Blog Post

What’s in a name: Why the new iPad isn’t called iPad 3

March 2012 iPad launch eventOne of the big mysteries ahead of Wednesday’s Apple(s AAPL) event was a simple question: What is the new iPad going to be called? The tech press had long settled on iPad 3, but some outlets had recently reported that the product name would actually be iPad HD, in reference to the new high-resolution Retina display.

Apparently, Apple wasn’t having any of that. More than an hour into the show, Apple CEO Tim Cook finally revealed that the new iPad is called just that: the new iPad.

It seems like an odd choice at first sight, especially in light of the fact that Apple will continue to sell the iPad 2 for $399. However, the new name signals something much more profound than just a new product generation.

Apple is acknowledging that we have arrived in a post-PC world, where iPads aren’t just niche products for gadget lovers with an eye for specs and revision numbers. Instead, they’re among the best-selling computing devices, something that everyone uses to explore the Internet, do commerce and consume media.

Cook himself spent a good amount of time at the beginning of the event talking about this shift. The iPad reinvented portable computing, he said, defining a whole new product category, with sales exceeding even the wildest predictions. This in turn is  shaping Apple’s business model: The company sold 172 million iPhones, iPods and iPads last year, and iOS-based devices now account for 72 percent of Apple’s revenue. Apple sold 62 million iOS devices in the holiday quarter alone.

Part of this post-PC reality is a new normalcy. Consumers don’t have to be sold on getting a new iOS device anymore; they’re on everyone’s short list when contemplating a new purchase. And that’s especially true in the tablet market, where Apple sells more devices than all of its competitors combined. So it’s time for the company to treat its post-PC products the same way it’s been treating its PC product segments for some time: as devices you’re going to buy and frequently replace over several product generations, no matter the specs.

Apple has long been doing this in the PC space, where its products are simply called MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac mini. Sure, the most dedicated Apple followers will always know which generation of the MacBook Pro has which CPU, and which ports are present on which laptop iteration. But for the rest of us, these differences don’t matter all that much. We buy the latest generation, trusting Apple that the hardware will live up to our expectations. We expect the MacBook Air to be the best in portable computing and the MacBook Pro to be powerful – and we don’t need complicated revision numbers to keep track of all the changes over the years.

In a way, not going for names like iPad 3 or iPad HD shows that the iPad has grown up: it’s a device that’s here to stay and shape the post-PC world for years to come. It’s the new iPad, made for a new world.

56 Responses to “What’s in a name: Why the new iPad isn’t called iPad 3”

  1. Haresh Vaishnav

    To me this looks like per-cursor to Apple introducing different variants of iPad in the future – similar to what they did with iPod. I will not be surprised if we see iPad Mini (8 inch version) later this year to compete with Kindle Fire.

  2. Brandon

    I just wanted to say that this is a fantastic article. I think it gives incredible insight to something as simple as the name of a product. Thanks, Janko.

  3. dtkachev

    “iPad HD” = 7 inch display =1920 x 1080 and compete directly with Amazon Fire? If Apple was to decide to go forward with the form factor outside of the labs, this might justify all the pre-launch iPad HD rumors, that were mis-applied to a full size iPad. Probably troublesome from developers’ perspective since it will require app porting, but Retina HD resolution in 7′ form factor will be good for movies / videos, basic web, email applications at cheaper price point for market that doesn’t need / can’t afford full size version. Apple might be waiting to see demand elasticity from cheaper iPad 2 in its first attempt as a market niche competitor against Amazon Fire from price angle. Though with current iPad sales growth and lack of real competition it might be too early for this.

  4. shrikant latkar

    Maybe they are running out of ideas. The next one will probably be called NextGen iPad :). I agree – iPad’s are now becoming like cellphones which will be disposed every few years. With all data in the cloud, it should be pretty good for Apple with this strategy.

    -Shrikant Latkar

  5. rapatel0

    Just noticed something about Apple and the ipad launch. They have the same basic release/development roadmap for devices:

    First gen: the define the basics of the product. (iPhone, iPad)
    Second gen: Redesign of the aesthetics, hardware updates (iPhone 3G,
    iPhone 4, iPad 2)
    Third gen: hardware updates (iPhone 3GS, iPad 3)
    goto Cycle

    So, my guess is the next ipad will look radically different. Maybe an edge to edge screen or something like the iPhone 4 with a glass front and back.

