It’s hard to ignore the first thought that came to mind when the iPad was announced. It’s a huge iPhone (or iPod Touch) with 3G data. Clearly, both devices have been in development for years. In 2007, Steve said the iPhone was two and half years in the making. The iPad is really no different. So is the iPad a huge iPhone or is the iPhone a small iPad?
Rumors of both an Apple Tablet and an Apple Phone date way back towards the first half of the 2000s. After the success of several versions of the iPod, it became a clear transition to a multi-functional device with phone capabilities. When the Motorola Rokr was announced back in late 2005, it was essentially Apple testing the waters without really jumping in. The Newton was Apple’s first true tablet device that did what handheld organizers did years later. Both of these devices turned out to be flops, nothing that ever really took off.
At some point, Apple developed a vision that would try to make both of these failed projects successful. Apple had acquired FingerWorks in early 2005, which eventually lead to their deep focus on multi-touch interaction. Whether Apple intended to use the technology to power a tablet computer or a handheld phone remains to be seen. It’s not hard to convince yourself that one of these devices is a byproduct of the other. So which came first?
If you ask me, I’d say the tablet came first. It’s easiest to imagine a large canvas being manipulated by finger gestures, especially those requiring multiples fingers. FingerWorks produced large touchpad’s and keyboards that recognized multi-touch. Was it so farfetched to put a user interface beneath the pad for a more intimate computing experience? If you look at the iPad in it’s current form and compare it to an its desktop counterpart, there are a lot of similarities. The dock is exactly the same, always accessible on the bottom or one button press away. Icon or app layout is exactly like you’d find on any desktop. Essentially, it’s a stripped down version of a desktop operating system, which makes sense considering a tablet is a stripped down desktop device.
Perhaps the product categories play a factor here. The phone industry is one that had already been established. There was a strong market for a powerful phone, something nobody else had done. The tablet, however, doesn’t really fit into place. Typically, they’re supposed to compete with laptops but lack the power and input that comes with a larger computer and keyboard. Like many arguing today that there’s no problem for which a tablet is the solution. I can’t help but think that they had developed this multi-touch system but releasing it onto a device with no established market would prevent it from seeing the success the iPhone has. Instead, they shrunk the tablet into what we now know as the iPhone, a brilliant accident that stemming from a tablet.
When you think of the iPhone as a smaller iPad, the idea actually makes sense. Reversed, it’s a bit more of a stretch. Ultimately, the order in which the iPhone and iPad were released has created a feeling leaning towards the latter. Which do you think came first? Was it a mistake to put the iPhone before the iPad? Share your thoughts below.