When I shot off a quick email to Apple in the wake of today’s announcement of the third generation iPad, I honestly didn’t expect an answer. If I was busy being slammed with requests about one of the biggest product launches of the year, I doubt I would take the time to reply to a reporter being a bit snippy and asking if the name of the new iPad is ‘the new iPad’ or just ‘iPad’.
But I got an answer, and a politely given one, at that. The name of Apple’s brand new tablet, according to the company?
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“Hey Matt. It’s called iPad.”
No numbers, no signifiers, no ‘HD’. Just iPad.
Just two days ago I penned a bit of a ranty piece about the fact that the next iPad would not be called ‘iPad HD‘. I posed what I thought were several very good reasons not to use the HD suffix, but also spoke out about why ‘3’ would be a fine way to go. But Apple took it a step further today and pared the name down to just ‘iPad’.
Throughout today’s event, Apple used the phrase ‘the new iPad’ consistently. Enough so that people calling me and my technically savvy friends after the event were driven to ask “is it really going to be called ‘the new iPad’?”
See, they’ve been trained to treat version numbers as a must when it comes to consumer electronics. As I explained in my earlier post:
A numeric scheme is just effective, if not more effective at communicating that the latest version is better. It’s the same reason that you see camera boxes emblazoned with huge ‘X Megapixels’ labels, when the amount of raw pixels now means next to nothing in the world of digital photography. They’re easy for customers to pick out as better and easy for sales associates to shrug and point at the one with the highest number in big box stores. Slap a ’3′ on the end and call it a day, people will get the message.
What Apple is doing here is what it does best, defying conventions about product development and marketing. Apple is done fighting the tide of ridiculous naming perpetuated at first by all kinds of digital devices, but now by smartphones and tablets. There will never be an iPad Beefcake HD S MAXXiPAD. Instead of toeing the line with names that hint at features or indicate the ‘newness’ of a device, it has removed itself from the conversation completely.
But this isn’t just a move that Apple is making to ‘be cute’. Apple’s Phil Schiller told The Wall Street Journal that the company made the move “because we don’t want to be predictable.”
But I think that Schiller is dissembling a bit here. This is more than a ‘marketing juke’ to keep its competitors on its toes. This is Apple being what it is at its core, a company that caters not to marketing conventions, inventory sheets or lazy sales people. It sells directly to regular people in a very conversational and human way.
This is the school of thought you see at work in Apple’s commercials. They don’t have specifications, they don’t have comparisons to competitors. Instead, they feature people using the iPad in a very real way, doing very human things.
And if there is one thing that is very human, it’s wanting ‘new’ things. Did you see that new Sandra Bullock flick? Have you tried that new restaurant? Hey, what’s the big deal about the new iPad?
In one swoop, Apple has made iPad into a colloquial term, a topic for discussion that is enforced by a yearly event and a focused punch of hype. Instead of assumptions about the product being made from increasingly convoluted nomenclature going into the future, Apple has immediately made every conversation about its latest tablet offering very, very human.
It may tick off tech bloggers — the kind of people that get pissy about the word ‘resolutionary‘ — and inventory stockists to have to divine what Apple means by “you know, the new iPad”, but most people won’t care. After a while it will be just like ‘the new MacBook’, or ‘the new iPod’.
In a lot of ways, Apple is simply correcting an oversight in which its mobile products have yet to have their names simplified like the rest of Apple’s products.
Next year, and the year after, and likely the year after that, we will be talking about ‘the new iPad’ —and unless my instincts are wrong, ‘the new iPhone’ — but we won’t be doing it on technical or marketing terms, just human ones.
“Hey Matt. It’s called iPad.”