While Samsung and Apple continue to duke it out over patents pertaining to modern tablet design (all of which are quite silly), the court filings have revealed a bunch of photos of an early iPad prototype dating some eight years before it would eventually launch.
When Bill Gates revealed the Tablet PC at COMDEX in 2000, he said that it would be the computer of choice of the future. Turns out, he nailed it. What we Gates didn't know was that Apple was hot on his heels with its own tablet concept, one that uses fingers, not a stylus as the main form of input.
These new photos referred to as the "035 mockup" are alleged to hail from around 2002 to 2004, according to Apple's senior vice president of design Jonathan Ives:
My recollection of first seeing it is very hazy, but it was, I'm guessing, sometime between 2002 and 2004, some but it was I remember seeing this and perhaps models similar to this when we were first exploring tablet designs that ultimately became the iPad.
As you can see, the basic shape of unibody design was present from the start, even with the black bezel that Apple so adamantly claims is a patented design. The 30-pin port is also present, but a Home button is noticeably absent. Obviously, the prototype shows a much thicker device, but remember, this was 2002 and batteries weren't as shapeable as they are today.
Still, these photos show something that most people don't seem to give much thought when it comes to product design (from Apple or any other company), and that's the fact that products can undergo years of experimental phases before a final shippable design is conceived.