iPad thoughts from @imranchaudhri & @bella_bongiorno via @faqmac…
When I got this piece I realized why I was following Imran @ instagram 😂
He (Steve Jobs) wasn’t a huge fan of research for research sake…
I joined immediately after that and started as a project manager on the iPhone. There was a very small team back then; we sat kind of in one hallway. [The phone] was definitely a startup within Apple and I was brought on board because the project manager that was working there really didn’t like working with designers and really didn’t like working at the higher levels of the stack. She preferred kind of working at a lower level; the core operating system and the kernel and things like that.
Then very quickly after that, they told me that the real reason they had to hire me was because Steve had this pet project that he was really excited about and they needed somebody to lead that effort because the team really needed to remain focused on development of iPhone. They needed to kind of spin up a startup within a startup that would be a small team to build this new project codenamed K48. K48 was hardware and Wildcat was the codename for the software.
The story of the iPad goes way back beyond before the phone. It started out as this project called Q79. Q79 was the product that was built around multitouch exploration. So we were, at the time, looking at “How can we actually move computing forward? What’s wrong with the Mac? And what’s keeping it from being really, really more responsive and more direct?” A lot of those questions are answered in terms of “How do we actually achieve a more direct and more responsive input through multitouch?” and that program was built around creating a product line called Q79. At the time, it was looking at bringing a multitouch screen to a Macintosh laptop. Specifically the iBook, at the time. It turned out that was a really, really expensive endeavor and it just wasn’t really going to be successful for Apple to build a super expensive computer coming off of having released the Cube, which didn’t do well. We kind of pulled away from that effort and focused on a much smaller thing, which was the phone. When we resurrected the iPad, we knew that it was always designed as a computer and it was literally the perfect playground for multitouch. The phone was the first delivery mechanism but we always knew that we wanted a desktop class face to run applications for multitouch.
…We always need to look at what the real customer needs, even if the customer doesn’t understand where things are going.
I think what’s interesting about being a part of, you know, developing a totally new platform and a totally new product category — which the iPad was one example of many times that we’ve done that — is that the whole process for building it isn’t a straight line. It was incredibly iterative.
I definitely think there were some things that we felt were really important and some things even on the hardware side that we thought were really important that people ultimately didn’t really use. And a lot of it, I think, was because it was a little bit too early.
When it was first designed, we were imagining how people were going to use it in this space. So we created this dock that gave you the opportunity to mount it to a keyboard and so that it could look like an iMac class thing. Again remember, we were always designing this as a computer to begin with, but it wasn’t as powerful as a computer at the time. …
We talked about the hope that it would be kind of this photo frame, like ‘“How are they going to get the photos on it?” We actually didn’t believe that people would walk around taking pictures with their iPad. It was actually a funny internal conversation when we started seeing people outside taking their iPad with them and taking photos on vacation.
…the [iPad] camera is super funny. That’s the other thing that we didn’t anticipate being so big. But it was a segment of the population at the time that really was using the camera more than anything else. …seeing that, we went back in and redesigned the camera experience on the iPad —recognizing that this is going to be a thing that we just can’t get people away from because they want this larger viewfinder.
(about Apple pencil)… You know, it wasn’t a consideration at all. We always felt that the fidelity of touch was always going to be enough for you to do what you wanted to do. But the thing that was really driving a lot of the explorations in the Pencil were using the Pencil as a controller so that you could drive the software and get the most out of it. We put a lot of sensors into the Pencil that allowed you to replicate different angles of the point of your pen. So the rotation, that you could use to create a really defined calligraphy, then also [you were] able to take the Pencil and go from its point to its side to really enable high fidelity shading. We built those degrees of operation into the Pencil so that people could have that enriched level of input. …when they opened it up for developers. …So you started to see great note-taking applications come forward, which wasn’t really the point, so to speak, of the Apple Pencil, but it was an enriched use case that came out of it.
I think it’ll be interesting for all of us to watch and see how Apple evolves the iPad. But, you know, I think one of the struggles that customers have with the iPad right now is really trying to figure out what role it plays in terms of a portable class computer. You have a traditional desktop computer or a traditional laptop computer — and where does the iPad fit in? You know, I would hope and I think they would continue to evolve it to a point where the iPad does end up doing a lot more that the Mac [currently] does and that the Mac redefines itself as more of a professional tool and the iPad defines itself as more of a mass consumer computing platform. I think that would be almost like a natural progression. …
I’ll say that my biggest point of pride was that, you know, the iPad team was a startup within a startup. We really were able to pull off a pretty impossible feat with a very small team with hardware that, at the time, was really underpowered for what we needed it to be. We had a lot of engineering feats that we had to overcome as a collective group between design and engineering to make it happen and I think given that it was Steve, one of the last projects that he was really deeply involved in, I feel a lot of pride that we were able to to be successful for him in his vision and what he wanted. That’s something that I hold on to as being something that I’m really proud of.
…I’m really proud of the fact that we were able to start that and have that trajectory continue through today and that this product in particular means so much to so many people. …It’s an amazing learning tool. It is so many things to so many people. And that is what great computing is all about.
I would say one regret is that it became really hard after we shipped the iPad to continue to push it forward in the way that I think Imran and myself and others at the company really wanted to. The gravity of the phone was so big — and it still is so big, right? It makes it really hard. Because, again, we were a small team. …we were a startup within the company and the iPad was a startup within the startup. …so it took a little bit longer than what we would have liked to really see that platform push forward towards being more of a laptop killer, which I think we’re seeing a lot of progress on now. I think one regret would be that we didn’t figure out a way to keep that momentum going in a way that I would have liked.
I think what we originally envisioned was designed as a consumption device. One of the things that Steve had in his, like, mini-brief for it was “I really want to be able to use this for mail while sitting on the toilet” and that level of consumption and ease was something that went into us wanting it to replace your newspaper and wanting it to replace the books in your life. And I think the one regret that I have is that we weren’t as successful in going through and replacing the textbooks that kids have to use today in school. I think we started there, but we never could really push off on that. I think a lot of that is really driven by business decisions and the gravity of the phone and the app ecosystem [being] so big. But, you know, I think our vision of making it so that kids weren’t lugging around massive backpacks full of books is something that I wish we were able to do, but we weren’t during our time …that would be one regret.