History of the iPad: When is a Tablet not a Tablet?



Question: How can you have a “history” of a device that was just announced today?

Answer: This has been the longest anticipated unannounced product in history, or at least Apple history. It has been a veritable speculation-o-rama.


Question: I don’t get the iPad. Isn’t it just like a giant iPhone?

Short answer: Yes, it’s essentially a large iPhone but without voice phone capabilities.

Long answer: I believe the iPad is the computing platform of the future. The iPhone is a great smartphone, but the screen is too small to type (very much) on, and the screen will give you a headache if you watch a full-length movie on it. It’s possible but painful to read a book on it. Nevertheless, it’s incredibly portable.
Laptops (MacBooks) are as powerful as a desktop computer, but too big and too heavy to carry around practically, without a briefcase. I’ve got a 15″ MacBook Pro, and I love it, but it’s still a pain to drag around.
But the iPad is a carry-able device. Lighter than any netbook (which is an underpowered laptop, which itself is a miniature desktop) and the size of the Kindle DX; it’s got 10 hours of battery and leverages both WiFi and 3G data networks for Internet connectivity.

I recently Tweeted about this back on January 1:Twitter_icon

My Apple “Tablet” prediction: it’ll be less of a sub-MacBook, and more of a super-sized iPod Touch. Internet’s becoming ubiquitous.

This uses the iPhone OS: gesture-based (multi-touch), not a folder-based desktop like Windows — but App based, like the iPhone. A veritable infotainment device. Excellent for consuming music, photos, new games, video (viewable movies!), large screen newspapers, magazines… and now books. Apple will open a third online store after iTunes and the App Store — this one is the iBookstore. Five publishers — Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette Book Group — have already signed on. iBooks will use the ePUB standard, a free and open book standard.

This could indeed be a game-changing device, ready to open (or revitalize) markets. As the iPod was not the first digital music player, and the iPhone was not the first smartphone, each in its own way changed the market, indeed redefined it. The iPad could do the same, especially for content creators.
Tablet computers have up until now gained only single-digit market share. How will the new Apple tablet do?


Question: So, what about the Kindle?

Answer: If I were a Kindle DX, only $10 cheaper than the entry-level iPad, I’d be saying “Dead Man Walking.” While the smaller sized $259 Kindle is currently half the price of the iPad, the iPad has a full screen, color, runs 140,000 iPhone apps… and it’s a 1GHz computer! It’s not a single-use device. (OK, the Kindle can do some limited Internet activities.) And it’s while it’s got a virtual pop-up keyboard, it’s also got an available physical keyboard that you can attach via a Keyboard Dock to the iPad. There is also a standalone iPad Dock that serves as a viewing kickstand.
Interestingly, the iPad has no camera, USB connector, or SD expandable storage slot, like the MacBooks and iMacs. Instead, it has adapters that allow SD cards to plug in for photo transfer. So, with no direct connectors, is this an early “cloud” device?

Either way, I think this is the computing platform of the future.


Question: Why do you think it’s the platform of the future?

Answer: Having been to the future (I just got back) here are the devices that will be used. Back in the 1950s, Isaac Asimov published the Hugo Award-winning science fiction trilogy Foundation. In the distant future about eleven thousand years from now, our hero Hari Seldon, the gifted psychohistorian (that’s why I studied history!) was able to predict the future in terms of large scale human conglomerate socio-mathematical probabilities as he did his calculations on a flat-panel device that he kept in a pouch at his belt. It was more than a calculator, a pad really, but less than what we’d call a laptop.

“Men said he kept one beneath his pillow for use in moments of wakefulness. Its gray, glossy finish was slightly worn by use. Seldon’s nimble fingers… played along the hard plastic that rimmed it.”


Question: What’s with the name iPad? Think of the jokes. What happened to iSlate, iTablet, iSlab, iAppleNextThing?

Answer: I like the name iPad. Admittedly, Apple Store employees are going to be saying “Were you asking about the iPod or the iPad?” But the name iPod is more iconic than descriptive. iPad is like a notepad, something that you commonly carry with you.

And it reminds me of the portable computer devices used in Star Trek: The Next Generation, called the PADD, the Personal Access Display Device, a hand-held, flat-panel, touch-screen computer interface, These will be used as early as the 22nd century. They (will) come in various sizes and have different functions.


Question: What about the price?

Answer: We knew that it would fall between $299 and $999? Why? The high-end iPhone is $299, and the low-end MacBook is $999. Apple (likely) leaked the $999 price prior to the announcement to test the waters. $499 for the entry-level iPad is cheaper than I’d expected. But you get limited memory (16GB) and no 3G connectivity. Memory is always a premium “add-on” from Apple, and the high-end 64GB version, with 3G, is $829. That seems rather steep for a non-laptop device.

Question: 3G or not 3G?

Answer: Apple provides the choice between WiFi only, and WiFi plus 3G. What’s the difference?

  • WiFi only makes this an iPod Touch type of device, with the same use cases. Meaning great at home, Starbucks, Paneras, McDonald’s — anywhere there is a WiFi hotspot. But the good news is you have no monthly subscription service to a phone company.
  • Wifi plus 3G makes this an iPhone type of device, usable anywhere you have data cellular coverage. This makes it considerably more mobile, at least until WiFi becomes more ubiquitous, but at a price. $30/month to AT&T for unlimited data is less than a phone plan, but you also won’t be using it as a voice phone.

Want one? The line forms to the rear.
Bill Petro, your favorite neighborhood historian

About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. Joe on January 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Who asked these questions?

    • Bill Petro on January 29, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      A number of friends of mine asked these questions.

  2. Chuck on February 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    It looks intriguing, but a camera surely would have been nice to Skype or teleconference or what have you… provided there was a microphone.

    And no USB ports? As someone who hasn’t really used Mac products at all, that really seems strange to me. I mean, teenagers can even plug in Ipod Nanos to USB ports, can they not?

    My final cause for concern for this product would be it’s breakability. It looks very easy to break (or steal, for that matter).

  3. Lou Ordorica on February 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Nice analysis, Bill. As I stare at the 24″ screen on my iMac, it’s clear that the future of computing devices is about more pixels, and bigger displays. In fact, take a look at this post:


    • Bill Petro on February 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm


      Yes, I saw that, and love it!

      I’m holding out for the iStadium.

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