My theory on the Apple Tablet: It doesn’t exist, will never exist, and it is probably a 10 inch laptop

IntoMobile readers may be curious to know as to why I’m writing about a product that doesn’t fit inside your pocket. I’m doing this out of sheer frustration. Frustration by the media who think that there is a 10 inch tablet device coming out from Apple, and are so sure of this fabricated fact that they can not be convinced otherwise. I’ve been issuing daily reminders to my Twitter followers for the past few weeks now, saying that there is no iTablet, and I’ve even made bets with two of my friends that such a product will not hit the market by June 30, 2010. How long has this iTablet bullshit been going on? A lot longer than you think. More after the jump.

Speculation about the iTablet began with an interview that the International Herald Tribune held with Steve Jobs in September 2002. When Steve was asked what he thought of the tablet PC, he replied: “We’re not sure the tablet PC will be successful. It’s turned into a notebook that you can write on. Do you want to handwrite all your e-mail? We have all the technology ourselves to do that – we just don’t know whether it will be successful.”

Two months later it would be Matthew Rothenberg in November 2002, publishing an article where he pulls a rumor out of his ass with this glorious statement: “Its my strong belief—lets call it a hunch—that prototype Mac tablets are already making the rounds among select developers.”

With MacWorld 2003 set to open on January 7th, he ran his bullshit rumor again two days before the show started, trying to squeeze as much traffic as he could out of a lie to make his publishers over at eWeek happy. He had specifications this time: “My sources sketch the following picture: A device that superficially resembles a large iPod with an 8-inch diagonal screen, lacks a keyboard, packs USB and FireWire ports, and runs Mac OS X along with a variety of multimedia goodies.”

A day later LooptRumors latches onto the rumour with this quote about the iTablet: “Apparently it will be a digital lifestyle device, and not necessarily an iPod, but rather similar to an iPod.” Digital Lifestyle Device? What the fuck is that? I’m not surprised that an Apple fanboi who sits at home reading rumors all day created the term “digital lifestyle.” One would hope that a company could create a mythical device that can easily be purchased to replace the poor, solitary, and depressing lifestyle said fanboi, and many others like him, currently have.

Did the iTablet get launched at MacWorld 2003? No.

Three months go by. That’s how long it takes to rebuild a soul after the dreams it created have been crushed. In March 2003 SpyMac published: “The unnamed tablet system — featuring an 8.4″ backlit TFT-display and built-in Airport Extreme — will be marketed as a ‘Home Portable’.” Terrible name, and now the iTablet is 0.4 inches larger. Great.

One month later, April 2003, it would be Digitimes claiming: “The Chinese-language Economic Daily News reported today that Quanta had landed orders for a 15-inch Tablet PC-like device, with shipments to begin in the first quarter of 2004.” It started out at 8 inches, then 8.4, and now all of a sudden it is 15 inches. Fantastic.

In June 2003, another source, this time from TaiwanHighTech, confirms what Digitimes said two months ago: “Apple has contracted Quanta to make its 15-inch tablet PC. This is larger than most tablet PCs.” Two sites say the same thing, has to be true right? RIGHT?!

September 2003 rolls around, Apple has their Apple Expo in Paris. The iTablet didn’t get announced. MacRumors grows up and says: “Digitimes has previously had other inaccurate reports, including 19″ iMacs, termination of 17″ iMac Production, and an Apple Tablet. As a result, future reports from Digitimes should be met with skepticism.” Unnamed sources from Asia, you mean they’re not dependable? Never would have guessed it!

Two months later, November 2003, John C. Dvorak, who is a master at pissing off Apple people for the sake of building traffic (see video above), drops this bombshell: “The missing element in Apple’s portfolio is the handheld computer. John Scully was a big promoter of the idea, and founder Steve Jobs is still galled that Scully came up with anything at all. It was dropped. The Newton was never a handheld anyway—too big. Now that the category is wavering and tablet computers are appearing, look for Apple to jump back in. There’s good reason to believe that a jazzy new Newton II will be forthcoming, perhaps in January.” Oh snap!

Robert X. Cringely from PBS took the bait, he published this article towards the end of November 2003, over 1700 words of bullshit talking about wireless data transmission, just to sneak this little line inside: “A year from now, I am sure these technical problems will be solved, but by then Motorola will have been shipping DS-CDMA products for 12 months. And some of those products will be going in that Apple tablet computer.” So now we have yet another prediction that but the end of 2004, give or take a few months, there will be a tablet from Apple.

