No unreleased tech product has ever received more conjecture than the long-rumored Apple tablet. Here is a chronology of links on this elusive device.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For most of this decade, Apple has been rumored to be working on a tablet computer, but in 2009 the pace of the reports have picked up so much steam that the unconfirmed device has taken on an air of inevitability.
This isn't the first time that an Apple Tablet appeared inevitable. When Microsoft launched its Tablet PC in the fall of 2002, many analysts and observers expected Apple to quickly follow with its own tablet, which was reported to have been in development for years at that point.
However, Apple CEO Steve Jobs put the kibosh on that in June 2003 when he plainly stated that Apple had no plans to make a tablet, that users wanted keyboards, and that the tablet market was going nowhere.
From there, the rumors slowed down for a couple years, before regaining a little momentum in 2007 when Amazon launched the Kindle and then again in 2008 when the netbook fad took off.
In 2009, ever since the news broke in March that Apple had placed a large order for 10-inch touchscreens, the rumors and reports have continued unabated throughout the year. The chatter culminated in The Wall Street Journal's famous report in August that Jobs, now back at the company following sick leave, was spending most of his time working on the tablet project.
Since the Apple Tablet is one of the most widely-rumored unannounced products in the history of the industrialized world, I thought it would be useful to look at a chronological timeline of the reports about the product.
I've divided this up into two main sections, one that covers from 2002 to 2008 and then a second section with all of the reports we've seen so far this year. I've highlighted in bold some of the most prominent reports, the ones that have defined much of the current conventional wisdom and expectations about the Apple Tablet. I've also pulled together some of the concept photos of the Apple Tablet, which you can see by clicking the Next Page link at the bottom of this page.
2002 - 2008
- Nov 18, 2002: Waiting for the Mac Tablet (eWeek)
- Apr 14, 2003: Apple contracts Quanta to build wireless display (The Register)
- Jul 4, 2003: Steve Jobs: No tablet, no PDA, no cell phone, lots of iPods (The Mac Observer)
- Nov 27, 2003: Apple's tablet computer might finally be that link between your PC and TV (PBS)
- Dec 10, 2003: Delayed tablet Mac to launch next month? (The Register)
- Aug 13, 2004: Euro filing reveals Apple handheld computer; more wireless tablet than PDA (The Register)
- Mar 31, 2005: Long awaited Apple Tablet computer "iPad" release due in June (TabletPC Review)
- May 9, 2005: Apple granted patent for tablet Mac (The Mac Observer)
- Jan 27, 2006: New Apple patents reveal portable tablet device, tablet video game application (MacDailyNews)
- Feb 3, 2006: New Apple tablet patents (JKOnTheRun)
- Nov 26, 2006: Apple Tablet PC confirmed (SmartHouse)
- May 23, 2005: Apple Tablet PC sightings (Rob Bushway)
- Nov 27, 2006: Apple tablet coming soon? (ZDNet)
- Jan 4, 2007: Apple Tablet doubtful -- Ever (The Apple Blog)
- Sep 26, 2007: Up next for Apple: The return of the Newton (AppleInsider)
- Nov 5, 2007: Apple Tablet concept: the iPad Touch (FactoryJoe)
- Nov 6, 2007: Apple Tablet "confirmed" by Asus? (Engadget)
- Nov 26, 2007: eBook's future isn't ebooks: The makings of Apple's tablet (Gadgetell)
- Dec 30, 2007: New Apple tablet / Newton / PDA speculation (Newton Poetry)
- Jul 22, 2008: Rumor: MacBook touch Coming in October (Gizmodo)
- Apr 22, 2008: Apple acquires low-power chip designer PA Semi (CNET)
- Aug 28, 2008: Leaked Apple patent filing is full of new multitouch tech for a Mac tablet (Gizmodo)
- Oct 21, 2008: Read my lips: Apple is a netbook maker (The New York Times)
- Dec 30, 2008: Report: Apple working on large-screen iPod Touch (CNET)
- Feb 3: Apple patent shows possible design for upcoming Tablet PC/MID (ElectronicPulp)
- Mar 9: Wintek to supply touch panels for Apple netbook (DigiTimes)
- Mar 11: Apple orders 10-inch touchscreens for third quarter (Reuters)
- Mar 11: New Apple Tablet rumors point to Kindle clones? (CNET)
- Mar 16: Apple iPhone 3.0 event tomorrow might reveal a tablet (Computerworld)
- Apr 27: New gear from Apple and Verizon Wireless? (BusinessWeek)
- May 21: Apple's Tablet delayed to 2010 thanks to new OS (Cult of Mac)
