman (1989).

On the whole, the Figaro concepts were largely ignored in relation to this new portable design: some three years of research and development, only to find that the design had to be radically different because of the new product specifications. Smaller and lighter were the order of business.
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.
But because of these size constraints, little details still had to be addressed, like the feeling of using a flat pen. There were several ergonomic issues. It was down to the design team sweating over shaving off points of a millimeter here and there. And it was tiring, especially with such a tight deadline: they were still finishing off the final design, and Newton was supposed to be shipping in just under 5 months.
Yet, more problems abound. The design team was told that the Newton was to have a PCMCIA slot at the top, where users could slide PC Cards into the unit. These cards were to sit flush with the outside of the case. The problem was, some PC Cards would protrude as a matter of their function, even though many at the time did not. These kinds of cards would interfere with the Newton’s hinge below the lid, and would thus not work with the current design.
So, as per the larger picture in the above image plate, they developed a snap-on lid that could be removed and snapped onto the back of the unit, with two rubber protrusions on the top. But during focus group meetings, user’s didn’t really know what to do with the snap on lid, and the rubber protrusions reminded them of nipples. As a result, the lid was removed altogether. As a final design, the final product thus shipped without a screen protector.
Aside from the design problems, the Newton had other issues, most notably software bugs that needed to be fixed before it could be shipped. Its launch-date was delayed: it wouldn’t eventually ship until the summer of 1993.
But tablet computers were still very much in vogue at Apple. But not because of interest from the Newton Group. It was from the Mac Group. They were trying to create tablet computers that were modular, and that could be used as full-blown Mac systems.
Since the Macintosh division, as well as many others at Apple, saw the Newton as something that could very well make desktop computers extinct, they decided to develop a Newton-like Mac. Something that could act like a portable, slate-like device. But, unlike the Newton, these devices would run Mac software, with a full Mac operating system, and work with a keyboard and mouse. It was a bridge between the original Macintosh and the new, mobile powerhouse: the Newton.
The WorkCase, the Macintosh Folio, PenMac, and PenLite were four such concepts to come out of this thinking.
Pictured below is the WorkCase. Not much is known about the WorkCase, other than it being part of a modular desktop computer. It serves as a screen for a complete ‘Juggernaut’ computer system, which includes a modular screen (WorkCase), keyboard, desk station, travel kit, and camera with modular attachment (passport). Since the WorkCase is removable, it presumably serves as a standalone device, functioning like a tablet computer, complete with a touchscreen and stylus.

1992 and holding. The Macintosh Folio (pictured below) revealed itself around the summer of 1992.
The Macintosh Folio was designed by Jonathan Ive, current industrial designer at Apple, who has been a lead designer on such products as the MacBook Air, the iPhone, the iPad, and many others. It featured a touch-sensitive screen, with a built-in battery. Once tilted on its built-in stand, it could be used as a desktop computer with the attachable Folio keyboard.

The PenMac (Folio), (both image plates above), was another concept tablet computer to come out of Apple in the early-1990s. It featured a built-in CD-ROM drive, a user replaceable battery, a large IR port, and a built-in stylus. Not much else is known about it, other than it seemingly being one the most feature-rich tablets of any of the tablet designs to come from Apple during this era.

The PenLite was the closest of any of Apple’s concept/production-ready tablet computers to being shipped. Just before it was being ramped up for distribution, the project was cancelled. It ran the Classic Mac OS, with specialized features for stylus input. However, because the handwriting recognition was not that fleshed out, among other things, Apple decided not to ship it. PenLite, like many other projects of its kind, was cancelled without any real consumer product to be spun off from it.
Also of note is the W.A.L.T. (Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone: pictured at left). According to The Apple Museum, it was developed from ~ 1990 – 1993 as a pen-based communication tablet (prototype).
“Designed in cooperation with BellSouth, WALT was a portable screen-based telephone. Aside from telephony, WALT featured an electronic address book, message pad and was able to send faxes. When connected to BellSouth’s ANYWHERE Fax service, WALT could also receive faxes and even reply to them. WALT featured a stylus for easy dialing and writing and also had buttons for the most important functions on front of the device.” (Ref)
Like all of the other tablet computers that Apple researched and developed, W.A.L.T. was never made into a consumer product, and the project was cancelled in 1993.
