On Naming Macs and iPads

The biggest surprise of the new iPad announcement was none of the specs or features, it was the name. Most predictions were iPad 3 or iPad HD. Instead, it is just iPad.

At first this caught me by surprise but then quickly realized it made sense. With one major caveat, Apple only uses brand extensions for product form factors, not for individually identified models. So we have Macbook Pro and Macbook Air. We have iMac and Mac Pro. We have Mac mini. We have iPod touch, iPod nano, iPod shuffle and iPod classic. And we have Apple TV. Each successive generation of these devices are still known as iPod touch, iMac, etc.

How do we differentiate? With iMacs and Macbooks most people refer to the screen size. I have the 13″ Macbook Pro. To differentiate even further it generally is referred to as the year purchased but that doesn’t really matter to most people and I rarely hear that mentioned except among the technorati. [2]

So iPad, going back to being named iPad, actually is following this model. It is confusing temporarily because the iPad 2 is still around, but I think this will be resolved in the fall or next spring when Apple launches a second iPad screen size. I think we will be talking about the 10″ iPad and the 7″ iPad instead. To continue talking about the iPad 3 with the 7″ screen defeats Apple’s traditional naming conventions.

I mentioned a caveat and that, of course, is the iPhone. The iPhone, though, is different because it is the one device sold extensively by a third-party: carriers. It is one thing to have an Apple-trained person needing to know which device you are carrying. Apple has control over that and can train their folks specifically. But could you imagine the confusion at an AT&T store if you walked in needing help with a non-descript iPhone? That person really needs to know which model of iPhone you are carrying.

In addition, how does one person identify their iPhone to another person? With an iPod, for instance, the form factor is unique. Same for a Macbook because of the screen size and soon the same will be true for iPad. But with an iPhone there is little to differentiate an iPhone 4 from an iPhone 4s, except the name.

For these reasons I believe Apple will continue giving names to the iPhone and it will remain a unique convention for Apple’s naming schemes.


[1] Yes, I bought an iPad yesterday with 64GB of memory, wifi+4G, black, and a different smart cover color to differentiate from the iPad 2 we have here. If I wasn’t a developer would I have bought it? Yes. I’ve been waiting for the retina version since Apple launched the iPhone 4 almost two years ago. Given that, I wouldn’t have bought the second generation iPad 2 as the first generation was good enough for me.

[2] We don’t get this with the Mac Pro or Mac mini, though, since those don’t have screens but in both of those cases I have only ever heard them referred to by those names. Technorati may also comment on the processor speed.