Next month, December 2003, it would be Digitimes again, trying to save their reputation, publishing an article saying: “Apple in September suspended a plan to integrate a Tablet PC and DeskNote into a new line of products, dubbed the “New New iMac,” due to cost considerations.” Now I love Digitimes, but seriously, what weird Chinese medicine was the author inhaling when he suggested the new tablet would be called “New New iMac?”

At this point everyone feels like a fucking idiot, as they rightfully should. It takes 6 months for someone to get the balls to use the words Apple and Tablet in the same sentence, but with WWDC 2004 coming up, the opportunity to pull in traffic based on bullshit facts presented itself again. MacRumors had this to say in June 2004: “I remain hesitant to even suggest something else as the frequency of various Tablet/iBox rumors seems to overwhelm more traditional (ie. realistic) reports… but some scattered whispers have suggested ‘something else’ altogether… related to a hangable display/appliance. More details will be posted if/when available.” Those details never came.

In August 2004 the evidence to support the idea of an Apple Tablet finally appears by way of a design trademark filed in Europe. The Register says: “The filing, made in May this year but only published this week, covers a ‘handheld computer’ and contains sketches of what look like an iBook screen minus the body of the computer.” How many times do we need to see companies patenting something, or filing a trademark, and then never creating a device based on those documents, to realize that legal documents are bullshit? With Apple Expo Paris coming soon, people are saying an Apple Tablet is guaranteed.

The Apple Expo Paris 2004 keynote took place on August 31, 2004. The iTablet was not announced. Silence.

It takes 9 months for the people responsible for publishing Apple rumours to clean the egg off their face, again. On May 10, 2005, the images revealed in the European design trademark during 2004 resurfaced in an American patent filling, this time with a photo (shown above) of a man actually using the iTablet. Rob Bushway, who is a tablet PC freak and is the cofounder of a website I personally enjoy reading called GottaBeMobile, published information from a source of his 2 weeks later on May 23, 2005:

I have no less than 5 sources saying an Apple Tablet announcement is due soon. Or something, as some of these press people (Apple diehards at that), who normally cared not about Tablets, and thought it was all just Microsoft vaporware, are suddenly so interested in the Tablet PC concept, and asking tons of questions. Pretty easy to read those tea leaves, so somethings up.

And the Intel talks are for battery saving Sonoma-like Powerbook and Tablet tech, I’d heard this 3-4 weeks ago from 3 sources, and other sources talked as it just hit WSJ today. Everyone is speculating just ARM or Embedded hits per iPod or like, but I’d heard more for Powerbooks…etc.

Anyways, what I’d heard, word on street at least.

…And it exists, honest, seen a prototype. Instant On, ASUS-Tatung whiteish looking, running a reduced version of OSX, with some funky start-up PDA like Apple icon menu. Touch only (white touch pen), least the version I saw. Dunno if it will make it to market, but I think what I saw, is what these NDA-signing reporters have saw. Played with it for maybe 5 mins before it was wisked away.

Some sort of weird Sonomaish slash Power PC hybrid, not sure I get it. Customized Intel something.

Sigh. Such bullshit.

Three months go by, and then on August 24, 2005 a job posting on Apple’s website was discovered that has this key sentence: “Are you passionate about providing handwriting solutions to end customers? Do you strongly believe that using a stylus and a tablet is the way to interact with computers?” This is it, everything is falling into place. We have images of the tablet, we have Apple hiring people to do handwriting recognition, the Apple Tablet has to be near!

The iTablet was not launched in 2005. Maybe next year?

January 2006 rolls around, and another patent is filed, this time for an accelerometer in a tablet like device. Today we know this as the thing inside the iPhone that can detect when you switch the device between landscape and portrait, but back then people thought: “These new patent descriptions may simply be in relation to research done in developing this technology, however the possibility of a Tablet Mac always draws interest of the Mac community.” Days later a trademark was filed for “Mac Pro” in New Zealand and one of the devices listed under what the “Mac Pro” can be classified as, is “tablet computer.”