The VideoPad pictured at right is also worth mentioning. It’s a mash up of a tablet computer, a PDA, a smartphone, and a laptop. It was never a functional prototype. Rather, it was a “dummy” concept device, showcased on August 2, 1993 at the MacWorld show in Boston, the same time that the Newton MessagePad launched.

Bic was another large format Newton concept, but is mostly unheard of. Yet, it’s perhaps the best design out of all of Apple’s tablet designs. Bic was a production-ready design at Apple from March-August, 1993. It had two PCMIA card slots, a retractable I/O door, an IR port, a microphone, a speaker, and a removable battery, all running on an ARM 610 20MHz processor (Ref). The official name as stamped on the lower left front of the case is “MessageSlate”. Not much else is known about this design, other than, based on serial numbers on some units that have revealed themselves on eBay, there were as many as 36 of these in circulation, likely more. But it was never turned into an actual consumer product.
While there’s about a decade gap between Bic and Apple’s beginnings with their research and development on multi-touch tablets and smartphones, there had been some discussion about their exploration of a PDA at the turn of the 20th Century. But there is no real evidence to support the claim that they were seriously researching and developing PDAs.
Moving into more recent times, at right is an illustration from US Design Patent No. D504,899, a Tablet computer related patent Apple filed March 17, 2004. The patent was granted May 10, 2005. It shows a user engaging in touch gestures on a tablet device.
It was around this time that Jobs confirmed in a recent interview on All Things D8 (2010), that Apple started to research and develop a multi-touch-based tablet computer operating system before the iPhone. Once Jobs decided that he wanted to develop a smartphone, the tablet project was put on hold, and available talent and resources were allocated to the iPhone project.
Then, in July of 2008, the USPTO published three Apple API patent applications “related to scrolling, gesturing and synchronization”. The figures in these applications are notable as they illustrate a hybrid tablet/notebook design. Apple was thus experimenting at the time with different implementations of a tablet computer/netbook.
It wasn’t until 2007 though, when the first iPhone launched, that Apple’s tablet computer project was able to get the attention it required in order to eventually move forward into a consumer product. In 2010, Apple finally rolled out its first real tablet computer – the iPad – across several countries. That’s over 30 years after the first Apple Graphics Tablet was launched. The iPad’s launch has been referred to as the most successful consumer-electronics launch ever (according to Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan).
In a segment that has struggled for some twenty years, particularly over the past decade with windows tablets failing in the market, Apple has managed to be a first mover and market leader. It’s a situation akin to the iPod in the MP3 player marketplace: the iPad will likely enjoy a dominant position in the tablet segment of the personal computer market for some time to come.
And the reason the iPad has been successful thus far is because tablet computers are much more functional with tailored, multi-touch operating systems, rather than being based on full-blown desktop systems. LP

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  • Steeev
    Cool article!
    I didn’t know it went that far back. Does anybody know of any other designs for iPad? Like prototypes?
    • Anon
      Sure do, it’s called an iPhone.
    • I actually saw one of the Mac tablets demoed in the flesh after it had been axed (this was in a confidential developer briefing where the main subject at hand was the — then — recently released Newton). The person waving around the tablet commented that Apple found huge demand for the tablet in the medical market, but very little elsewhere and just couldn’t justify shipping.
      I still have a Newton MP2000, which I used daily for several years and frequently for a few years after that (long after Jobs axed the entire product line). Much as I loved the Newton, it was over-engineered. HyperCard running on a stripped down Mac OS with handwriting recognition would have been far better.
  • CK Sandberg
    Great article! Fantastic to see all the bits of history pulled together in one cogent piece.
  • Who could have thought they tried so many times! What we need is a good stylus for iPad now. Something like Wacom makes.
  • Pete
    a lot of PC users do not know about Apple and their history, they keep saying Apple stole ideas… Apple did the first PDA’s , digital cameras and whole lot of other stuff…
    in the end it was the Laser printer that saved Apple Macintosh. Apple did the laser printer long before other printer companies did printers.
    look at today smart phones in the market today, in a lot ways Apple influence its design and how people use todays phones. Almost all phone looks like a iPhone, same will go for the tablets…
    great article anyway…
    • Dal
      I was under the impression that the Digital Camera was invented by Kodak? And the Laser Printer was invented at Xerox? And that Apple was sued by LG for the Iphone being a copy of the Prada? Kind of like when they were sued by Creative for infringement over the Ipod Interface.
