Steve Jobs stepped onstage years ago today to introduce the world to the iPad. It was, by his own admission, a third category of device that sits somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop. Jobs unveiled the iPad just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show ended in Las Vegas and at a time when netbooks were dominating personal computing sales.
“They’re slow, they have low quality displays, and they run clunky old PC software,” said Jobs, mocking the PC industry’s obsession with netbooks. “They’re not better than a laptop at anything, they’re just cheap laptops.”
Apple had an answer to the netbook: a 9.7-inch tablet that allowed you to hold the internet in your hands. Central to the iPad and Jobs ’marketing pitch was the ability to have a full browser that you could manipulate with your fingers. Apple’s iPhone had been pushing the boundaries of the mobile web at the time, but Jobs boasted that the iPad was “the best browsing experience you’ve ever had.”
Apple was also looking to create a third category of device that was better at certain tasks than a laptop or smartphone. The iPad was designed to be better at web browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and ebooks. “If there’s going to be a third category of device it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone, otherwise it has no reason for being,” said Jobs.
Rumors about the iPad had been persistent in the build-up to Apple’s press event in January . CES attendees were anticipating some type of slate device, and Microsoft employees who I spoke to at the time laughed off the rumors. Microsoft had just launched Windows 7, and it had some minor improvements to touch capabilities.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO in 2012, used his keynote at CES to demonstrate “slate PCs” from manufacturers like Pegatron, Archos, and HP. These devices were running the “clunky old PC software,” that Jobs mocked days later, and Ballmer struggled to navigate the HP Slate device to demonstrate Kindle software and video playback. It was just Windows 7 squeezed onto a new form factor, with very little changes. Microsoft had originally attempted to launch the idea of tablet PCs back in 2012, with a Windows XP Tablet PC Edition derivative, and even special ultra-mobile PCs in – but both initiatives flopped.
Apple’s iPad presented something new a decade ago, something that looked like a significant challenge to netbooks, laptops, and even Windows itself. The idea of a third category of devices, namely tablets, was difficult for many to process at the time. The iPad was widely mocked for its name in the days after the announcement, and some analysts had already predicted it would flop Before it was even announced. Wired labeled it “ little more than a giant iPhone , ”and there were predictions that it wouldn’t be a significant product line for Apple.
Apple went on to sell 678, iPads on the first day of sales, and it broke 2 million sales less than two months later. After selling 7.5 million iPads in , Apple sold 58. 4 million iPads in , . 3 million in , and (million in) . The naysayers were proven wrong almost immediately, and Apple has sold well over million iPads to date, even though sales peaked in .
Responses to the iPad have been varied since its 244173 introduction. Microsoft pivoted hard to a touch-friendly user interface in Windows 8 for its launch in October , and the company even launched its own line of Surface tablets that were designed to compete with the iPad. PC makers rushed to create a range of different tablet and laptop hybrids, but Microsoft went too far with Windows 8 and walked a lot of its touch-friendly changes back with subsequent updates and the launch of Windows .