    All this means that the next time a “new” iPad comes out you’ll definitely be able to tell the difference.

  6. What’s interesting is that what the shift in naming signifies. Apple doesn’t number successive generations of Macbooks presumably because the changes between them are incremental and internal and thus unimportant to the consumer.

    So to adopt a similar naming logic for the iPad would suggest that Apple feel that subsequent generations of the device would see only incremental internal changes (more CPU, more memory etc).

    Whether Apple see the iPhone the same way, remains to be seen. My guess is that with the iPhone, there will always be pressure to reinvent the design of the device and so Apple may stick to some kind of numbering/ versioning scheme… but who can say?

  7. The iPhone is the only one that gets ‘model numbers’. Not the notebooks, not the desktops, not the iPods, not Apple TV or AirPort, or any of the peripherals, or whatever else.

    It makes perfect sense – if you are only ever going to sell one generation of hardware at any given time, why differentiate?

  8. yourguide

    I, too, was taken aback with the name at first…. but I now see it for what it is. Thank you for the clarification. One unfortunate downside to Apple’s simplicity in naming their devices are the frequent scammers I see on Ebay or Craigslist trying to pawn off older Apple products to uninformed new users that don’t understand these things come out with dates attached to them.

  9. bhatnaturally

    Absolutely agree with the author. Not adding a suffix of the version number or ‘type’ is the right decision [on hindsight of course – initially I too found it odd]. I think the iPhone may also go this way – and not follow the 4, 4S route.

  10. Pretty much exactly what I predicted last month . The iPhone and the iPad are now like the Porsche 911 – the design remains much the same whilst the insides are tweaked with each new version

    If you approach the next Apple “launch” with that in mind you’ll not be disappointed.

  11. Jack Jack

    What about the iPhone? It has a numbers AND letters. Is it not grown up yet? Really surprised you forgot to at least bring this fact up.

  12. Shogo Yahagi

    Versioning in general is being dropped because improvements are being made to often. It not just for devices anymore. Even software will drop versioning as part of its name, probably all for the better. Version numbers imply technical prowess. The future.. now Now.. is all about using technology with no technical skills.

  13. Yes, it’s obvious that Apple will be moving away from numbering its products but this is a huge mistake. Unlike the Mac, the Apple business model depends on consumers purchasing a new iPhone or iPad at least every other upgrade cycle (which, not coincidentally, matches the carriers two-year service plans). Shelling out big bucks for a new toy that in many cases is only an incremental step up from what they already have requires appealing to their vanity. This means having something that is either visibly different or called the iPad n+1 (while all of your loser friends are walking around with an iPad n).

    The model is not the tech industry it’s the car companies. If BMW called its next 3-Series car the “new 335” rather than the “2013 335” they would sell fewer of them. Yes, it’s shallow, but shallowness is everywhere.

  14. Marcio Morgado

    personally I think it’s more the fact that the new iPad is still the same size and weight as the old one. Wouldn’t be right calling it the iPad 3 when only the hardware was really upgraded and nothing was done to the design. Don’t get me wrong I love the design of the iPad but I think that’s why Apple stuck with “the new iPad”

  15. Peter Evensen

    Apple has long done this with the iPod touch. We didn’t have the iPod touch 5, or 4, just the latest revision. If the version was an issue, people would say “5th gen” etc.

    • But is the official name of their new tablet “The new iPad”, or just “iPad”? That’s where it gets confusing to me. I mean, what happens when the next iPad comes out? Does that take over the name of “The new iPad”? Will it be called “The new iPad 2nd generation”?
      And what will the this tablet be called then? “The old new iPad”?

      • Dude I agree with you – I tried searching for the new iPad on eBay and only got Ipad 2’s – I had to actually type in “the new iPad” to get hits as simply typing iPad have me the first gen 1. What happens next year?

  16. Matt Athayde

    Only the iPads and iPhones had specific designations. The rest of their products: laptops, desktops, iPods, apple tv, displays, etc don’t have an edition number attached to them.

    Apple doesn’t name their devices weird names like all of the other phone and tablet manufactures do because they just continue to build on the older design and improve it as apposed to bringing out an entirely new product. The only naming system that works is no designation in the retail name for new editions or numbers, and numbers only are logical for so many generations. Do you really think it will sounds good 10 years down the road when we are talking about the iPhone 14, no way. It also moves to a bit of a culture of not trying to push the newest and best product onto people. Of course us geeks are going to know what the newest one is but like the article says most users don’t care what the newest/best/coolest device is if their device is working fine for them.

    We all knew there was going to have to be this awkward transition phase but it has to happen for logics sake. Soon it will be normal when we look at the iPhones and iPads and see the lower processor speeds and memory being the cheaper models and the newer ones being the more expensive ones, same as with all of the other devices. The processors on the low end MBPs are the ones that were high end a year or so ago, and we don’t think its weird.

    • oneconcernedguy

      Their laptops, desktops etc do not need a more specific name rather than “apple” because the majority of laptop and desktop products belong to another operation system i.e. Windows, altogether. So, the name “apple” or “mac” is specific enough for marketing purposes.
      However, in the mobile phone market (and tablet market), apple products are not considered as the minority anymore, and furthermore, there is a full fledged competition going on among all phone and tablet producers in which various phone and tablet companies try to make their products more appealing, not less appealing. You want to make your product ‘different’ than other similar products in the market. But a “no name” tablet simply cannot manage to succeed to be sold in a fierce competition because the point of differentiation (its name) is not present. That is why this “no name” thing is a bad strategy. They are not done with the competition, but they pretend that they are done with it. Bad decision and they will most likely suffer the consequences. It is as if they prefer to be considered as the minority again which means less market share. A strategy suitable for a unique and rare product, is not going to work when the product is not unique and rare anymore. So, they should either give it a specific name and be fully present in the competition, or they are going to lose their market share and consequently let other manufacturers to step in and steal their market.

      • John D

        You are insufferable. There’s no way that a name has that large of an impact on Apple’s success. Yes, it has some sway into how a product is perceived, but Apple has come too far to lose any market share due to a name. Increased competition throughout the tablet market will eventually decrease their market share as other companies catch up to Apple’s design capabilities (similar to the smartphone market), but this will not happen because they did not name their third generation iPad the iPad AWESOME.

  17. Steven

    The “new iPad” name bothered me, but after reading your article, I understand and respect what Apple has done. Apple always has a purpose to what they do.

  18. oneconcernedguy

    Bad strategy. I wonder if Steve Jobs could make such a huge mistake. It does not really exist in the mind of people if it does not have a specific name. This is not a sign of growing up, this is a sign of …up!
    I see a sharp drop in apple’s shares in the coming days. My recommendation: choose a name for it now before it is too late.

      • oneconcernedguy

        There is a big competition going on among all tablet makers. This is not like the pc market in which we have all other brands under the Windows umbrella, and then we have macs. In tablet market, a specific name is vital. Apple cannot force it upon people to accept iPad as a ‘unique’ thing, and force them to consider all other tablets under ‘other’ umbrellas. Like it or not, there are many other tablets which are more or less the same as iPad and many people prefer those tablets unless apple could convince them otherwise. A no name strategy is hardly convincing.
        This is “no name” ipad for the time being. And like all other “no name” products, it is less appealing.

      • I believe that just calling it “the new iPad’ is kind of stupid. All of apples products whether its a big upgrade or a small upgrade should change, its what keeps their products unique. Think about the 4S, what did they add? a faster processor and a better camera but they changed the name getting people out there to buy the new iPhone 4S!

    • Here is the real name of the iPad just released, OCG. The iPad (2012).
      I shall be updating from my MacBook (mid-2007) to the next MacBook Air (2012).
      Sits well with me. Apple is simplicity.

  19. rahlquist

    Sorry Janko but when public schools who have bought “the new iPad” decide to upgrade to the next new iPad a few years from now all this stupid decision will lead to is confusion.