The iPad has come so incredibly far since 2010, and fulfills Steve Jobs' vision perfectly

Posted:
in iPad edited May 13

It's still a sheet of glass, has no serious competitors, and uses radically different technology as you'd expect for a product more than a decade old, but the 2024 iPad still conforms to Steve Jobs' original vision for the product.

Man in black turtleneck and jeans sitting on a chair, holding and looking at a tablet on stage with dark background.
Steve Jobs demonstrating the original iPad



There is an argument that the new iPad Air and iPad Pro models are merely spec-bump ones, that they are the same as ever, just a bit faster. That does ignore the new screens, or at least the larger one that's been brought to the iPad Air for the first time.

It's not an unreasonable criticism, though, until you look back. Comparing the new 13-inch iPad Pro to the iPad Steve Jobs so proudly showed off at the original launch is eye-opening.

Apple gets wide-eyed



But looking back now, one thing that is oddly striking about Apple's original promotion for the iPad is that it does show people being wide-eyed. During an 8-minute hymn of praise for the iPad, Jony Ive has his own wide-eyed moment of genuine delight at what Apple had managed to do.

Oddly, Scott Forstall has the same look but he manages to maintain it for practically every shot.

"You know, it's true, when something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical," said Jony Ive, then Apple's chief designer. "And that's exactly what the iPad is... It's hard to see how something so simple, so thin and so light could possibly be so capable."

Back then, every word of that was true and the first time you picked up an iPad, you felt its lightness, you marvelled at the thinness. You did also think it seemed rather smaller than you were expecting, yet after a few minutes of use, you forgot that and became as immersed in using it as Steve Jobs kept promising.

Scott Forstall enthusing about the iPad in 2010
Scott Forstall enthusing about the iPad in 2010



Pick up that original iPad now, though, and everything tech- and design-wise is different. Forget specifications for a moment, just the feel is different.

For one thing, it seems peculiarly heavy now and somehow that weight feels concentrated, like it's heavier than it should be. Plus you again have the impression that the screen is small, but this time that feeling does not go away so easily.

That's perhaps partly because the bezels around the screen now seem so large as to be practically comical.

"The reason why this product responds so well and you really feel the performance of it is because of the custom silicon that we designed for this product," said Bob Mansfield, then senior vice president of hardware. "That silicon is called A4, and it's really built by our hardware team in concert with our software team."

"And what that gives you is a level of performance that you can't achieve any other way," he continued. "It also gives you the efficiency to achieve a battery that lasts all day long."

Today, the original iPad does seem slow, but also just like it can't do much, you can't do much with it. The slowness is noticeable, but the iPad of 2010 doesn't need to be much faster because nobody's going to be running Final Cut Pro on it.

Top of the range specifications then and now



Take that "level of performance that you can't achieve any other way." It's hard to truly gauge the speed difference between iPads based on different processors, but there are some comparisons you can easily make.

Such as how the Apple A4 processor in the original iPad was a single-core one, while the new M4 iPad Pro has 10 CPU cores and 10 GPU ones --- not to mention a Neural Engine. Then the new M4 is built on a 3 nanometer process, where the A4 used a 45 nanometer one.

Certain details of the A4 are now curiously hard to establish, but a couple of sources around the time said it had 149 million transistors. The M4 has 28 billion transistors.

As different as the details are, these specifications are actually the same -- they are the best possible in their time.

Two Apple iPads showcased with one displaying the calendar app and another showing a news website.
The original iPad on Apple's website in 2010

Specifications you can feel



Then there's that "so thin and so light" comment of Jony Ive's. The original iPad weighed 1.5lbs while the new 13-inch iPad Pro is 1.28lbs.

That doesn't sound like as much of a progression as every other specification, except that it is. For that original iPad was a concentrated 9.56 inches by 7.47 inches, while the new one is 11.09 inches by 8.48 inches.

So the weight is spread out over a much bigger size, which then seems all the greater because comparatively little of the new iPad Pro's front is taken up with bezels.

Then there's also the width. The new 13-inch iPad Pro is 0.2 inches where the original was 0.5 inches.

That's a difference you really feel as the original now seems bulbous. On the other hand, the new one feels breakable. And, we're sure that breathless YouTube videos with little scientific rigor doing just that are coming very soon.

The iPad as a consumption device



Contrary to Jobs' original portrayal of the iPad as an all-purpose tool, the original iPad was so strongly criticized after release for being a device only for consuming media rather than creating anything, that the criticism persists to this day. That's despite Apple's own "Let Loose" launch event video being created and edited at least in part on iPads.

