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Steve Jobs, Before the iPad, On Why Tablets Suck 279

Posted by timothy
from the that-was-ithen-this-is-inow dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Edible Apple: "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."
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Steve Jobs, Before the iPad, On Why Tablets Suck

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  • by Snotman (767894) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:24PM (#37278488)

    What a misdirection? Besides, styluses are for good nose picking.

  • Yeah well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:26PM (#37278518) Journal

    That was before he accidentally stumbled into the goldmine that was iOS (remember he didn't want to allow any apps at all at first) and his earlier arguments were made moot by a tsunami of cash.

    • by timster (32400)

      Apple pretending that they had no intention to allow apps on the early iPhone was obviously misdirection in retrospect. At the time they were having enough trouble making the software work at all without crashing, and they didn't want developers/users to avoid it while waiting for the bright app future. Sort of a counter to the Osborne Effect.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Apple pretending that they had no intention to allow apps on the early iPhone was obviously misdirection in retrospect. At the time they were having enough trouble making the software work at all without crashing, and they didn't want developers/users to avoid it while waiting for the bright app future. Sort of a counter to the Osborne Effect.

        Funny, but back in the iOS 1.x days (when rhe only apps were webapps), the jailbreakers had apps, by the dozen. Installer.app was the way (it died out and Cydia came i

    • by fermion (181285)
      This myth has been propagated widely, but I don't think it holds water. One thing that Apple does well is ship a product that performs a limited number of tasks well, not a product that is buzzword compliant. Features are added later. Remember that Mac OS was originally flat file? It is widely known that an iPad can't play flash.

      The web-app never made sense to me because how could Apple hope to differentiate the product? How could they keep people from buying the competition. Of course, as the lack o

  • This is news how? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mensa Babe (675349) * on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:27PM (#37278520) Homepage Journal
    We all remember what Steve Jobs was saying that Apple had "no plans at the current time to make a tablet." We are now 9 years in the future so it is hardly "the current time" that he was referring to. I know it is fashionable here on Slashdot to make fun of Apple but this time there is nothing to laugh at. He was talking about how tablets suck, not that people won't by them, and quite frankly I can only agree with him.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      How the hell is he being made fun of? Clearly he is talking about how tablets at that time were terrible. The cult of Steve is so powerful that you're seeing oppression and mocking where there is none. Relax Francis, no one is taking your precious iphone away.

      • by umghhh (965931)
        but they still are terrible at least for majority of purposes they are so hyped to be used for. There are few uses for which they are good for and this has to be acknowledged but that is it. Unless a major breakthrough in IO is achieved I do not see how they go beyond all the limited entertainment device.
    • Re:This is news how? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:49PM (#37278840) Homepage Journal

      We also know that Apple has some experience in trying to pioneer handwriting technology (the Apple Newton, I think it was) and are therefore well acquainted with the challenges involved (power requirements, error rates, CPU overheads, etc). That knowledge-base has existed for Apple for a long time now. Yes, technology has progressed, but if you can squeeze N% more out of a modern CPU for the same power input then Apple can easily run the numbers to see if N% is enough.

      This doesn't mean Apple will always be right. Hell, the fact that they pushed the Newton and the Lisa out into the marketplace before the products were useful is evidence that they can be mistaken. What it does mean is that they've good cause to be cautious and they've actual real-world data to work from. They may be reading the numbers wrong, but I'm confident that they're actually taking the time to read them.

      (Compare that to Bill Gates' notion that the Internet was a fad. He had no experience in networking at all, he had no numbers to crunch, he made an arrogant remark without basis and it was obvious at the time that that was what it was. Networking had been emerging for longer than he'd been in computing and was on an exponential growth curve. By the time Microsoft was ready to deal with IPv4, next-generation technologies were already being developed because the sustained demand was too great. IPv6 stacks were actually being released for Windows before Microsoft's IPv4 stack was integrated - and that's even after Microsoft took most of their network code from the BSD tapes.)

      • Re:This is news how? (Score:5, Informative)

        by VGPowerlord (621254) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @04:24PM (#37279380)

        By the time Microsoft was ready to deal with IPv4, next-generation technologies were already being developed because the sustained demand was too great. IPv6 stacks were actually being released for Windows before Microsoft's IPv4 stack was integrated - and that's even after Microsoft took most of their network code from the BSD tapes.

        I'm going to have to say you're wrong.

        Windows 95, released in August 1995, integrated an IPv4 stack. The first IPv6 RFC, RFC1883 [ietf.org], was posted in December 1995. It was replaced in December 1998 with RFC2460 [ietf.org].

      • by _xeno_ (155264)

        Compare that to Bill Gates' notion that the Internet was a fad.

