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In Defense Of iPad: Apple's New Name Irritates, But Works

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Apple's name for the new iPad is "the new iPad."

Or to be more specific, just "iPad." The third generation of the company's tablet has bucked Apple's own tradition of numbering models chronologically -- it was widely expected to be the "iPad 3" -- to distinguish them from their predecessors. Whereas the first iPhone was followed by the iPhone 3G and 3GS, then iPhone 4 and 4S, the iPad has gone from "iPad 2" back to plain old "iPad."

The name change (or lack thereof) has left some people frustrated. Many are confused as to what to call the tablet, disappointed, and altogether displeased.

"Let's be honest, the name 'The New iPad' is already a $10 billion mistake, black eye on the Tim Cook era, and it's an hour old," tweeted one user. Another chimed in, "So, just to confirm: Apple created a new iPad, declined to give it a real name and barely changed it from the last one? No thanks."

Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller told Fortune's Miguel Helft Apple chose the name because the company doesn't "like to be predictable."

But that pithy response glosses over the fundamental logic and branding genius of the return to a moniker devoid of numbers or acronyms. With a single word, Apple has signaled to consumers they should consider the iPad heir to the PC throne, while accentuating the differences between its device and rivals.

Whereas Apple's iOS devices each have suffixes that distinguish one version from another, its PCs have kept the same name from generation to generation. The first MacBook Air, launched in 2008, was called the MacBook Air, as were all subsequent versions of the laptop. And whether the device has an 11-inch screen or a 13-inch screen, a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, 2 GB of memory or 4GB, it's still the "MacBook Air" -- no "MacBook Air 4" or "MacBook Air 13.4." Likewise, Apple's iMac has been "iMac" for more than a decade.

Calling the latest iPad "iPad" links the tablet more directly to Apple's stable of PC devices and suggests the gadget isn't to be seen as an accessory, but a staple -- something to be relied on for multiple generations, or even as a substitute for a PC. "iPad" also shifts the focus away from how the device has evolved and instead emphasizes that it belongs to a class of devices all its own.

Apple CEO Tim Cook proclaimed that Apple has "its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future," noting that 76 percent of the company's revenue stems from sales of iOS devices. The iPad name is one more way Apple has affirmed this.

Apple has also used the one-word "iPad" to distinguish its tablet from a growing number of Android competitors, which, almost as a rule, have impossible-to-remember names that rival the titles of British aristocrats for complexity and wordiness.

Tablets touted as alternatives to the iPad include the critically-acclaimed "Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime" and even more befuddling "Asus Eee Pad Slider SL 101" -- both solid devices, but difficult to ask for by name. Samsung has used a system of numbers (with decimals!?) and words to distinguish between versions of its Galaxy Tab. The company's line of tablets include the Galaxy Tab 7.7, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, Galaxy Tab 8.9, and Galaxy Tab 10.1, titles that correspond only generally to the capabilities of each device. The onerous names of Android gadgets have become so notorious that they've spawned a website, "Android Phone Name Generator," mocks smartphones' names with titles such as "Acer Liquid Vivid Z E G1."

The simplicity of the iPad's name not only makes it easy to remember, but suggests that Apple's tablet is exceptional.

Madonna doesn't need a last name. Nor does the iPad, it seems.

Check out the slideshow (below) for everything you need to know about the new iPad.

11 Things You Need To Know About The New iPad
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