      • kizedek
        Apple weren’t sued over the iPod interface — everyone else is trying to produce those smooth scroll wheels and scrolling lists with variable speed, momentum and drag. Apple is the only innovator there. Others are copying the look of the scroll wheel, but they don’t do what anyone would expect — they are just buttons that you need to push a gazillion times to get down through your list of songs.
        No, the suit was over the organization of music data, with hierarchies that included Artist, Album, Song, etc. But since that is just the logical way to present that data, and that would occur to anyone who just sat down and made a list of their music, it really wasn’t much of a patent and suit.
        He didn’t say Apple invented the digital camera or laser printer. Apple often looked at concepts in various labs, bought or licensed access to the tech and then Apple themselves developed some of these ideas into real products and brought them to market years before most people were doing it. Apple added value by making these technologies useable and productive.
        The laser printer from Apple, along with the original Mac with its new GUI, started the DTP revolution. The Apple laser printer used Adobe’s PostScript fonts; and then Apple invented TrueType for fonts.
        I have an Apple QuickTake digital camera from the eighties. It has the styling of many of the concept tablets above — quite a unique camera. I can use it with an original bubble iMac that we keep the classic OS on; my kids use the iMac as a DVD player.
        Apple really has paved the way in a lot of areas. Then they move on and come out with the next big thing. When they enter a market, they are going to shake it up. Their aim is out-innovate themselves and make their own products obsolete; they never rest, and this is what “fanboys” like about them.
  • Jon Biddell
    I must be getting old – I remember most of these designs when Apple was actually talking about them (even had a NeXT Cube !!).
    The Knowledge Navigator was a great concept, way ahead of the market and (sadly) the technology at the time. There were two videos released by Apple – the one shown in this article and a NSFW one which was quite funny – don’t suppose anyone has that version ?
    • Joe Foerster
      Looking at the Knowledge Navigator video, I have to ask myself, in relation to today’s soaring unemployment, why someone who needs a personal assistant like that does not just hire a human. I work in IT and I love IT but there are times when whiz-bang electronics need to step aside and let humans back into the workplace. Anyone remember steno pools? An exec could dictate a letter and have it appear! And along the way a human had a job and made a living. Boy, I know I’m getting old now.
  • It was great to know the history of Apple’s Tablet computers. Keep posting such wonderful articles where we can learn something interesting.:)
  • technogeist
    Nice article,
    Re: If Jobs had got the money for LCD displays, it wouldn’t have changed the industry as much as you might like to think.
    Battery technology back then was still very primitive, so powering one of those displays would have required a few kilograms of NiCd batteries. Perhaps optimistically running for about an hour before requiring a recharge. Ditto for the die size/power requirements of the microchips.
    Other revolutions, and evolutions have to happen first.
    • Michael Ward
      I can’t believe that Jobs would have asked Apple to invest $20m in LCD technology if other aspects of technology were not good enough to supprt it.
      So I think it’s completely fair to summise that the rest of the technology was good enough to support it and that there could well have been a significantly different path taken.
      • technogeist
        The LCD display of my 1990/91 laptop was barely good enough. Streaking and constant adjustment of the contrast as the batteries drained away. Max working time was 1hr 15mins.
        What sort of price do you think Jobs would have charged in 1985/6, for an 640×480 LCD display. My guess would be $3000 minimum. Don’t forget S.Jobs never really had a good grasp of what consumers were actually willing to pay, even if it was cutting edge and futuristic (+Apple Logo).
        Premium pricing for their products has always been Apple’s achilles heel, and it nearly sank them several times in the late 80s & 90s.
        • Michael Ward
          I don’t believe Jobs would have sanctioned the investment if the technology wasn’t good enough. There’s no evidence that he has ever done that on a big scale – there are only minor blemishes on his record.
          Furthermore, premium pricing can be sustained if you have innovative and premium products. After Jobs left Apple in 1985, the problem increasingly became that Apple was selling a product that wasn’t innovative or premium enough, at a premium price. They stopped innovating and creating great consumer products at the rate they needed to.
          That nearly killed them, and rightly so.
          When Jobs returned to Apple he focused their great talent on creating great consumer products rather than hashing out fanciful prototypes.
