Fidler is sitting in his stark white office — the late Apple co-founder adored white’s simplicity — and Jobs is strolling on stage in a 2010 video playing on Fidler’s MacBook. “There’s laptops and smartphones now,” Jobs says. “But a question has arisen lately: Is there room for a third category of device in the world, something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone?”
Fidler smiles through a scruffy gray Jobsian beard. He has known the answer for a long time. In 1994, while running a lab dreaming up the future of newspapers, Fidler starred in his own video demonstrating a prototype he cooked up that was remarkably like the iPad — black, thin, rectangular, with text and video displayed on-screen.
A narrator described technology that at the time sounded like science fiction: “Tablets will be a whole new class of computer. They’ll weigh under two pounds. They’ll be totally portable. They’ll have a clarity of screen display comparable to ink on paper. They’ll be able to blend text, video, audio and graphics together. . . . We may still use computers to create information but will use the tablet to interact with information — reading, watching, listening.”