        Bill Gates didn't say the Internet as in networking was a fad, he said that he thought that the web was a fad. So all that stuff about IPv4 is kind of irrelevant.

        Actually, researching this, it appears he didn't say that either. But it's well known that Microsoft was slow to create a web browser, and wound up buying one from another company to compete with Netscape. So even if he didn't say it, the company still acted like they thought it was a fad. And, hell, in 1994, can you really blame them?

        I'm not reall

    • by Locutus (9039)
      well said. Processors at that time were not up to the performance and power usage they needed to be and x86 still isn't so as you stated, this is now and that was then. He at least was smart enough to know that fitting OSX on the iPad or iPhone was not a smart move. Unlike some other company who still wants their bloated desktop OS on their phones and tablets.

      LoB
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:28PM (#37278530) Journal

    Tablets still fail as computers, and I don't think Jobs' ideas about them have changed. But there are a lot of people who can afford $500 as their "third" computer (or now "second" with laptops being powerful enough to be a primary). And Jobs said there was a market for that, it's just a lot bigger than it was 8 years ago.

    There's a reason there isn't a keyboard accessory sold by Apple. If you want a keyboard, and you're going to type so much you need one, get a MacBook. Unfortunately, I think that's holding back the desire to get a pressure sensitive stylus added to the interface options on the iPad (well, that and probably a ton of patents held by Wacom), which would expand the usability of a tablet quite a bit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apple does sell a keyboard accessory, specifically designed for the iPad. The iPad is also compatible with any bluetooth keyboard.

    • by pinkj (521155)
      Fail as computers? It might not be the best word processor, but with a keyboard it could be fine. I don't know since I haven't tried. But 'fail' is definitely too strong a word.

      It has a decent web browser (other than no flash!), great games, musical instruments, is a great ebook/comic book reader, has a DAW controller, has GPS, has a constellation map, email, and innumerable utilities for countless professions.
    • Then tell me how I ordered an Apple Ipad keyboard with my pad on the apple web sight. Its got the same white apple keys, in the same size as does the Imac keyboard, just with the right hand junk pads missing. I think you got your facts a bit off.
    • The price of computers have dramatically dropped so many can afford a third computer. But also bear in mind that back then, there wasn't as much content as exists today.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Did you even spend 1 second on google?

      Of course Apple makes an iPad keyboard. It was launched *with the original iPad*.

      Bluetooth keyboards (including Apple's) also work.

    • Tablets still fail as computers

      That's only true if you see computers as an end unto themselves rather than as a means to an end. Take a random person off the street, ask them what they use a computer for. What'll they say ? Email, the web, chatting, watching video, listening to music, managing their pictures, playing games, etc. iPads cover a great deal of what regular people use their computer for and do it in an extremely user friendly way, how's that failing as a computer ?

    • There are already capacitive styluses available that work with an iPad, no need for a pressure sensitive one.
  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:30PM (#37278558)
    That was back before anybody really knew how much money people would throw at a company that makes throwaway electronics with short shelf lives and no user replaceable parts.
    • by Dog-Cow (21281)

      I am listening to music on a 3 year old iPod Touch (first gen.), and it shows no signs of dying. Battery holds up, and there's not a single scratch on the screen. I use it all the time.

      Perhaps you or your acquaintances need to stop throwing stuff at walls.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AngryDeuce (2205124)

        Well my 3rd gen iPod's battery lasted about a year and a few months before I couldn't get more than 30-45 minutes on a charge, just long enough to be out of warranty of course, and of course I didn't buy Applecare so that meant I had to hand over $99 to Apple and wait 3 months for them to send it off to replace it. Of course, I purchased a 3rd party battery online for all of $10 dollars and replaced it myself in a whopping 3 minutes, the majority of which was spent wrestling the case apart since they make

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          Cool story bro.

          Opening an iPod Touch is easy. Took me about 15 minutes to swap out the battery. That included making tea.

          Also what battery manufacturer is this? Don't make me use a wikipedia "citation needed" tag. I've had no problems obtaining replacement batteries for the iPhone (even the 3G) and iPod Touch lineup.

          My 3Gs was a snap - 10 minutes and $20 and it's as good as new. The 3G it replaced is still going strong - I gave it to a family member.

          • by Carnildo (712617)

            Opening an iPod Touch is easy. Took me about 15 minutes to swap out the battery. That included making tea.

            I can replace the batteries in my camera in 15 seconds.

    • There aren't to many user replaceable parts on laptops, also the new iPads have less parts that will fail.
      I remember it was a big thing when Intel started offered motherboards where you can swap out the CPU and put a new one in. Everyone was yea this is way cool... However what happened was people got the mother board and then got the fastest CPU it could support. If you wanted to upgrade your CPU you needed to upgrade your motherboard because it was maxed out.

