iPad Launched 10 Years Ago Today, App Developer Reflects on Getting Access to a Top-Secret Prototype

On the 10th anniversary of the iPad launching in stores, Agile Partners co-founder Jack Ivers has shared an interesting story about how his company managed to get in Apple's good graces and ultimately gain access to prototype iPads.

Steve Jobs iPad
The story begins in 2008, when Agile Partners released GuitarToolkit as one of the first iPhone apps on the App Store. The app used the iPhone's microphone to detect musical notes in an incoming audio stream to see the real-time pitch of a guitar string. Apple has long had an interest in music, so the app quickly caught its eye.

In 2009, Apple covertly reached out to Agile Partners about featuring GuitarToolkit in a worldwide advertising campaign:

We began receiving calls that went as follows:

Apple: We need you to internationalize GuitarToolkit for the following languages: Japanese, simplified Chinese, German, French, and Spanish. By next week please.

Agile: Ummm ... why?

Apple: Sign this NDA.

Agile: Here you go. So tell us more.

Apple: We're considering featuring GuitarToolkit in an advertising campaign, but no promises. Will you do the internationalization?

Apple was asking us to jump, and it didn't take too much reflection to respond, "how high?" GuitarToolkit ended up being featured in a series of worldwide print and TV campaigns, including one that appeared on the back cover of many of the most prestigious magazines in the U.S. and around the world.

GuitarToolkit ended up being featured on the back cover of many popular magazines:

rollingstone
Then, in February 2010, just days after Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPad, an Apple executive reached out to Agile Partners requesting a quick conversation about something "important." After signing a very strict NDA, Agile Partners ended up being invited to Apple's headquarters to develop an iPad version of their GuitarToolkit app.

Agile Partners was provided with access to prototype iPads to develop its app and, unsurprisingly, they were located in a "locked, nondescript, unlabeled room on the second or third floor on the building that housed the Infinite Loop cafeteria."

The room had blackout curtains hanging inside the door so that, even when the door was open, you couldn't see inside. The room had three or four sturdy industrial tables, each with an iPad prototype chained to it. Each iPad was completely encased in what appeared to be Kevlar, with just the screen and home button exposed. Almost none of the industrial design was visible – bezels, back, edges, even the iPad's thickness, were all obscured by the bulky case.

Each table also had a Mac with a special Xcode that could build to the iPad. We spent the day tweaking app settings for the new screen dimensions, getting past beta glitches, and finally successfully building TabToolkit on the prototype iPads.

Agile Partners eventually became VIP attendees at WWDC 2010, where its iPad app received an Apple Design Award.

Top Rated Comments

FightTheFuture Avatar
35 months ago
2010 “it’s just a big iPod touch”
2020 “will the iPad replace a laptop?”
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
citysnaps Avatar
35 months ago

I don’t understand what the hype was all about. It was literally nothing more than a large iPhone. Without the phone.
You were in good company with many forum members here saying the same thing, panning the device.


Serious question... do NDAs expire or how can they be talking about it now, especially when they mention they signed "a very strict NDA"?
That would be in the NDA.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dspdoc Avatar
35 months ago
I don’t understand what the hype was all about. It was literally nothing more than a large iPhone. Without the phone.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mannyvel Avatar
35 months ago
"The difference between an iPad and an iPhone is the difference between a bathtub and a swimming pool." - people after using an iPad for the first time.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
newyorksole Avatar
35 months ago

To be fair all of those "it's just a big iPod touch" were not far off. I was probably one of those who thought that way since I never bought the first one, actually none of the first generations until they introduced the Apple Pen. Now that it has a pen, keyboard, trackpad and the software has matured (to some extent) it doesn't feel like a big iPod anymore.
I don’t understand the “it’s just a big iPod touch” argument.

The experience is TOTALLY different on a larger screen. Consuming content, reading, watching movies... Yeah it may have the same apps, but you could fit way more on the screen.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rdy0329 Avatar
35 months ago

I don’t understand what the hype was all about. It was literally nothing more than a large iPhone. Without the phone.
try one now. It’s a totally different beast.

Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Emergency SOS via Satellite iPhone YT

Apple's iPhone 14 Emergency SOS via Satellite Feature Saves Stranded Man in Alaska

Thursday December 1, 2022 4:37 pm PST by
With the launch of iOS 16.1, Apple rolled out a Emergency SOS via Satellite, which is designed to allow iPhone 14 owners to contact emergency services using satellite connectivity when no cellular or WiFi connection is available. The feature was put to the test in Alaska today, when a man became stranded in a rural area. In the early hours of the morning on December 1, Alaska State Troopers ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

iOS 16.2 for iPhone Launching This Month With These 8 New Features

Thursday December 1, 2022 8:44 am PST by
Apple plans to publicly release iOS 16.2 for the iPhone in mid-December, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The update remains in beta testing for now, with at least eight new features and changes already uncovered so far. iOS 16.2 introduces a number of new features, including Apple's new whiteboard app Freeform, two new Lock Screen widgets for Sleep and Medications, the ability to hide...
iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.1.2 With Carrier Improvements and Crash Detection Optimizations

Wednesday November 30, 2022 10:09 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 16.1.2, another minor bug fix update that comes one week after the release of iOS 16.1.1 and three weeks after the launch of iOS 16.1, an update that added support for iCloud Shared Photo Library, Matter, Live Activities, and more. The iOS 16.1.2 update can be downloaded on eligible iPhones over-the-air by going to Settings > General > Software Update. According...
iPad 10 Battery Pull Tabs

iPad 10 Teardown Reveals Why Device Isn't Compatible With Apple Pencil 2

Thursday December 1, 2022 10:48 am PST by
Do-it-yourself repair website iFixit today shared a video teardown of Apple's new 10th-generation iPad, providing a closer look inside the tablet and revealing why the device lacks support for the second-generation Apple Pencil. The teardown reveals the internal layout of the iPad, including its two-cell 7,606 mAh battery, logic board with the A14 Bionic chip, and more. As suspected, the...
iOS 16

When Will iOS 16.2 Be Released?

Friday December 2, 2022 2:13 pm PST by
Apple in late October began testing iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates, providing betas to both developers and public beta testers. As of now, we've had four total betas, with the fourth beta having been released earlier this week. iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 are expected before the end of the year, and we thought we'd try to narrow down the launch timeline. With only four betas released since...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

Major RAM Upgrade Coming to Next-Generation MacBook Pro

Friday December 2, 2022 2:03 am PST by
The next-generation MacBook Pro models could feature faster RAM, according to a recent report from a reliable source. MacRumors Forums member "Amethyst," who accurately revealed details about the Mac Studio and Studio Display before those products were announced, recently provided information about Apple's upcoming 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. The new machines are expected to feature...
iOS 16

Apple Still Has These 5 Things to Release Heading Into 2023

Thursday December 1, 2022 7:12 am PST by
The calendar has turned to December and that means Apple has only one month left to fulfill its promises of releasing an Apple Music Classical app and expanding its self-service repair program to Europe before the end of 2022. Delays are always possible, of course, so the plans could be pushed back to 2023. In any case, we have put together a list of five things that Apple still has to release...
iOS 16

Apple Seeds Fourth Betas of iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 [Update: Public Beta Available]

Thursday December 1, 2022 10:16 am PST by
Apple today seeded the fourth betas of upcoming iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the betas coming two weeks after Apple seeded the third betas of iOS 16.2 and iPadOS 16.2. Registered developers are able to download the iOS 16‌.2 and iPadOS 16.2 profiles from the Apple Developer Center, and once installed, the beta is available over the air. iOS...
iPhone Measure Height

Newer iPhones Allow You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly — Here's How

Saturday December 3, 2022 10:23 am PST by
iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models feature a LiDAR Scanner next to the rear camera that can be used to measure a person's height instantly in Apple's preinstalled Measure app. To measure a person's height, simply open the Measure app, point your iPhone at the person you want to measure, and make sure they are visible on the screen from...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple Now Calling AR/VR Headset Operating System 'xrOS'

Thursday December 1, 2022 12:57 pm PST by
Apple has decided to call the software that will run on its upcoming AR/VR headset "xrOS," an update from the original "RealityOS or "rOS" naming the company was planning on, according to Bloomberg. Render created by Ian Zelbo based on rumored information The name change comes as Apple begins to prepare for the launch of the headset, which is expected at some point in 2023. The headset will...