February 2006, another patent was filed, several actually. MacRumors reports on the first one: “A search at the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals a number of new Apple patent applications that relate to the long-rumored Apple Tablet based computer.” The images that came with the patent sure looked like a tablet, I’ll give them that much. The second patent is for multitouch displays: “The integrated sensing display includes both display elements and image sensing elements. As a result, the integrated sensing device can not only output images but also input images.” The third patent was for virtual input devices: “The display includes an application display, associated with an application executing on the computer, and a virtual input device display for a user to provide input to the application executing on the computer via the touch screen.” Several days later a job posting was uploaded to Apple’s site: “Apple Handwriting Recognition team is seeking an engineer who will be responsible for advancing gesture and handwriting recognition on Mac OS X. The ideal candidate will be an expert in the area of pattern recognition, with an excellent understanding of handwriting recognition issues.” Touching, typing, images of a tablet, they all look like an iTablet, but today we know this device as the iPhone.

Another month later, March 2006, there is speculation that Apple purchased the remaining assets of a company called FingerWorks, but the reality of the situation was that two employees from FingerWorks left the company to go work for Apple.

Silence for 8 months. Could it be that people have finally given up on the iTablet? Nope. New rumours out of Taiwan hit the net in November 2006: “The Mac tablet has been designed to handle third party applications such as home automation software that will allow users to control lighting, audio, entertainment devices and security feeds. It also acts as a full blown PC has wireless linking for a new generation of Wireless Hi Fi speakers that are currently being tested by Apple.” This device is supposed to hit the market in 2007, meaning no iTabet in 2006.

Some Apple people just got tired of waiting, so in January 2007 they decided to modify a MacBook and turn it into a tablet. Know what else was shown off in January 2007? The iPhone. MacScoop ran with the “full version of OS X, but on a device that fits in your pocket” quote and created a rumour saying that that this “mini-OS X” would be put on two more devices, one of them being a tablet.

Silence for 9 months. After the iPhone has been announced, why would talk of a tablet continue? In September 2007 AppleInsider claimed that there is a device that uses the OS from the iPhone, but has a screen 1.5x larger and with a higher resolution. This is the real Apple Tablet. It will probably be announced in January 2008, but will hit the market in the middle of 2008. Guess what? That never happened.

November 2007 is when C|Net claims that Asus is helping Apple build a Tablet, meaning Apple designs it, Asus just builds the damn thing in their factories.

December 2007 we have SeekingAlpha dropping this piece of bullshit on the internet: “Then about a month ago, another source revealed that Apple has shown significant interest in a 5.2 inch 800 x 480 pixel touch screen design by Balda, a German company and the current iPhone screen supplier, and Wintek, an Asian component supplier. This second piece of evidence reveals the real purpose of this new device, an ultra mobile device occupying a position between the 3.5 inch iPhone and the much rumored 7-10 inch Apple tablet.” So the iTablet is real, but there will also be a larger iPhone that fits between the current iPhone and the Tablet. My face hurts, does yours yet?

January 2008 some new information, published by Wired, reveals: “Apple’s hardware engineers had spent about a year working on touchscreen technology for a tablet PC and had convinced him that they could build a similar interface for a phone.” AppleInsider also said the much hoped for tablet will not be shown off at MacWorld 2008 because it isn’t ready yet. Oh really?

March 2008 we find out that the iPhone started out as the “Safari Pad” and originally was the size of a notebook! Why then would Apple start with something large, shrink it down, and then blow it up again? A patent is also filed for a translucent touch surface that is touchable on both sides. We also have another job post going online, Apple is trying to find a new Handwriting Recognition Engineer to join the team.

In April 2008 Switch To A Mac claims that a classmate of his who used to work at Apple says a new portable device will be announced at WWDC, along with the announcement of the iPhone 3G. Didn’t happen.

During May 2008 Intel Germany CEO Hannes Schwaderer says there is an iPhone being developed with an Intel processor inside, and that it has a slightly larger than the current iPhone. Intel then denies the statement. Jason D. O’Grady at ZD|Net stirs up some shit calming that he has inside information about the iTabet during this month as well. He says Apple will announce the iTablet during the fall of 2008 and that it will have a 12 to 13 inch screen and run full blown Mac OS X. That didn’t happen either.

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu wrote a report in June 2008 saying Apple has 4 and 7 inch touch screen devices that are beyond the prototype stage.

ABC News publishes a rumour about the iTablet for all the world to see in July 2009. Four pages long, quotes from Mac fanbois left and right. “I would buy it in a heartbeat,” Matt Vreeland, a doctor in Pinehurst, N.C., said in an e-mail to “I have used Apple products since entering college in 1985 [the original Mac] and never regretted it. Every time I stray, I realize how well-designed Apple products remain.” Trust information from this guy, he will get you far in life.