          • John
            NeXT was a very good example of Jobs not knowing what people would be willing to pay for. He spent a decade trying to peddle very expensive workstations that had abysmal sales, and then trying to sell NeXTSTEP, again, without much success.
            You can look further back to the Apple Lisa, essentially a $10,000 Mac. Brilliant workstation, but horrible seller. It’s descendant, the Mac 128K was not hugely successful system you would like to believe it was. It was anemic, and overpriced. It was only later versions with more memory that sold well.
            Jobs is smart, but he’s not perfect.
  • Amazing article! Saving it for later … a lot of forgotten info about Apple.
  • Matt
    Would have been worthwile to at least mentions Steve Jobs reaction to Microsoft’s massive Tablet PC initiative ( in 2003: “Uninteresting form factor”.
  • Wayne
    With the success of the iPad, many commenters, who are disposed to criticize Apple, have been taking pot-shots at the Newton. Geeks, I think, have distain for the past, which causes them to lose perspective. Even Steve Jobs refuses to discuss or support nostalgia of any kind for previous Apple products. As a business user of the Newton, I would like to go on record as saying this device was awesome! It could recognize your handwriting. It learned (and got better) as you used it. It self-corrected drawings for you. It was a portable fax machine and could link to a mobile phone. It supported wireless data exchange with other Newton devices. It was truly portable, fitting into my back jeans pocket. It was extremely rugged (and heavy). I was still using two of them sporadically up until 5 1/2 years ago when a house fire claimed both of them. When my insurance company offered to replace them with a new device at any cost, I discovered there was no current substitute. When viewed through the lens of the tech of the time frame, the Newton was a remarkable achievement.
    • technogeist
      Yes, it was a huge mistake to kill the Newton. Apple poured millions into its development and pulled the plug just as it was finally reliable enough to do handwriting recognition with very few mistakes.
      I still use mine.
      It is my belief that Jobs killed it just because it was Sculley’s pet project. The man that had him removed from Apple. (for those who don’t know their Apple history) ;)
      • James Bradley
        The Newton was dead by then. The buzz was more than dead and couldn’t have been revived. See my other note below. Palm had crushed it by offering address book and calendar syncing out the gate.
  • Andy
    Very enjoyable, but most of the images are missing. Can you fix that?
  • Thank you for this; it’s lovely to see the story woven so comprehensively. I’m regularly reminded of this rich history of almosts when I walk by our Apple prototype shelves; it serves as a healthy reminder that innovation requires not just design but realization and business cases.
    The PenLite still makes me sad. And nostalgic for my Duo 2300c.
  • Ste
    They deserve the success they’ve had with iPhone and iPad, if only for persevering with some of that crap for years! ;-)
  • James Bradley
    The Newton only needed one thing to be a major hit instead of an archaeological curiosity: It needed, at launch, to support calendar and rolodex syncing with desktop Macs. Everything else about it would have been forgiven.
    This was the days of slow heavy laptops. Millions of people would have bought a Newton just to have those things with them all the time, instead of a filofax. A filofax was a big paper book that could not be backed up. It was scary to carry one, every day, because you risked losing everything important in your life, and people you knew routinely did. And now that we were starting to have calendars and rolodexes in our computers, it meant not just double entry, but double entry by hand, to keep things current.
    I had the privilege of telling some Apple people this 6 months before the Newton launched. Unfortunately they were smarter than that.
    Thanks for the piece.
  • I used a “Bic” when I was in the Newton Group testing NewtonOS 2.0. Couple of things about it:
    - In user studies, Apple found people who write on a surface that large tend to want rest the heel of their hand on the surface. With a standard Newton-type touchscreen that would lead to spurious input. To address this, they used a stylus that was magnetically active; the screen didn’t respond to fingertips at all or to anything except that special stylus.
    - Displays improved so much between Bic’s initial design and the software being ready to launch that you could then get a display with twice the pixel density that would have better battery life. Which is what they did – the MessagePad 2000 had the same pixel resolution as the Bic but was about half the size.
    - Apple thought there was a market for either a “big” (sheet-of-paper size) Newton to digitally fill out medical and insurance forms…or a “small” (Palm Pilot size) one for personal PIM stuff. Bic was one attempt at doing the “big” one but it only could have been compelling during a small technological window and missed that opening. The small form factor wasn’t technically feasible then for a reasonable price. MP2000 was a compromise that didn’t really please anybody – too big for most pockets, too small for most paper forms – but it was the best compromise they could manage at the time.
