by Charlie Sorrel (via Wired.com) Read Original Article
If you take a look at Apple’s “magical and revolutionary” iPad, you might see a brand new device, an entirely new product category that sprung forth from Apple’s labs fully formed.
Take a closer look, though, and its parts start to seem rather familiar. In fact, pretty much every bit of the iPad has been seen before. We’re not talking about leaked spy photos either. Over the last several years, the iPad has been tested in public by Apple itself.
From the unibody case to the multitouch screen to the very software that drives the iPad, it seems that everything from Apple in recent years has been little more than a byproduct of the iPad design and testing process. Looked at another way, the iPad is little more than a rehash of features found in half a dozen previous products. Think I’m crazy? Here’s a list.
Unibody “Brick” (2008)
The unibody MacBook Pro was the most obvious clue to the looks of the iPad. The case of the MacBook Pro, like the iPad, is hewn from a solid block of aluminum, which has several benefits. First, it is stiff. Stiff enough to hold a glass screen in place without it flexing, hence the nickname “brick” which seemed to leak from Apple and was picked up by the rumor blogs.
It is also rather good at dissipating heat (from, say, a fanless computer) and it is light. And because it doesn’t require an internal frame, the unibody can fit in a lot more battery (more about that below).
Core Animation (2007)
When Steve Jobs demoed Core Animation at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2007, we wondered what on Earth it was for. Jobs sold it as bringing “very high production values” to Mac applications, and demonstrated an app which showed a whirling wall of video thumbnails. It was flashy, sure, but pointless on a desktop machine. Put it on a multitouch device, with its requirements for animated user interface elements, and it becomes essential.
The Big Glass Screen (2008)
This also debuted on the unibody MacBook Pro, and although the iPhone got a glass screen first, this was the real test to see if it would work on a bigger device. Aside from complaints about its glossiness, people were also worried about cracking the screen. What happened was the reverse: The all-in-one glass and aluminum block is surprisingly tough.
That wide, black bezel, too, is a match for the one on the iPad. In fact, if you ripped the keyboard off a MacBook Pro, you’d be left with something very much like an iPad. The design has been there all along. Spooky.
Glass Multitouch Trackpad (2008)
Another MacBook Pro feature, the glass multitouch trackpad, was the first time we saw multitouch for more than than just two fingers. Now you could swipe with three or even four fingers at once, opening up a whole new class of gestures. The fact that the pad is glass is also important, as — despite being silver — it is pretty much a small version of the iPad’s screen. Many-fingered control is essential to the iPad, and is what really sets it apart from the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Snow Leopard (2009)
When Apple announced Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, the big feature was “no new features.” While that could be taken as proof that the OS X team was working flat-out on the iPad, it’s also a little disingenuous. Under the hood, there were a lot of iPad-related changes.
For one, Snow Leopard was tiny compared to its predecessor, taking up roughly half the disk space. That’s also handy for a memory-limited handheld device, right? And if you think Apple hasn’t been working on iPhone OS multitasking for a long time, think again.
If you log out in Snow Leopard, you’ll notice how fast it closes. That’s because if an application has no open files to save, the OS pretty much chops its legs out from under it. In Mac terms, it is pretty close to a “force quit.” This is also what gets you back to the home screen so fast on the iPhone and iPad: One aspect of iPhone OS 4 multitasking is that apps need to be ready for shutdown at any moment.
Nonremovable Battery (2008)
The biggest surprise from the iPad is the battery life, which in many reviewers’ tests is even better than the promised 10 hours. This isn’t a magical new kind of technology, merely a combo of a really big battery and some clever power management. IPods and iPhones have had non-user replaceable batteries since forever, but the first Mac to get one was the MacBook Air. People screamed, except those who bought it and loved it.
The Air’s initial battery life wasn’t great, but it needed a battery that could be bent to better fill the crannies of its thin interior. As Apple got better at it, battery life started to creep up until we saw the iPad’s astonishing independence from wall-warts. The new MacBook Pro even manages to go 10 hours on a single charge.
There are doubtless many more less obvious benefits the iPad has brought to the Mac range. Like military research that eventually ends up in consumer tech, Apple’s drive to invent the iPad trickled into its old computers. The big difference is that military research is top-secret. In this rare case, the famously tight-lipped Apple put every part of the iPad out in the open, years before it was ever announced.