Apple quit the numbers game with new iPad

What's in a name? How the refusal to append a '3' to its latest iPad signals Apple's confidence, iPod-like dominance of the market, and goes a little way to quieting potential post-Christmas mumbles.

As with any Apple product, there was a lot of talk, speculation and rumour ahead of the launch of the "iPad 3". When the announcement of the latest tablet from Cupertino finally came the Apple faithful were delighted and confused in equal measure when they discovered the new iPad was going to be called, simply, the New iPad.

The new iPad designation

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The new iPad from Apple"]The new iPad from Apple[/caption]

To 3 or not to 3

Consumer technology has always had an uneasy interdependence with numbers, on one hand companies need to let the world know their new product is better than the last but, as Apple's burgeoning sales prove time and time again, consumers are often paralysed by choice and respond instead to simplicity; you don't choose an iMac 7, you just buy an iMac.

If a company in a diverse market has many products and options it can get very confusing, very quickly; the Sony Bravia brand is strong, but when it comes to comparing prices you're not just buying a Bravia you are buying a Sony KDL-46EX720 and this jumble of letters and numbers needs a little decoding -- the '46' helpfully tell's you how many inches your getting, but the 'EX' could mean anything (there are HX, NX and BX variants) and adding '720' to a 1080p (not a 720p) TV is just plain confusing.

Tech-savy buyers, of course, aren't afraid of numbers, no one batted an eyelid when the successor to the Xbox was labelled the Xbox 360, it felt right at the time, but it has left Microsoft with a digit designation dilemma -- does Xbox 720 sound right? What about Windows 8? That sounds okay but Windows 9, 11, 17?

It's an awkward and unusual misstep for Apple that from tomorrow the average consumer (someone without an eye on such things) will be able to purchase either an iPad or an iPad 2 and not really understand that the iPad 2 is the older model (the only real clue up front is the new, lower price). The iPad also seems to be locked into a March release schedule (the new iPad comes a full calendar year after the iPad 2 launch) and of the 13 million or so who got a new shiny new iPad for Christmas it's more than likely a few are little frustrated that the iPad 2 is already out of date.

It's hard to see why people care so much about a simple name and a number but the iPhone 4S launch last October caused a kerfuffle not because the phone wasn't any good (it was generally seen as a great improvement over the iPhone 4) but because everyone was expecting an iPhone 5.

Perhaps dropping the number from the iPad is Apple's way to avoid future criticism and blur the distinction between Christmas gifts that become tarnished the following quarter. But the new designation could equally be a sign of Apple's growing confidence in and ownership of the tablet market -- just as people soberly purchase 'the latest iPod' (not knowing when they're released, whether they're new or old) the same will become true for the iPad.

Of course, the real question is whether a new iPad is the right choice for you. If you've not yet entered the tablet market, and you're keen to get started, it's a no brainer. If you've got an original iPad and have a relative who'd be happy to take if off your hands then the iPad 3 is a compelling upgrade. For iPad 2 owners it's not so clear.

What is clear is that Apple will continue to dominate the market, retaining a large market share and almost all the profits -- and it's an exciting time for Apple developers now that they have 4 times as many pixels to play with.

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