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Apple Prototypes From the Past – What Could Have Been

by Sean P. Aune | October 26, 2014October 26, 2014 9:00 am PDT

One of the most common news stories in the world of tech is constant rumors that Apple is working on this or that product. Quite often these rumors prove to be true, but others – such as the endless stream of rumors relating to an Apple television set – never seem to pan out. Are they complete fabrications? Possibly. But there is also a chance they truly do exist and we’ll just never see them.

We’ve seen some Apple prototypes for unreleased products make it out into the wild over the years. A little over three years ago a MacBook Pro with a cellular antenna showed up on eBay. There was also an iPad with two dock connectors that made its way out into the world. So there are numerous prototypes that Apple builds for devices we just never see.

Earlier this year Hartmut Esslinger, a former designer at Apple in the 1980s, released a book entitled Keep It Simple: The Early Design Years of Apple. In that book was a large collection of images for devices that Apple never released such as a wrist phone with a headset, a tablet with a huge docking station and so on. Some of the items were revisited years or decades later as other iterations such as in-ear earbuds. You can peruse some of the items shown in the book in the gallery above.

While it’s fascinating to see what Apple was thinking of producing at various points in its history, it’s also an intriguing lesson in the tech world today for any company out there. We hear about a product, and then we later learn it was killed and we are left to wonder if it ever truly existed. The simple answer is that more than likely it did exist in some form. Perhaps it was just carved out of foam to see what it would look like. Maybe it made it to a full prototype. Perhaps it never even made it off the drafting table. We just don’t know. But with all of the stages a product goes through before it reaches our anxious hands; it’s easy to see how a word here or there could potentially leak out to the public.

Take this as a tale of perhaps there is more truth to some of the things you read out there. And just because a product never surfaces, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t at least thought about at some point.

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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...