Mar 12

iPad gains features, loses its number

Always fun to see who was right and who was wrong with all those pre-event predictions.

And, of course, always entertaining to read all those articles to the effect of “Apple’s new iPad fails to impress.”

People didn’t buy the iPhone 4S in record numbers because of its revolutionary features (though Siri qualifies). They bought it because it was the newest, best version of the phone they already wanted. That’s why the new iPad will likely sell in record numbers as well.

I only have a few issues with the new device. They’re not deal-killers, just observations.

First, especially coming after Tim Cook’s ramp-up yesterday about the “post-PC” world, I wish this iPad had an SD card slot. iCloud gave us the ability to use our iPhones and iPads without ever connecting them to our computers. But if you want to work with higher quality photos than those you get with iPhone and iPad — you need to connect to your computer. Not a very post-PC solution.

Given that the new iPhoto app offers such tremendously cool ways to enhance photos, and having fun with photos is a #1 consumer activity, it’s sad that we can’t go directly from camera to iPad without buying Apple’s $29 Camera Connection Kit. Should be built in, just as it is with iMacs and MacBooks.

Second, I really expected Siri to make her debut on this model. Seems like the next logical extension after iPhone. Maybe that happens only when Siri has her Beta status removed.

Last is the name. For all the predictions about what the new iPad was going to be called, nobody saw this one coming. No iPad 3, no iPad HD — just “the new iPad.” We all believe in simplicity, Apple more than most. The question is: does removing the number from the iPad name make things simpler or more complicated?

Actually, this move shouldn’t be all that shocking. It’s perfectly consistent with the way Apple names iPod, iMac, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. One could argue that the simplest form of product naming is to remove the model number. It’s all branding.

However, we can’t let Apple off the hook quite so easily. I can’t remember a time when Apple changed naming horses midstream. iPhone has faithfully often followed the numbered path (with some letters thrown in along the way), and iPad seemed to be following suit— until this abrupt about-face. (Correction: only iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S had numbers.)

I was surprised to see Phil Schiller’s explanation in a Wall Street Journal article about the new iPad naming yesterday. Phil says Apple did it “because we didn’t want to be predictable.” Honestly, I would have expected Apple to either be silent on this matter, or just talk about it being yet another form of simplification.

Somehow, making decisions of this magnitude just to be “unpredictable” feels a bit flimsy.

All that said, naming experts know that the initial reactions to product names are mostly irrelevant. Remember how laughable the name iPad was at first, becoming instant fodder for late-night comedy. Not so funny anymore, is it.

So I think we’ll all recover from not having a number with which we can identify our chosen iPad. The new model will sell by the zillion.

Just don’t be surprised when iPhone loses its number with this summer’s new model. At that time Apple won’t be doing it to be unpredictable — they’ll be doing it to be consistent.

  • Ray

    There have been five iPhones, only one has a version number name. The only consistency they’ve shown is to throw an “S” at the end of the second revision of a form factor.

  • ksegall

    Following the original numberless iPhone, there was a 3G, 3GS, 4 and now 4S.

  • nuthinking

    Bit disappointing from Schiller, evidently it wasn’t his choice! ;)

  • Gonji

    Ken, I feel you will be waiting a while, if not longer, for your SD card slot. Apple is building to the masses and I don’t think the masses need a slot. The masses are are using their iPhones and Android phones to take pictures, not high quality cameras; look at the upload stats to flicker. For the others there is the $29 option.

    Also, Apple, with its penchantfor clean design and few lumps and bumps, in all likelyhood doesn’t want another hole in the iPad. So, unfortunately, I probably don’t hold your breath; if only for your own health and sanity.


  • Ken–

    I’d love to get your take on what you thought of the presentation itself, considering the iPad2 rollout was hosted by Steve Jobs.  My own view is that I really miss the tremendous sense of history and curation that a Stevenote carried.  When Steve chose to promote something, you knew it was the best technology in the history of computing. While I think Tim, Phil, and Eddie did a competent job, I’m not sure how they’ll ever replace that ineffable feeling. It felt, dare I say it, like just another product rollout. Competent, to be sure, but no longer magical.

  • ksegall

    Not so sure about that. Having that slot in my computers makes life so much simpler — and I thought everyone was like me :) But it’s certainly true that a lot of people are willing to sacrifice quality for convenience.

