The iPad has had a rebranding. Well, a rebranding of sorts. It was widely expected that the new tablet would be called 'iPad 3" (or 'iPad HD' if you believed the rumors), but Apple CEO Tim Cook surprised us all by simplifying the name down to 'iPad.'
First, it's a simplification, and simplifying product names is always a good thing. Just take a look at Apple's Store and notice how everything is simple. You have iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, Apple TVs and so on. It's all simple. By contrast, the iPad (and the iPhone) has been encumbered with a clumsy suffix ever since the second generation hardware came out. Now we have the iPad. It's simple, and it makes sense. We don't walk around with a MacBook Pro 4S or a iMac 5, and it no longer makes sense to have an iPad 3.
But there's more to this rebranding than just simplifying the Apple Store. It's a sign that the iPad is now mature enough that the differences between the old models and the new models are evolutionary, not revolutionary. It might have been convenient in the beginning for each refresh to get a new name (or at least a new suffix) but as far as consumers go, it's now become quite unnecessary. They have an iPad, that's all that matters. They're either clued on enough to know when a new one is released, or they're not and will buy a new one when the old one breaks or no longer does what they want it to do (which is essentially how the PC model works).
Now that Apple has rebranded the iPad, I confidently expect that the iPhone will get the same treatment, and that the next-generation iPhone won't be called 'iPhone 5' but simply 'iPhone.'
Some pundits put a lot of stock in product names. I remember back when the iPhone 4S was announced how some pundits instantly predicted that the device would be a total flop because consumers were expecting it to be called iPhone 5. What happened to the iPhone 4S? It went on to be Apple's fastest selling iPhone. Same thing happened with the first-generation iPad. There were pundits that declared it dead on arrival because of the silly name that sounded like a feminine hygiene product.
Consumers don't seem to care what their iOS devices are called, and so Apple is in a great position to simplify both the name and the branding by dumping the now superfluous suffix.
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