Intel Could Have Beaten Apple To The Punch

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Believe it or not, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) actually had an IPAD before Apple ever even dreamed up the iPad. That’s according to Shara Tibken of CNET.

Intel blew it with tablets

As Intel continues to struggle because of the declining PC business, chances are management is looking back in time right now and shaking their heads. About 10 years before Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) came up with the idea for the iPad, Intel thought up the Intel Web Tablet, also called the IPAD. Unfortunately, however, the company apparently didn’t see a future in such devices and scrapped it before it ever hit the consumer market.

Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC)’s IPAD was able to surf the Web, play videos and music and even be a digital photo frame. It looks pretty bulky compared to the sleek iPad put out by Apple today, but still, it was far ahead of its time. If only Intel had recognized an opportunity when it had one.

The device used a stylus and a touch screen, and although it wouldn’t operate entirely on its own, it was able to connect to a computer using wireless technology developed by Intel.

Intel tried to diversify

What’s especially interesting is that about a decade ago, Intel was trying to diversify beyond the PC market. In addition to the IPAD, the company was working on ideas like Web hosting, streaming video and making toys. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) was also exploring mobile ideas, which is where the Intel Web Tablet came from.

In those days, being mobile meant being able to move around inside the home. This is where the idea for Intel’s IPAD came from. Having the tablet connect to a computer was the company’s attempt to keep it tied in with its core PC semiconductor business. Management at the time also thought the tablet would bring Intel a greater association with the Internet.

Intel could have opened the door for other companies too

To bring the IPAD to market, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) was apparently planning to work with partners to get it on the market. It created a prototype and, like its other reference products, was going to allow customers like Dell or Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) to use the IPAD as a model for their designs and then sell it. In other words, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) really could have been the late comer to the party. If only.

Intel’s board chairman at the time saw Intel’s tablet and pushed for it to go to market, getting the small three-person team more funding and a bigger team. The team spent years fully developing the tablet, which had five buttons which would immediately take users to landing pages from various sponsors. At that time of course, apps didn’t exist.

Intel’s PC markets killed the first IPAD

Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) showed off the Intel Web Tablet in 2001 at the Consumer Electronics Show, but PC makers which partnered with the company didn’t like it. They basically killed the tablet because they didn’t want a product which could become a major competitor. Intel caved to their wishes and canceled it after spending boatloads of money on development and even manufacturing and packaging.

At the time of the Intel Web Tablet, it was a major gamble for Intel, which was very profitable as a semiconductor maker. The company even closed all of its consumer electronics division to focus entirely on chips. So what would tablets look like now if Intel’s tablet had taken off? We’ll never know. In fact, we will never know if the company would even have been successful with that tablet since it lacked many of the functions today’s tablets have.

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