Today is Apple iPad’s line 10th birthday, which is kind of a surprise despite the brand’s focus on iPhone and Macbook line. Turns out iPad has it own journey of innovation. From a black-and-white screen tablet with limited capability to an revolutionary PC substitute.

While the iPad was a big hit that launched a successful product line, it wasn’t Apple’s first attempt at a handheld, touch-based computer. That honor belongs to the Newton MessagePad which launched in 1993 at the exorbitant price of US$900.By today’s standards, it was more of a personal digital assistant, or PDA, than a tablet.

But the MessagePad was a bold step for Apple, a stylus-based portable computer that used handwriting recognition software to translate what users wrote into on-screen text. The only problem is that it didn’t work very well. The MessagePad soon became the butt of jokes in popular cartoons like Doonesbury and The Simpsons because of its inability to accurately translate what you’d written into text. Apple kept producing new MessagePad models until 1998. But, after that, it would be another 12 years before the company revisited the idea.

The original iPad launched in the U.S. in April of 2010, but it was a far cry from the powerful tablets Apple sells now. It started at $499, had a measly 1,024 x 768 resolution, and only offered up to 64GB of internal storage. For comparison, a current-generation iPad Pro  model can go up to a 2,732 x 2,048 resolution and allows for up to 1TB of storage.

Features like FaceTime, multitasking, 4K video capture, AirPlay, and plenty of others we take for granted in Apple devices now weren’t available at the iPad’s launch. In fact, its biggest claims to fame were arguably two-fold: It had the ability to use existing iPhone apps (albeit on a bigger screen) and the iBooks app, an Amazon Kindle rival.

Don’t get us wrong, the original iPad was still extremely cool at the time. But when you look at what the line can do now, the OG is rather quaint in comparison. It’s kind of like how the first of The Fast and The Furious movies was about stealing DVD players and, now, they’re basically superhero movies featuring cars.

he ascension of the iPad as a popular consumer product also brought about the somewhat hilarious trend of iPad photography. Make no mistake, modern iPads have powerful cameras that can produce incredible photos and videos, much like their smaller brethren, the iPhones. But there’s still something a bit funny about seeing someone take a photo with a big tablet.

It makes a lot of sense that iPads were popular in schools in the early part of the last decade. They’re more portable than desktop computers and today’s kids are indisputably more adept at using touchscreens than they are at traditional mouse-and-keyboard setups.

The good news for Apple is that, a decade after its debut, the iPad is still wildly successful. The ubiquitous tablet crossed the 400 million sales mark in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe that momentum will stop anytime soon.

To put it in a different way, Strategy Analytics found that more than 26 percent of all tablet shipments in the third quarter of 2019 were iPads. No other brand of tablet had higher than 13.9 percent. The combined power of all Android tablets dwarfed iPad shipments, but no individual product line was more popular than the one that arguably started it all.

After a decade, it’s obvious and inarguable that the iPad experiment worked out for Apple. It’s still the most recognizable tablet despite the number of competitors and there’s something to be said for that. We’ll just have to wait and see what the second decade of the iPad brings to the table.


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