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May 18th, 2010

I Predicted the iPad (sorta) in 1999

When I was in one of my last semesters of college, I took a marketing class. I had always wanted (and needed) to learn more about marketing, and this seemed like the right place to do it: art school.

I really did learn a lot from the class, but I was recently reminded of my final project. We had to develop a new product – or at least the sketch of one – and provide marketing details around it. My creation was the Surfboard. And here’s how I described it:

For many people, the Internet is a vital source of information and entertainment. The Surfboard is a new product designed specifically for Internet users. The name “surfboard” sprung from the popular phrase “surfing the web”. Surfboard makes using the Internet easier than it is on an ordinary notebook computer. (See following page for product sketch.) The device has a surface area slightly larger than an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper, and is 1.5” thick. The majority of this space is taken up by the unit’s full color screen. The on-screen cursor is controlled by an integrated trackball to the right of the screen, and navigation buttons along the bottom of the unit provide access to a web browser, mail reader, and other basic Internet utilities.

The Surfboard offers the power of the Internet without a complex computer operating system, or unwieldy setup programs. The entire unit is easy-to-use for newcomers, but is powerful and expandable enough to be used by businesspeople.

Sound slightly familiar? Sure, I didn’t envision touch technology and the thickness is 3 times the thickness of the iPad (oof) but the spirit is there. Sadly, I couldn’t find any sketches of the Surfboard.

I priced the unit at $399, and stressed that one could use any online provider:

Surfboard makes using the Internet easy. Surfboard will be configured for your provider in under five minutes. You don’t need to switch providers – every one from AOL to EarthLink is supported. Then, just press the Web button and instantly, you’re on the web. Check your email, compose new email messages, and even send and receive instant messages with the built-in AOL Instant Messenger program.
Surfboard is completely expandable. You can add memory packs that can later be used in any PC Card slot, and the integrated Internet software can be upgraded instantly from our web site.

Five minutes! Wow. But remember, this was a time when the coalition behind WiFi was just formed. So while the terms were a little different (“You don’t need to be near a phone line”), it’s not terribly far from where we are today.

It just took 11 years to get here, but the Surfboard is finally real.

Posted in Technology

Maria May 19, 2010, 2:55 am

I like the name WAY better than iPad!

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