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On its third birthday, Apple's iPad looks back at years of comical criticism

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Apple's iPad is three years old today, providing a good opportunity to look back in hindsight on one of the most successful technology products to ever debut, and also one of the more poorly received by industry critics.

As noted by Asymco blogger Horace Dediu, a history of incessant iPad naysaying has been chronicled by Terry Gregory's iPad Death Watch.

The list starts with critical comments by Microsoft's Steve Ballmer and Google's Eric Schmidt ("You might want to tell me the difference between a large phone and a tablet" he said in January 2010).

Their predictable negativity about Apple's then new iPad was joined by columnists of all stripes, who compiled lists like the one by titled "5 Reasons Why Apple's iPad Tablet Will Fail."

Dan Lyons wrote at its launch, "The press weren’t cheering and whooping. I didn’t see anybody pee their pants. Not one! […] I wanted to see more. It’s a big iPod. What is there to do there? Play a video game on a bigger screen? I thought it was ‘paving the cow path’. I really thought it was underwhelming."

Lyons was essentially right about one thing: the entire tech media at the iPad's unveiling simply didn't get it. As an attendee to the event, AppleInsider couldn't find one journalist there who found the new device promising.

Hours after the iPad's unveiling, the phrase "iPad a disappointment" became a "spicy" trending topic as ranked by Google.

Flawgic ad absurdum

One of the most vocal critics of the iPad was, unsurprisingly, Windows Enthusiast Paul Thurrott. After initially stating at its launch, "It seems like a high priced, unnecessary trinket to me," his tone turned a bit more hostile a few months later when he wrote, "Anyone who believes this thing is a game changer is a tool."

The next month his tune changed to, "flaws and all, the iPad is indeed in a class all by itself. It’s a new kind of computing device."

At the launch of iPad 2, Thurrott stated, "In reality, Apple sold tens of millions of iPads last year and is on track to sell tens of millions more next year. In reality, people are buying iPads. In reality, they’re not buying Windows 7-based tablets. And in reality, they never will. Furthermore, businesses are buying iPads, too, and piloting them in ever faster numbers."

Like many other columnists in the tech industry, Thurrott quickly changed from a defensive doubter of the entire idea of the iPad to begrudging accepting its success, followed by a quick assumption that the rest of the industry could immediately duplicate Apple's work and take its market share.

Two years ago, in April 2011, he wrote, "Although the expected iPad competition never really heated up last year, 2011 is going to be a different story, with a slate (ahem) full of Android-based tablets, the HP TouchPad, the Research in Motion (RIM) PlayBook, and others."

One year later, all of those experiments had flopped. Thurrott was much more impressed with Microsoft's own new Surface in 2012, which has since collapsed in failure.

The iPad Death Watch provides three years of caustic, bitter criticism that Apple must find a bit delicious today, having sold more than 100 million since it went on sale in early 2010.

The predictions and criticisms reflect those captured in the parallel iPhone Death Watch, which offers an equally entertaining look at the lack of imagination and foresight of Apple's fiercest critics.