- May 21: Analyst: 'Dramatically' different Apple tablet in 2010 (Fortune)
- May 21: Confirmed: Apple Tablet in 2010 (BusinessWeek)
- May 23: Rumor: Tablet Mac coming this fall (ZDNet)
- Jul 13: Look for PA Semi's chip designs in upcoming Apple tablet (VentureBeat)
- Jul 14: Apple's October tablet changes everything (Datamation)
- Jul 21: Tech rumor: Apple, Verizon team up on tablet (TheStreet)
- Jul 24: Why Apple's iTouch tablet will become its flagship product (Seeking Alpha)
- Jul 27: The Apple Tablet: Some possibly answered questions (Technologizer)
- Jul 27: Apple Tablet may launch in September (Mashable)
- Aug 1: Analyst claims first hand knowledge of Apple gaming, home media center tablet (9to5Mac)
- Aug 7: Apple's $1.2 billion tablet computer (Fortune)
- Aug 13: An insider report on the Apple Tablet (Gizmodo)
- Aug 13: New Apple tablet speculation: two models, OLED screen (AppleInsider)
- Aug 25: Jobs, back at Apple, focuses on new tablet (The Wall Street Journal)
- Aug 28: Rumor: Apple may be working on XL tablets running full Mac OS X (Gizmodo)
- Sep 1: More evidence that Snow Leopard is a touchscreen operating system (Cult of Mac)
- Sept 15: Fresh Apple tablet rumors: February launch; $800-$1,000; AT&T, not Verizon (CNNMoney)
- Sep 26: The coming tablet wars (TechCrunch)
- Sep 28: 10 new details on the Apple Tablet (iLounge)
- Sep 28: Apple rehires a developer of its Newton tablet (New York Times)
- Sep 29: New Apple tablet rumor says it's more media, less computer (Ars Technica)
- Sep 30: Apple talking to print for tablet books? Apple rumored putting text on iTunes (Electronista)
- Sep 30: Apple Tablet to redefine newspapers, textbooks and magazines (Gizmodo)
- Oct 1: Evidence of Apple's tablet-like input interface reappears (AppleInsider)
- Oct 4: Just a touch away, the elusive Tablet PC (The New York Times)
- Oct 5: Apple working on tablet since at least 2003 (MacRumors)
New converts to the tablet religion
With the failure of Microsoft's Tablet PC to gain widespread market acceptance (it represents just over 1% of global laptop sales according to IDC), most computer makers had cooled on the idea of building tablet computers in recent years. In fact, the Tablet PC market had come to be dominated by niche players and line-of-business solutions, such as Motion Computing.
However, as the Apple Tablet rumors have heated up during 2009, other PC hardware vendors have started unveiling their plans for tablet computers as well. In September, it seemed like a new company was announcing a tablet every week. Here are the most notable entrants:
- Jul 4: CrunchPad Web tablet landing "As soon as possible" for less than $300 (Gizmodo)
- Aug 4: Dell and Intel subscription-based tablet coming 2010 to conquer Kindle? (SlashGear)
- Sep 3: Toshiba to launch its first touch-screen tablet (CNET)
- Sep 7: ASUS is preparing a low-cost touchscreen ebook (TechRepublic)
- Sep 17: HP's new touch Tablet: Windows 7 ultimate remote? (The Seattle Times)
- Sep 22: Courier: First details of Microsoft's secret tablet (Gizmodo)
- Sep 23: Archos unveils $500 tablet (Wired)
Despite all of the new frenzy and buzz about tablets, not everyone is crazy about the idea. The tablet concept still has its share of critics who wonder about the usage scenarios and market potential of these devices. For example:
- Jul 27: Rumored Apple Tablet is a train wreck (PC World)
- Aug 3: The tablet that nobody really wants (LiveDigitally)
- Aug 5: Apple's not-so-secret tablet: Flawed from the start (ZDNet)
- Aug 6: Why consumers won't buy tablet computers (CBS News)
Apple has always taken a very secretive approach to product development and public relations. That's part of the company's marketing strategy, and it's worked very well at times because it has created a feeding frenzy among journalists, bloggers, and analysts, who all conjecture endlessly about the possibilities and give Apple lots of free publicity in the process.
It's difficult to tell whether all of the new conjecture about the Apple Tablet is part of a plan by the company to build up buzz and anticipation about the product, or if the story has just taken on a life of its own in the media. Whatever the case may be, the whole thing kind of reminds me of the part at the end of the first Harry Potter book where Professor Dumbledore tells Harry, "What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally the whole school knows."
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks.