As part of the eternal patent war between the two companies, in 2011 Samsung deposed Apple’s Jonny Ive, and during his testimony, the true, early history of the iPad has come out. This information was uncovered by NetworkWorld, and stretches back to before the original iPhone even debuted.
Ive talks briefly about when the first design of a tablet was created by Apple, saying:
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.
2002-2004? That’s a long time before the iPad came out. As you can see from these photos (and there are plenty more at the source link), the mockups are definitely similar to what the iPad was eventually to come. This version was dubbed “prototype 035″, and while it’s obviously much thicker (and appears to have borrowed much design from the MacBook), it’s the right form factor. Sadly missing is the home button, but the dock port and speaker plugs are both there.
It’s pretty incredible to think Apple was playing with this form factor for so long before the iPad even came near to being on the market.