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Ex Windows Chief: We never expected the iPad

January 2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of the original iPad, and the tablet from Apple has been more or less dominant in the tablet industry over the past decade. When first announced, the iPad was a device that was revolutionary, and it wasn’t yet clear if the iPad was a laptop replacement or a gigantic iPhone. Still, the iPad has forged a niche of its own, with around 20 generations of the popular tablet since released, while accessories such as the Apple Pencil have only served to grow its popularity.

The former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, Steven Sinofsky, admitted that the Microsoft team was surprised when the iPad was announced in 2010, explaining that they were “blinded” as to Apple’s direction. At the time, Windows were pushing Netbooks, which we’re doing reasonably well (around 40 million sold). But according to Sinofsky, they were expecting more of a direct competitor:

“Endless rumors of Apple’s tablet obviously meant a pen computer based on Mac. Why not? The industry chased this for 20 years. That was our context.”

Instead, the iPad was born—and along with it, a whole new device category, arguably—and over 360 million units have been reportedly sold since. Sinofsky says that Microsoft had mainly been focused on Netbooks at the time, and the early success of the iPhone had “blinded” Microsoft.

“The iPad and iPhone were soundly existential threats to Microsoft’s core platform business. Without a platform Microsoft controlled that developers sought out, the soul of the company was ‘missing.’”

Microsoft, of course, eventually launched their answer to the iPad: the Surface RT. That cost the company US$900 million (about RM3.7 billion), with the convertible tablet/laptop not selling all that well. Despite that, later iterations of the Surface range have done well to carve out a niche for themselves, with certain users preferring Microsoft’s Surface devices over traditional devices for portability and productivity.

Still, the iPad has continued to grow as a market leader, and Apple isn’t exactly resting on its laurels. The addition of the Smart Keyboard connector to the affordable 7th generation iPad and the introduction of iPadOS is essential to Apple’s vision of the iPad as the future of computing, and that’s certainly something that the Cupertino-based company is pressing forward with.

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