Person edits a rock climbing documentary on a tablet with climbing gear nearby.
Final Cut Pro 2 on a new iPad Pro



Even though today you could still want iPads to do more -- such as allowing round-trip editing for Final Cut Pro between iPads and Macs -- it's true that the original model was markedly more limited.

For a start, the original iPad had no cameras. None at all. The new 13-inch iPad Pro has a 12MP wide camera on the rear, plus an Ultra Wide 12MP camera with Center Stage on the front.

Then while you could always watch video on the iPad, with the new 13-inch iPad Pro you're going to be able to watch four videos being simultaneously streamed live from iPhones or other iPads.

Plus what you're watching will look unimaginably better than it did. That 9.7-inch LED backlit display on the 2010 iPad had 132dpi and a resolution of 1024x768 pixels.

You know where this is going. The 13-inch iPad Pro's Ultra Retina XDR is 264dpi with 2420x1668 pixel resolution.

But Apple did quote 10-hours battery life for that original iPad -- and it says exactly the same for the 13-inch iPad Pro. Some things never change.

Except perhaps the headphone jack, which the original iPad had and the new one does not.

And the price. The base Wi-Fi-only model of the new 13-inch iPad Pro is $1,299 where the original iPad was $499.

Although in 2024's money, that's approximately equal to $715. For that, you could today get an 11-inch iPad Air and have $116 left over to put toward a Magic Keyboard.

Still the same concept



Taking a clear swipe at the under-powered netbooks of the day, Steve Jobs famously positioned the iPad as being a "third category of device," one that fit between the smartphone and the laptop. It had to better at email, web browsing, and reading.

"If there's going to be a third category of device, it's going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone," he said. "Otherwise it has no reason for being."

But Jobs later went further and said that devices like the iPad would replace PCs, including Macs. More than a decade after he said that, he's partially right.

"When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that's what you needed on the farms," he said later in 2010. "PCs are going to be like trucks...they are still going to be around [but only] one out of X people will need them."

He wisely didn't define the variable X.

Today, sales figures show that the iPad sells in roughly the same numbers as the Mac he thought it would replace. But looking around at what the iPad is being used for, and where, and it's hard not to think he was right about the future.

The iPad may have begun as a third category of device. By sticking to its original concept, it has ceased to be an adjunct to the iPhone and the MacBook Pro.

Instead, for so many users, including our own Wesley Hilliard, it has become capable enough to be their main computing device.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    Steve Jobs' vision was… ‘a computer that is a slate of glass’ —check AllDigital interview—.
    That's right the actual iPad Pro. You are right.

    But someone then add… a pencil, a (physical) keyboard, and even… function keys! (All those things hated by Steve Jobs!)
    randominternetpersondewmewilliamlondon9secondkox2jellybelly
  • Reply 2 of 26
    XedXed Posts: 2,678member
    Steve Jobs' vision was… ‘a computer that is a slate of glass’ —check AllDigital interview—.
    That's right the actual iPad Pro. You are right.

    But someone then add… a pencil, a (physical) keyboard, and even… function keys! (All those things hated by Steve Jobs!)
    I don't think that's what Jobs meant. Jobs always put marketing first and the iPad with capacitance, multitouch was amazing device because it didn't require a physical keyboard, didn't require a stylus, and included an OS that was built around the HW with an idealized UX.

    Remember that before the iPad there were decades of Windows tablets that were awful. And don't forget that the year before the iPad was announced there were lots of rumors swirling about Apple releasing a tablet which made CES in January 2010 very heavy with tablets. All of which had prices vendors thought would be competitive with Apple's macOS-based tablet as they all were thinking of how vendors did Windows-based tablets in the past. Then it was released at half the price an offshoot of iOS built up as iPad OS.

    You may say bullocks to all that — which is fine — so I enter into evidence Exhibit A, released January 27th, 2010.

    Exhibit A: https://apple.fandom.com/wiki/IPad_Keyboard_Dock
    edited May 9 roundaboutnowwilliamlondon9secondkox2muthuk_vanalingamronnStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,856member
    LOL. Forstall always had that deer in the headlights look. 

    Jobs had a nice simple vision for the iPad. But he would agree about the pencil. It’s not really a stylus per de. More of a better way to create on a touch sensitive surface. He would approve. 

