A history of the elusive Apple tablet, in links

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.

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.

For the latest on the Apple Tablet and other tech topics, follow my Twitter stream: @jasonhiner

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


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:

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:

Final word

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."

Next Page (Concept photos of the Apple Tablet) >>


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 book, Follow the Geeks.

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