  • ksegall

    Tough question. No matter what Tim and company do in these presentations, they’ll always be in Steve’s shadow. Phil had some great outings with Steve in the past, but a lot of that was because he had Steve to play off of. Same with Jony. Honestly, even though Steve was a bigger-than-life figure, I’d say that most of his magic came from the revolutionary products he introduced. Let’s see how we feel when something really new comes along, like iTV. If the presentation of a magical new product leaves us feeling deprived of magic, then I’d say we have a problem.

  • Mr. T

    Actually, the iPad convention without a number has been with us for a while. I remember being at an Apple store after the iPad2 was released. The box did not say iPad2, but rather, just iPad. Confused, I ask one of the staff to confirm it was the new release. Yep.

  • Scott

    I have the card reader adapter and it does a good job, but I agree a built in slot would be nice. Is it a matter of not having the real estate inside the device to put one in? 

  • First off let me say that I really like your blog, although so far I’ve been a passive onlooker.

    Commenting a little on the actual presentation, I do miss Steve Jobs but I’m not sure how much this is personality problem as much as it is Apple’s position in the market place that has changed it. Apple refuses to introduce new products at CES or similar and they obviously do need to present their new products and the way they do it is good. But, 5-10 years ago Apple was much more of a niche player that could actually keep secrets, now all the rumors were correct and especially with a version upgrade like with the iPad it felt like expected upgrades and new features. Therefore it’s much harder to get properly enthusiastic about the presentation.

    I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how Tim and his team will do with a new product release. I thought they did a fine job on Wednesday and imagine them doing the first iPod or iPhone presentation…

  • jorgemelendez

    Hi. Great blog and comments section.

    As per Apple’s support page there have been three body styles (original in metal back, 3G/3GS in plastic, 4/4S in glass and stainless steel) for eight different versions.

    The names haven’t followed a numeric pattern per se, since the second gen was actually the 3G (named for the cellular connection), the third gen was the 3GS (faster processor) and it “caught up” with the 4 (fourth model with fourth body style). The name can now correlate with the 4G / LTE networks, but Apple doesn’t seem too interested in trumpeting that nexus. (In their iPhone web page these features – A5 chip, iSight, iOS 5, iCloud, Siri– get top billing).

    It seems that they could easily go in either naming direction (“new iPhone” or “iPhone 5) and not lose a step marketing wise since it seems that Apple’s trump card is their software (famously 5 years ahead of the competition). Apple could then easily follow their naming conventions for computers (iMac, MB Air, MB Pro with the newest version of OS X) with their iOS products.

  • I don’t know if the name ‘the new iPad’ is a “good” name or a “bad” name, but it is sure generating an enormous amount of extra publicity.  Almost every story I’ve read about the “new iPad” is accompanied by a second story – plus lots of commentary – about the name.   I’ve been told that free buzz is never bad.

    I love your blog.  When I discovered it a few weeks back, I immediately read your every blog post, in roughly reverse chronological order, back to the very first one.  I’ve never done that before.   I don’t typically read blogs.   At all.  So, thank you.

    Since I’m enjoying your writing so thoroughly, I’ve also pre-ordered the book and I am awaiting April 26th with a good deal of anticipation.

    Re: Steve
    I’m 57.  I’ve been a computer geek since I was 15 (punched cards) and I have been following Steve since the Apple II.  I cannot help but feel that we have been cast into a wilderness from which there may be no return.

  • ksegall

    Hey, thanks for the kind words.

    I think buzz like the naming controversy has two kinds of value. In the present, it helps keep all those stories going. But it also fans the flames so that people are even more anxious to read or write about the next story. Apple has had this “cumulative” buzz thing going on for years now— which is why every new product gets even more buzz than the last.

    Who knows what happens in the future. It really is amazing that so many people feel an emotional attachment to Apple. That’s pretty rare in business. Hopefully, those deep connections will inspire Apple to remain true to its founding values.

  • Jacob

    I’ll tell you why the iPad doesn’t have an SD card. Apple doesn’t want you to store all your 12~24MP photos on your iPad. They could make it easy to transfer photos. But then it’d take just three photo transfer sessions for you to fill up the ~32GB. The iPad’s not ready to be used as a photo storage yet. Its designed to be a photo viewer, and to serve that purpose it gets suitably downsized photos through iTunes or iPhoto or iCloud. So no SD card slot. A perfectly sensible design decision.

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