    But doubtful he’d want it to be a Mac competitor. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 26
    jellyapplejellyapple Posts: 116member
    I stopped using iPad some years ago after realising arthritis happens on my finger joints,  wrists finally trigger fingers. Even though the latest iPad seems to be quite light in weigh, I’m still not sure the “flat sheet” design is ergonomic and safe to be held by a hand.
  • Reply 5 of 26
    I stopped using iPad some years ago after realising arthritis happens on my finger joints,  wrists finally trigger fingers. Even though the latest iPad seems to be quite light in weigh, I’m still not sure the “flat sheet” design is ergonomic and safe to be held by a hand.
    Have you tried a mini?
    muthuk_vanalingamiOS_Guy80ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    I noted at the time that Jobs' citation of "all cars were trucks" was insanely coo-coo. He was surely familiar with the Model T.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26
    kiehtankiehtan Posts: 39member
    I don’t think Steve would have envisoned, or tolerated, four different models of iPad or four different Apple Pencils.  
    watto_cobranubus
  • Reply 8 of 26
    XedXed Posts: 2,678member
    kiehtan said:
    I don’t think Steve would have envisoned, or tolerated, four different models of iPad or four different Apple Pencils.  
    You say that, but Jobs tenure at Apple consisted of a lot of inconsistencies.
    muthuk_vanalingamjellybellyronnwatto_cobra9secondkox2
  • Reply 9 of 26
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,475member
    The iPad is still stuck being a content consumer device, apart from Pencil art and a little music and some video. Yes there are powerful music and video apps but you still can do more with a laptop. And buying a keyboard to prop the screen up like a laptop is silly. I purchased three iPads and ended up donating them to family.
  • Reply 10 of 26
    Really incredible how far this device has come since 2010.  In terms of design, the 2018 iPad Pro nailed it — and subsequent models will continue to iterate on this.  The M4 Pro is the next big move, being thinner and lighter yet more powerful — and the new keyboard looks great.  Looking forward to getting mine.

    Would Apple ever move to incorporating the camera elements into the bezel on the iPhone like it is on the iPad?  This would obviously make the bezel larger, but maybe they could shrink the camera elements more to minimize this?
    iOS_Guy80watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 26
    kkqd1337kkqd1337 Posts: 443member
    Is the iPad really anything more than just a big iPhone?
  • Reply 12 of 26
    iOS_Guy80iOS_Guy80 Posts: 849member
    The iPad is still stuck being a content consumer device, apart from Pencil art and a little music and some video. Yes there are powerful music and video apps but you still can do more with a laptop. And buying a keyboard to prop the screen up like a laptop is silly. I purchased three iPads and ended up donating them to family.
    Lucky family members, now they have a new computer.
    ronn
  • Reply 13 of 26
    I use an iPad as my only computer. It suits my needs perfectly. It’s a bigger screen than a phone so I can watch shows on it when I travel, reply to emails quickly, shop and do some writing. I’m sure for hard core professionals who might code, or do graphic arts it just won’t cut it, but that’s what Macs are for. Until the two OS’s are completely molded into one, you can’t compare the two in my opinion. They server different use cases. 
    Alex_V
  • Reply 14 of 26
    AniMillAniMill Posts: 170member
    I have the M1 MBP 14” maxed out, and it’s a beast. But I haven’t used it in a year. Why? My workstation is an M1 Ultra with my 1st gen iPad Pro 11” as my “Wacom.” This a paradigm shift for me: I can draw at the desk, or carry it a few feet away and still work my PSD image on the M1. Astropad and Procreate are The Killer Apps for iPad. I’m putting my MBP on eBay so I can buy the new 11” iPad Pro. Funny enough, my 1st gen iPad Pro 11” still feels fast, but the screen is cracked and to replace it is $800. Might as well get the new one.
    ronnAlex_V
  • Reply 15 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,936member
    kiehtan said:
    I don’t think Steve would have envisoned, or tolerated, four different models of iPad or four different Apple Pencils.  
    As John Gruber describes it, there being multiple pencils for different models isn’t much different than multiple cases for different iPhone models. You pick the one for your model. Most of us aren’t out there borrowing Apple Pencils.
    ronnpaisleydisco
  • Reply 16 of 26
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,936member
    kkqd1337 said:
    Is the iPad really anything more than just a big iPhone?
    Is a swimming pool really anything more than just a big bathtub?
    kiltedgreenpaisleydiscoronn
  • Reply 17 of 26
    RigiDigiRigiDigi Posts: 14member

    Here's something I'd really like to know, given Apple's ongoing hype about iPad/keyboard combos as a 'replacement' for a laptop in Job's 'post-PC' world: Can we yet actually use it on our laps? Prior models were hopeles, would overbalance & had poor egonomics in this respect. Of course there remains the onging limitations with the dopey, higly limited iOS (vs MacOS). 

