In documents released as part of the deposition of Apple designer (Sir) Jony Ive by Samsung, images of an early Apple tablet prototype were shared, suggesting that the company could have been toying with the idea of releasing an iPad-type device as far back as 2002.

NetworkWorld unearthed the document (from Ive’s testimony in December 2011), where he acknowledges that he had seen a mockup of a tablet that is referred to as the ’035 prototype’ almost a decade previous, noting that it may have been one of the first designs that went on to form the iPad:

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.

The 035 prototype design:

7595358592 db30160880 z 520x333 The origin of the iPad: This early Apple prototype may be almost a decade old [Photos]

You’ll notice the familiar rectangular design, but the early mockup shows a much thicker, buttonless design that demonstrated what Apple would have been able to achieve back in the early 2000′s.

7595358350 a050a0d25b z 520x295 The origin of the iPad: This early Apple prototype may be almost a decade old [Photos]

Apple included very similar images in a patent application back in 2005, as noted by Macrumors.

They say it takes a number of years for an Apple prototype to become an actual product. It goes to show what Apple was able to do in the following years when it released the first iPad and kickstarted the tablet industry.

[Image Credit: Yutaka Tsutano]