In August 2008, notice how there is new bullshit almost every month, another patent hit the tubes. This one has even more photos of a man typing on a virtual keyboard on a device that looks like a tablet PC. Patents do not equal products, but that doesn’t stop the speculation from rising.

Apple held a “Let’s Rock!” event in September 2008 and as always happens before an Apple event, rumors fly from every corner of the world. MacRumors is convinced an Apple Tablet exists, but will not be announced at this event: “We’ve heard very little about the rumored Tablet Mac or Apple PDA from earlier this year. While we feel confident that these products are in Apple’s labs, it’s not clear when they’ll see the light of day.”

TechCrunch, the cock of the walk when it comes to blogs, jumps into the game in December 2008 with this quote: “We’ve got this from three independent sources close to Apple: expect a large screen iPod touch device to be released in the Fall of ‘09, with a 7 or 9 inch screen. Prototypes have been seen and handled by one of our sources, and Apple is talking to OEMs in Asia now about mass production.” We started with 8 inches, grew to 8.4, then 15, then 12 or 13, then 4 or 7, and now 7 or 9 inches.

Not a lot goes on for the next few months. People are happy with their iPhone 3G, but then Steve Jobs gets sick and takes medical leave. In April 2009 the Wall Street Journal writes about that, and this: “People privy to the company’s strategy say Apple is working on new iPhone models and a portable device that is smaller than its current laptop computers but bigger than the iPhone or iPod Touch.” AppleInsider also says the the iTablet is “a project which is taking considerably longer to complete than once anticipated.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who is the most quoted analyst by Apple fans, said in a report he published May 2009 that the iTablet will be released in the first half of 2010 and it will be a cross between the iPhone and a full notebook. AppleInsider has more details from the report, mainly that the device will have a screen 7 to 10 inches large, cost between $500 and $700, and that the CPU running inside the iTablet would be custom built by P.A. Semi which Apple purchased a while back. Digitimes, who was wrong before, also said in May of this year that: “Wintek has been selected as the panel module supplier for Apple’s upcoming e-book form factor netbook product, according to Taiwan notebook related IC designers.”

Taiwanese site InfoTimes reports in July 2009 that Apple is going to launch a 9.7 inch netbook, not Tablet, in October that is touch enabled. Scott Moritz of TheStreet also reports this month that Verizon will launch a tablet that is 9 or 10 inches large, possibly with a keyboard, by the end of this year. Last week AppleInsider published an exclusive claiming that the iTablet will be launched in the first quarter of 2010, with a CPU by P.A. Semi, have a 10 inch screen, and be 3G enabled. The Financial Times then published a piece saying Apple is working with record labels to promote the old fashioned album, meaning showing art, lyrics, and other things, and that this project, code name cocktail, will be announced in September in conjunction with the new 10 inch Apple tablet.

This weekend an unnamed analyst got to play with the iTablet … really? Are you fucking kidding me?

So we started in September 2002, and we’ve ended in August 2009. That’s close to 7 years. What do I think about all of this? The Apple Tablet does not exist. What do I believe will happen? Apple will bake more and more multitouch features into their operating system. Just like Microsoft did with Windows 7, Apple will make Snow Leopard, and whatever comes after that, more multitouch friendly. I believe what will be announced at the end of this year, or early next year, is a new MacBook with a 10 or 11.6 inch screen. The screen may or may not be touch enabled. This will be the first Mac portable with a 16:9 aspect ratio LCD. Why wide? One reason: foot print. With a wide LCD, a laptop in the open/closed position can house a wider keyboard. The CPU will be built by Intel and it will probably be the new Pineview processor that is a part of the new Intel Pine Trail platform.

A tablet is bullshit for many reasons. The screen is not protected, and the device is huge, therefore requiring a case since you’ll no doubt be banging that thing against whatever else is in your bag. When was the last time you’ve heard Apple say “please, hide our products in a case so you don’t advertise to people that you’re better than everyone else!” You would have to hold the tablet all the time, and even if Apple makes it weigh only two pounds, it is still two pounds you have to hold during web-browsing/reading/etc.

At some point in 2010, Apple will make all their portable devices with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This new 10 inch MacBook will be the first, next WWDC we’ll probably see the entire MBP lineup go wide. Hell I’ll even be brave and say Apple will increase the DPI in their MBP lineup in 2010 and kill the 15 and 17 inch MBP and replace them with 14 and 16 inch screens instead.

There is no Apple Tablet, there never will be an Apple Tablet, and just in case you were wondering: I am a PC.

Back to top ▴