Photos surface of a large, early-2000s iPad prototype

Apple's early tablet prototype, right, was larger than the company's eventual iPads. That's an iPad 2 on the left.

Story highlights

  • Photos found of an Apple tablet mockup from the early 2000s
  • Early iPad prototype was an inch thick
  • The court documents were part of the ongoing patent fights between Apple and Samsung
Even before Apple came out with its iPhone five years ago, it was experimenting with iPad-like tablets.
NetworkWorld did some digging in court filings and unearthed some of the earliest known photos of an iPad prototype. BuzzFeed then fleshed out the discovery with color photos of the device next to an actual iPad.
Called the 035 mockup, the glass-screened device was double the thickness of the first iPad, about an inch thick compared to .5 inches for the Apple tablet that hit stores in 2010. (The latest version of the iPad is even thinner, at .37 inches.)
The mockup is longer and wider than the iPad, closer in size to a MacBook then the current iPad. It has the iPad's rounded corners and dark black frame around the screen. One feature that's notably missing is the Home button. The back is a glossy white shell, similar to the classic iPods, with a nice big Apple logo in the middle.
The court documents are part of the ongoing patent fights between Apple and Samsung. As part of the case, Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, was deposed in December of last year. Ive was shown the mockup of the big tablet and said, "I recognize this as one of the ... models that we made as part of the design process, as part of the exploration." He believes it was kicking around Apple as early as 2002.
Samsung is fighting Apple's claims the the Galaxy Tab infringes on the iPad's design. The latest interesting ruling in the case came on Thursday, when a UK court said Apple had to post a note on its UK site for six months and run a notice in British newspapers saying that Samsung did not copy the iPad design. Apple is appealing the ruling.
The idea that Apple was playing with glass-screen tablets before the iPhone is not new. Steve Jobs first talked about the unusual evolution of the iOS product line at the AllThingsD conference in 2010.
"I had this idea about having a glass display, a multitouch display you could type on with your fingers. I asked our people about it. And six months later, they came back with this amazing display." said Jobs. He realized the technology could be used to create a phone, and the rest is history.
Of course, the iPad was actually Apple's second try at a tablet computer. The short-lived Newton MessagePad line was released in 1993.