      You are looking at the Design tradeoffs witho

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        There aren't to many user replaceable parts on laptops

        Batteries, RAM, disks, wireless card, possibly GPU. Heck, my first laptop even had a socketed CPU.

        Those are most of the things that anyone might want to replace.

        • I guess we're supposed to just chuck it and buy a new one, because yay consumerism! Fixing your devices instead of replacing them is anti-American and hurts the economy!
        • Batteries, RAM, disks, wireless card, possibly GPU. Heck, my first laptop even had a socketed CPU.

          So you could replace all that, even the CPU - yet I'll bet you don't use that laptop any longer.

          While yes, you can replace RAM or disks on most laptops, how long can you realistically do that for and still have a usable laptop?

          The iPad is built such that the components it has serves as well as the total life time of a laptop with replaceable components, possibly even longer (early days but it seems that way cur

      • When my laptop's videocard died, I was able to replace it myself for $80, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than a new, decent laptop meant for serious work.
    • by wsxyz (543068)
      I'm typing this on a 2007 MacBook on which battery, memory and hard drive are easily replaced by the user.
    • by peragrin (659227)

      I got an iPhone 3G when they first came out. I still use it every day. It has been dropped onto concrete, drowned, and never once has had a girly case protecting it.

      the back is scratched up but you can read all the labels, with this last dunking in water it has finally started to corrode the sim card socket. However it works just fine, battery life is still good for 2-3 days for "MY" usage.

      by products that are designed to live a long time to begin with and they have a good chance of living twice as long

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I replaced the HD myself in my 2006 iMac. Still going strong.

      Have also replaced hard drives in at least 3 different types of Mac (iBook, Powerbook 12", Macbook Pro), and the optical drive (with a generic whitebox DVD burner) in a 12" Powerbook.

      The i5 and i7's in the new iMacs are socketed, the GPU is on a separate board, the HD and optical drive are SATA, Apple also released a firmware update for the MBP to ensure stable SATA3 6GB/s speed even though they don't personally ship any SATA3 parts after homebrew

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:30PM (#37278564)

    I guess this shows you how clear and consistent Steve Jobs' vision has been on this topic?

    • by DerPflanz (525793)

      I guess this shows you how clear and consistent Steve Jobs' vision has been on this topic?

      Being able to change your views and business focus makes you survive the next crisis or get rich on the next boom.

      Stick to your ideas, views and principles and your business will fail or stay niche at best.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        And throwing misdirections to lull the competition into complacency also helps. At this Jobs have been a master. It is almost as if one can make the claim that the more Jobs decried something, the closer Apple was to launch a product in that segment.

    • This was the guy who was denying there was an iPhone a month before it came out. I'm not saying he didn't change his mind but if they did have a proto iPad at the time he sure wouldn't have spilled the beans to Mossberg.

  • He lacked vision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:32PM (#37278596) Journal

    he's right about handwriting, and keyboards, and email

    but email wasn't the killer app

    the phone was. when Apple skipped tablets and turned phones into computers (i mean, when it decided Palm's ideas could be slightly improved and packaged in boner-inducing ways), it dived right in.

    and email started to decline and texting grew. because texting is just email you can tolerate to write at 2 cps, and was already on phones.

    and, interestingly, phone calls have died as well. because the phone-computer idea wasn't about calling people, it was about having that whole package of computing and connectivity in one pocket instead of two or three.

    then, once the small-form-factor touchscreen interface device got popular, it was a natural transform to pull on its edges to make it, simply, a bigger version of the same thing. hence we're back to tablets. which aren't notebooks without keyboards; they're smartphones with extra spatial extent.

    and i doubt that jobs saw this coming in 2003. all he saw was that tabletized notebooks were bollocks. which they were.

    • by sunfly (1248694)

      Apple skipped tablets and turned phones into computers

      Interestingly enough, they developed the tablet first, but ended up shipping the phone first.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        We only have Jobs word for that (unless there have been some named Apple engineer that have come out and confirmed it), and the guy is a savant spin doctor. One year he claims people do not read, the next Apple launch ebooks for iphone. And never do we see the guy confess to a mea culpa or anything even close to that. It was almost as if the more Jobs decried something, the more likely it was that Apple had some project in the lab that was about to launch that aimed directly at that topic.

        • by hondo77 (324058)

          One year he claims people do not read, the next Apple launch ebooks for iphone.

          To be fair, he said that in regards to coming out with a dedicated ebook reader. He was right, they don't read enough to make a single-task ebook reader worth it for Apple.

          • by hitmark (640295)

            I could have sworn it was in response to a general question about Apple getting getting into the ebook market.

