It’s crazy to think that it’s been 14 years of the iPad. At this point, I’m sure that many of you don’t remember that this wasn’t even the first tablet PC. Decades of science fiction had us dreaming of the concept of a truly portable computer, and many companies tried to make some version of this throughout the 90s and failed. We could credit Microsoft for all the resources it poured into its Tablet PC vision back in 2002, but even that ideal proved to be ahead of its time.

After many years of rumors, Apple finally took a stab at it on April 3, 2010, after probably one of our favorite keynotes by Steve Jobs on January 27. I even remember the moment he said words like: “And the question has arisen lately; is there room for a third category of device in the world? Something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone.

The first-generation iPad turned out to be a lot less than many expected, and that was maybe the secret to its initial success. After years of rumors, Apple’s first tablet was the complete opposite to what Microsoft launched more than a decade earlier. Many expected this to be a tablet version of the Mac, but instead, this ended up being more like a larger iPhone. Obviously, this idea sounds ridiculous today, with an iPhone 15 Pro Max boasting a 6.7-inch display, but back in 2010, the iPhone 3GS barely had less than half that footprint.

I remember a day when Steve Jobs famously defended this approach from all its initial criticism. Like the iPhone, this new tablet wasn’t really as powerful as a computer, but then it wasn’t trying to be. It was meant to be a better solution for the millions of people that didn’t really need a laptop for basic tasks like browsing the web or responding to email. The idea was really to just bring all the convenience of the iPhone to a larger canvas. We even found out later from Steve himself that the original project was the iPad, up until he realized that it would be a far better strategy to start with the phone first.

I even think its initial price was a clear indication that Apple was never out to compete with the PC. $499 was a lot less money than many predicted and way below what a Tablet PC would cost. Instead, the real target was to give users a better alternative to the now-deceased Netbook, which, as Steve once said, was not better at anything.

The first iPad launched months before we knew what a Retina Display would be. It had no cameras since FaceTime didn’t really launch until June. Even the Apple Pencil had to wait another six years since Steve Jobs was completely against the concept of a stylus. That base launch price gave you a meager 16GB of storage, a single basic speaker, and the 30-pin connector many of you might not remember. For all intents and purposes, the iPad was a companion device that could do certain things better than its alternatives, but wasn’t necessarily a product that was out to replace them.

Another famous interview that also delved into the situation at the time even saw Steve Jobs compare computers to trucks and boldly claimed that in the future, the market would depend more on Post-PC devices like the iPad or the iPhone. Like trucks, PCs would still exist but would be needed for far less activities as more specialized devices evolved.

What’s interesting is that for its initial run, Steve’s thought process proved to be right. The iPad far exceeded sales expectations, so much so that in a move that was completely out of character, Apple launched the iPad 2 just 11 months after the first one. The convenience this simpler tablet brought was so powerful, that we quickly saw Motorola launch the first Android tablet, and so on, and so forth.

You’d think that by now we’d be a world full of cars and less trucks, but the reality is that the ideal didn’t last. iPad sales started to dip years later, and don’t even get me started on how bad it went for Android tablets. At this point I’m not sure Steve was ready to see the Phablet succeed with devices like the Galaxy Note, so much so that even Apple had to follow on this trend a few years later. Once you consider this aspect of having a large phone that can do tablet things, and where the tablet isn’t as powerful as to replace your computer for everything, things get complicated.

All this said, the last thing I would’ve ever expected is that the A4 chip that Apple pioneered with this first iPad, ended up becoming the company’s best long-term strategy ever, as Apple Silicon became the paradigm shift that rejuvenated the Mac. We might not necessarily be in the Post-PC era that Steve envisioned, but Apple Silicon has pushed the market into a direction that’s finally given consumers the thin, light and portable computers that traditional PCs could never live up to. We spent years wondering why Apple continued to strap iPads with such powerful A chips, up until we realized the iPad was the test bed for the M reality we have today.

2023 was an interesting year, though, as it became the first time where Apple didn’t launch any iPads at all — although some new models are expected to launch later this month — and where we expect the company to finally bring the major overhaul this category has needed since day one. 14 years of iPad has seen this lineup evolve in so many ways, even up to the point of truly wanting you to question if you need a computer. We now have more iPad variations than ever, but I still feel iPadOS is what stands in between that new idea of having us agree with Apple’s advertisement on “What’s a computer.”