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Apple's iPad turns 2: A look back and ahead

Apple's iPad made its debut two years ago today. CNET takes a look back at its origins, its successes, and what's rumored to be coming next.

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs showing off the iPad for the first time in 2010.
Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs showing off the iPad for the first time in 2010. James Martin/CNET

Two years ago today, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs took to the stageto unveil what was perhaps one of the most-rumored devices the company had ever concocted.

The iPad, or as it had been imagined the "iSlate," was unveiled this day in 2010 at an intimate event in downtown San Francisco. The tablet was pitched as a new category of device that would fit between a smartphone and a notebook, while presenting distinct advantages.

"It's so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone," Jobs said.

In the run up to the event, speculation reached new heights over what exactly Apple would announce. The world had settled on the fact that it would be a tablet, but the details on what that would entail were all over the place.

Price estimates ranged from $500 to $2,000. Reports surfaced on components, including the suggestion that Apple was planning to use OLED screens (it didn't). There was even this "spy shot" of a very un-iPad-like device doubling as a phone.

What we got was a 9.7-inch touch-screen tablet with Apple's A4 processor and running iOS. It was the first such device in Apple's lineup to use one of Apple's A-line chips, which the company later ended up using in the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Apple TV set-top box.

Initial reception
The consensus among the press was "let's wait and see," primarily because the device was not going on sale until April. Others took a decidedly more opinionated approach, declaring it as anything from the next big thing to Apple's biggest mistake yet.

Below are a handful of opinions on both sides from the pros, and CNET readers.

From critics:

"Like the iPhone, the iPad is really a vessel, a tool, a 1.5-pound sack of potential. It may become many things. It may change an industry or two, or it may not. It may introduce a new category--something between phone and laptop--or it may not. And anyone who claims to know what will happen will wind up looking like a fool."
-David Pogue, The New York Times

"So, the iPad is more than just a giant iPod Touch or iPhone, even though it looks like one. But the question is, will that be enough to get consumers to shell out for it, and make it part of their daily lives? Or will it be a niche product, like Microsoft's Tablet PC or Mr. Jobs' own Apple TV?"
-Walt Mossberg, All Things Digital

"For starters, it will take years to reach a critical mass of users. The iPhone passed the 20 million mark in two years, but it's significantly cheaper than the iPad and its utility much more obvious. More important, the iPad doesn't enable publishers to do anything they can't already do online with PCs or with smartphones. The only difference I can see is the ability to show something that more closely resembles the current product (when holding the iPad in portrait mode). Would that lead more people to pay for a subscription? Really?"
-John Healy, The Los Angeles Times

"There's no question that much of what the iPhone and iPod Touch do translates nicely here, and there's no question that some of the tweaks made to native iPad apps are impressive, but nothing I saw made me sit up and think, 'Wow, I need this.'...Now there isn't a doubt in my mind that the iPad will really come into its own when developers get their hands on it, and I know that I'll find a reason to drop $500 (at least) on this thing--but for the vast majority of consumers, I think the case for the iPad has yet to be made."
-Joshua Topolsky, Engadget

"It's too early to predict how successful Apple will be selling the iPad. It's pricier than other solutions, and it may not be an easy sell to non-geeks. That said, Apple is going to make millions off the iPad. Hundreds of millions."
-James Kendrick, GigaOm

"All in all, I think they've got a category-straddling winner here, but it's a bit of a gangly pseudopodal mutant at the same time. It doesn't kill the laptop or the PC quite yet, but you can at least see how Apple intends to choke the life out of those markets."
-Joel Johnson, Gizmodo

"But in the end, Jobs introduced something that is probably going to sell in the range of a few million units this year, much closer to one of the company's Macs than its runaway hits like the iPod and iPhone. Not the company's next huge growth story. Not now, anyway.

Apple fans hoping for the next revolution--or investors hoping for the company's next iPhone--should be disappointed."
-Dan Frommer, Business Insider

From CNET readers
Our live coverage of the event garnered 575 comments from readers, the vast majority of which were vehemently aghast at Apple's creation. Here are some of the highlights (good and bad):

"Damn, I thought Nook was a bad name."

"I'm going to wait for the Microsoft Courier. With that price, I would expect something that would revolutionalize how I work and organize my person information and ideas."

"This is a need not a over!...retails under $500...this is sick!"

"iBAD. Clunky physical layout. Can the borders be any bigger? How are you supposed to read a book on this thing, much less watch a movie? If it runs the iPod OS, then you will not be able to run Office for Mac or other major applications."
-Angry Paw

"I hear the sound of chairs being thrown around in Redmond."

"Bummer, unless this thing can get me my textbooks at a seriously reduced cost, I'm not impressed. Now crossing my fingers for any iPhone for Verizon news."

"Apple won't say it, but it's mainly a brilliant gaming device...And it will be a success."

"Looks ok as a media device except for the lack of Flash. You cant have a pure media device without Flash and have it worth purchasing."


iPads sold (by quarter) since launch. Source: Apple earnings.
iPads sold (by quarter) since launch. Source: Apple earnings. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple has sold 55.28 million iPads since launching in April 2010. That figure's current up to December 31, 2011--the end of Apple's most recently reported fiscal quarter. An estimate thrown out by Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu earlier this month suggested Apple would sell another 48 million iPads in 2012 alone.

The biggest quarter yet for iPads was Q4 2012, with the company selling 15.43 million units. That's a 111 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago. To put that in perspective, Apple sold 32 million iPads during all of its fiscal 2011.

Now all eyes are on the company to announce a new model within the next few months, perhaps even unveiling it at a press conference in February. If you want to believe Taiwanese component news site DigiTimes, Apple's already on its way to production on two different models that will stretch the iPad line to three variants.

What will Apple add this time around? The big new feature is expected to be the screen, with Apple moving to a QXGA panel. In plain English, that's a screen with higher pixel density the likes of what you find on the so-called Retina Display on late model iPhones and iPod Touches. That's a rumor that was floating around well ahead of the iPad 2's introduction last year.

More recently, Bloomberg put out a story piling on to the QXGA panel chatter, adding that the device will feature a quad-core chip and 4G LTE wireless networking.

To see a full list of rumor chatter, visit CNET's iPad 3 rumor roundup, which we keep updated with the latest whisperings.