    But seriously, for all that vast amount of price gouging, claims & promises: Can a 13" M4 iPad Pro with new keyboard and/or pencil in the lid really be used on one's lap or in other obvious 'on the go' locations? Or is it still confined to desktop use only, just like the models before it.

    BTW, this 'review' reads as though it was written by Apple, hardly much use for considered consumers.

    edited May 10
  • Reply 18 of 26
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,856member
    Xed said:
    kiehtan said:
    I don’t think Steve would have envisoned, or tolerated, four different models of iPad or four different Apple Pencils.  
    You say that, but Jobs tenure at Apple consisted of a lot of inconsistencies.
    Only to a degree. He was pretty on-point all the time. Especially with refinement of product line that made sense. 

    Sure there were some experiments that didn’t work out. But that’s normal. iPod hifi anyone?

    we have to remember that when Jobs was running things, the entire tech/computing/ce industry was like a toddler compared to the mature place it is today. 

    We didn’t have the obviousness of market definitions and opportunities that we do now. 

    In fact, it was Jobs that brought us the mainstream gui computer, the mainstream mouse, I/o standards like FireWire and thunderbolt (through collab with Intel), etc. it was jobs that defined how a tablet should actually work. It was jobs that took the Wild West internet world of music piracy and revolutionized the industry. It was jobs who did the same for the movie industry. It was under jobs that we received the things we take for granted now such as airdrop, mainstream myosin players. It was jobs that absolutely reinvented, reformed, and revolutionized the mobile phone industry with not only the first of its kind iPhone, but encrypted imessaging, visual voicemail, multitouch, etc. and on and on. 

    It was Steve Jobs who forced the entire world to follow his lead as he clearly charted the course and brought us to the place we are at today. Since his passing there has been iteration on many things but not true invention or revolution across the industry. 

    Without Steve Jobs, we would be stuck using some licensed crap OS on bulky computers with non-hidpi screens, portable devices that are too large, that somehow still overheat with crap battery life, and blackberry phones with different keyboard styles would be the status quo. 

    What’s amazing is watching all the mistakes, missteps, and outright travesties across the tech spectrum from literally every tech ceo, when they’re all following the blueprint (to the best of their abilities) laid forth by Steve Jobs. 

    What’s even more amazing is that Steve Jobs himself had so few missteps as he took the primordial ooze of the nascent tech world and built, transformed, and refined it into the efficient, functional, sensible, unbelievably capable, and (in the sense of Apple at least) stylish/cool and mature thing that we all take for granted every day. 

    The guy set his course and despite the best efforts of every pundit, stockbroker, competitor, even his own  coworkers and peers to discourage and a destroy him and his vision, the man somehow overcame all of that and rocketed right back through the giant let arrayed against him, embarassing his naysayers and enemies, and turned the world upside down/rightside up to defy convention, break the accepted norm, prove the wisdom of the day wrong and create a brave new world that is so much better than it was that it’s almost impossible to imagine things any other way. 

    So the guy has a g4 cube. Today we have a Mac Studio. 

    The guy had a newton. Then he gave us the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad. 

    What’s remarkable isn’t that he made a few missteps. What’s remarkable is that he made so few while battling the entire industry by himself with help from a few trusted friends to break out of a dystopian night mate of confusion and absolute junk products to be the bright and shining thing it is today. So let’s be real. His missteps were just a few grains of sand in ann ocean of success. 

    Steve Jobs. The legend that legends tell stories about. And not for no reason. 
    danoxpaisleydisco
  • Reply 19 of 26
    nubusnubus Posts: 459member
    iPad Pro is the touch-mac Apple won't give us. Great hardware that could be so much more with the option to use macOS when a keyboard is attached.

    Any musicians that like installing Logic for iPad and Logic for Mac with different settings and keeping projects coordinated when moving between live and studio? Any video editor that like having two versions of FCP? I get that Apple is happy to sell the software 2x, but Apple should allow users to run macOS.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 26
    nubus said:
    iPad Pro is the touch-mac Apple won't give us. Great hardware that could be so much more with the option to use macOS when a keyboard is attached.

    Any musicians that like installing Logic for iPad and Logic for Mac with different settings and keeping projects coordinated when moving between live and studio? Any video editor that like having two versions of FCP? I get that Apple is happy to sell the software 2x, but Apple should allow users to run macOS.
    Patience. iPadOS Stage Manager and now Function keys on the keyboard. You don't think Apple would love one unified OS? I would like to believe Apple is really trying to get it done. Done only in the Apple way. That is to make is as seamless as possible. 

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