  • Amazingly well written article! Haven’t seen anything this comprehensive in quite a while now. Kudos to you Ryan.
    @kizedek I couldn’t have said it better myself.
  • Scott
    Great blog post recapping Apple’s tablet history. Thanks for putting your time/energy into this post for us! Keep ‘em coming!
  • @james I beg to differ that the Newton is a mere “archaeological curiosity”. There is still a significant and active community of Newton users and aficionados around the world. There’s close to 1,500 members on the Newtontalk mailing list, plus new software being developed for the platform ever today.
    Frankly, desktop syncing was never a selling point in all my years of Newton use. Certainly, I can understand why this feature would have made a huge impact on the adoption of the platform, by it wasn‘t something that was required across the entire user base. Many of us used our Newton devices as standalone devices. Given that data was never in danger of being lost when the power source gave out (unlike the Palm), there was very little need to sync, for the sake of backup anyway.
    Also, I happen to own both Bic and Cadillac prototypes which run early versions of the Newton OS, and a Batman-era OMP prototype with the screen cover. The Cadillac is a near match to the Figaro Montblanc design, with the curved removable battery.
    Photos of the Batman and Cadillac can be found in my Flickr stream:
  • Chuck Bryant
    Outstanding article! I thought I’d seen most of Apple’s history. You’ve included GOBS of stuff that I’ve never even heard about.
    In both the article and comments I found the discussion on NeXT most enlightening. I knew of the products, liked the look of them, suspected they’d be great (given Jobs’ work with Apple), but the cost — forget it.
    And I’m glad to hear some good reports about the Newton. I knew only that it made a bit of a splash and then disappeared.
    Amazing, to get more of the background on how the product lines have evolved, and vivid details on all the work (and expense) that goes into creating something that actually gets to market, much less becomes successful. So much under the surface; the product lines available are hardly the tip of an iceberg.
    Great reading, images, and comments. Thanks to all!
  • Ricardo
    6mb for these images? You’re doing it wrong.
  • Wir spezialisieren uns auf Notebook-Akku, alle Arten von Modellen.
  • Great Site. Keep up the good work!
  • gabrieli
    wow this very extend history
  • Very impressive and very well written and coordinated. I think Apple is one f the most reliable and renowned company in the world for their great products and i am really very much impressed to know about the history. Anyways keep in touch in future.
  • Very impressive and very well written and coordinated. I think Apple is one f the most reliable and renowned company in the world for their great products and i am really very much impressed to know about the history. Anyways keep in touch in future.I quite agree with!!
  • Very much happy to see the glorious past of apple…..
  • Thanks for posting, this is really what we all need to know, i never read this much informative and detailed post anywhere before, thanks for your work.
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  • This has been a great post traversing through the history of tablets. I had heard about Newton, but never really explored what it had been. Going through the post, it seems Apple had the right intent with tablets and PDAs since the early 90′s and they just waited for the technology landscape to become hospitable before unleashing the iPad. Probably, some other tablet [or a different computing factor] will outdo the iPad, but it will have its own place in history for making tablets a popular consumer gadget, after decades of hard work.
  • Really a great article. It’s a pleasure to read it. And it’s very interessenting that it takes a long road to iPad.
  • Josh Gavin
    WOw, amazing. I had no idea they had so many of these back in the day. All I remember is the Apple Newton. I had a friend who had one and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread but so expensive.
  • Lord Groundhog
    Nice one, Ryan! I can’t believe I missed this article when I was doing a little talk on Mac history last year. And it pulls together stuff I had to winkle out of maybe a dozen or more sites. Kudos to you for the research and the photos, some of which I’ve never seen before.
    And for folks throwing around terms like “dinosaur”, I’m another one who can tell you that I’m never without my Newton MP2100 in easy reach. Newtons are the most versatile and amazing hardware I’ve ever used, and I go back to the ’70s. There is still no *single* piece of kit available that can do for me all the things my Newton does, nor anything else that does these things as easily and naturally as my Newton does them.
    And now I’m much better informed about the history of my amazing Newton MP2100 than I was before, and about the history of Apple. Thanks Ryan.
  • Unix man
    FYI , Actually I was able to view ALL the pictures and the entire web page on my iPad of which I’m typing this comment.

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