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      and email started to decline

      Email is currently running around 90 TRILLION messages a year, and continuing to rise.

      Text messaging has a ways to go before getting even close.

      • by tepples (727027)
        But what percent of the 90 trillion e-mail messages are unsolicited bulk e-mail? Because people in some major markets pay to receive text messages, there are laws against text spam.
    • He was right about all of it.

      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.

      That's kind of the iPad market. it just turns out to be a decent-sized market.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      but email wasn't the killer app

      the phone was. when Apple skipped tablets and turned phones into computers (i mean, when it decided Palm's ideas could be slightly improved and packaged in boner-inducing ways), it dived right in.

      Eh? Pretty much everyone knew PDAs and phones were going to converge. A lot of geeks didn't like it since PDAs were "their" toy while phones were something the masses used. But once the Blackberry took off it was pretty clear that they would converge. The only question was whe

    • when Apple skipped tablets and turned phones into computers

      Apple was not the one who "turned phones into computers". That was either Palm, or possibly Symbian or WinMo, depending on which way you look at it - but either way, years before. And people who actually needed a pocket computer were using them all the way back then. It's just that not so many people did.

      Apple was the one who turned phones in "infotainment" devices. Not a computer - not what we normally understand by "computer" - but a locked-down device with tightly controlled user experience even for thir

  • Get your facts straight. Misc comments on styluses and handwriting aside, Apple fellow Alan Kay came up with the first known concept design for the tablet back in the 1960's with the Dynabook. At the time he was working for Xerox PARC, the facility's researchers came up with the first Windowed Graphical User Interface and the first Ethernet controllers. Granted Apple ripped them off mercilessly for the original Mac design, but Xerox signed a released that allowed them to have it. Go figure. Ironically
    • by gubers33 (1302099)
      I don't think anyone will diagree that the Dynabook was the first Tablet, but it was produced by Kay while at Xerox not Apple. Kay worked for Apple for a little more than 10 years...during that time Jobs was not at the company and Kay was let go when Jobs returned and closed the R&D dept. Kay was part of. I wouldn't give credit to Apple for pioneering just innovating into something consumers wanted to buy thanks in part to the iPhone.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:44PM (#37278766)
    The user interface is more compact on a cellphone, not bloated like on a PC. A fortuitous discovery Steve probably made after 2003.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @04:04PM (#37279098) Homepage

    Microsoft doesn't deserve much credit, either. Microsoft was thought to be late to the tablet party. Conceptually, the credit should go to Alan Kay for the "Dynabook." The 1989 GRiDpad was the first real product, and there was an immense amount of buzz around GO! Computing's 1992 PenPoint. Microsoft really just genned up "Windows for Pen Computing" as a sort of me-too response to PenPoint. Wang Labs had something called "Guide" (after the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) which got lost in the collapse of the company; the people working on it went on to found a company called, if memory serves me, Arthur Dent, but I don't know what happened to it.

    Apple deserves credit for the iPad in much the same way as it deserves credit for the GUI... and Edison deserves credit for the electric light, and the Wright Brothers deserve credit for the airplane. None of them really "invented" these things, none of them were really the first, and most of the technology was in the air waiting to be commercialized. But in each case they were the first to make it to market with something that didn't suck--with a finished, usable, "perfected"--to use an old-fashioned word--product.

  • by mewsenews (251487) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @04:05PM (#37279112) Homepage

    Microsoft and Gates' vision of tablet computing back then was a full desktop operating system with a stylus and handwriting recognition.

    Steve Jobs pointed out in 2003 that even done very, very well, handwriting recognition still sucks.

    The iPhone, a mini tablet released in 2007, had an operating system built ground up with a touch interface (no stylus), and when it came to text input it popped up an on-screen keyboard (no handwriting recognition).

    The article closes with Jobs acknowledging that tablets would be good for reading articles (I saw a project on hack-a-day where someone built an iPad bracket into their kitchen so they could read recipes), and joking that tablets are a niche market.

    Microsoft's tablet efforts in 2003 were worse than niche market, they were failures. Apple blew the market wide open by not following the same path.

  • Wow, looking at the picture, he was a chubby guy not too long ago... damn... Hope his treatments are working out for him.

  • > "[...] why Jobs felt that stylus computing and handwriting recognition were inherent failures."

    Well, yes, they *were* failures. This is why currently successful tablets (a) do not use styli, and (b) do not depend on handwriting recognition for primary text input.

  • Of course the folks who created the first even-a-little-bit-popular tablet had a bunch of opinions about tablets and really high standards. I would be shocked if s/he didn't.

  • and more specifically, why Jobs felt that stylus computing and handwriting recognition were inherent failures.

    One notes that the iPad uses neither a stylus nor handwriting recognition...

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