Apple didn’t release the first tablet computer or even come up with the idea for tablet computing itself. If anything, Microsoft, and Bill Gates in particular, were championing tablet computers years before the iPad was released.
In this video clip from the first All Things D conference in 2003, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs explains to Walt Mossberg why Apple, at the time, wasn’t keen on tablets and more specifically, why Jobs felt that stylus computing and handwriting recognition were inherent failures. Is it any surprise that Jobs referenced a stylus as a punchline during his 2007 iPhone introduction?
In any event, when asked by Mossberg about potential plans to release a tablet, Jobs explained that Apple had “no plans at the current time to make a tablet.”
When Mossberg made reference to Microsoft’s own tablet efforts, Jobs laid out his qualms about tablet computing.
Well i mean i think that they’re trying but it turns out that, I would characterize it a little bit differently than Bill [Gates]. Bill characterizes it as a device you can take to meet and take notes with. Well I see people with notebook computers at every meeting I go to, taking notes.
So I don’t think that’s what it’s about.
I think it’s about handwriting input versus a keyboard. And, handwriting recognition has been tried over and over again and even when you get it really good, it turns out Apple, believe it or not, after all that pain they went through with Newton, has the best handwriting technology in the world now. It’s way better than anything else.
You know the problem? It doesn’t matter. It’s really slow to write stuff. You know, you could never keep up with your email if you had to write it all out.
And so, it turns out people want keyboards. I mean, when I started in this business one of the biggest challenges was that people couldn’t type. And one day we realized that death would eventually take care of this. And so, people know how to type now. And if you do email of any volume, you gotta have a keyboard.
So we look at the tablet and we think it’s gonna fail.
When Mossberg brought up the utility of using a tablet as a reading device, Jobs responded:
It’s really true, if you’ve got a bunch or rich guys who can afford their third computers. You know they’ve got their desktop, they got a portable, and now they got one of these to read with, that’s your market.
People accuse us of niche markets!
It’s also worth pointing out that when Steve Jobs spoke at the All Things D conference in 2010, he explained how the idea for the iPhone was borne out of a tablet project.