The iPhone began with the early 2000-era Safari Pad project at Apple, which explored full screen, multitouch devices, and eventually ended up being packaged into a phone in 2007, and a tablet in 2010. Now, "thanks" to Samsung's court depositions of Apple Senior Vice President of Design, Jonathan Ive, we can have an actual look at what one of those early tablet prototypes looked like. NetworkWorld did the digging, and quotes Ive talking about what's referred to as the 035 mockup.
My recollection of first seeing it is very hazy, but it was, I'm guessing, sometime between 2002 and 2004, some but it was I remember seeing this and perhaps models similar to this when we were first exploring tablet designs that ultimately became the iPad.
The deposition is under seal, but part of it was recently made public. The photos seem to have been discovered separately but published at the same time. They show pretty much what you'd expect to see -- a rounded rectangle, though apparently made of plastic and not the glass and aluminum the iPhone and iPad were ultimately, originally released with. (And the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS returned to later.)
Thicker, cruder, but still Apple logo adorned and unmistakably the early design ancestor of the thinner, lighter, faster, Retina packed iPad we know and use today.
Patent and trade dress lawsuits are often silly, wasteful, and consumer-hostile, but if there's on thin edge of a silver lining, it's that otherwise hidden away historical material gets put into the public record when it otherwise might not.
That this is part of the ongoing Apple vs. Samsung is sad, but that we get to read and see some of the earliest iPad information and prototypes is pretty damn cool.
Check out more excerpts from the deposition, and more photos of the prototype via the link below.