Roughly 20 minutes into Wednesday's announcement in San Francisco, Cook finally lifted the veil on the new iPad, and the screen behind him lit up with the shiny new white tablet with the words, The new iPad. But there was no way that new iPad was the actual name. We all waited for another 65 minutes until the end of the presentation, but when Cook took the stage again to say goodbye, there was no other name. No one more thing. Just... the new iPad.
The immediate aftermath, both in our newsroom and in the digital world, was wrathful. How could they? This is so unlike Apple. Steve Jobs would have NEVER let this happen.
Au contraire. Jobs would have let this happen. Hell, he would've announced the name himself -- as unexciting as it is -- and made it sound exciting anyway.
Apple is trying to tell us something with the new iPad: It's not about the name.
Yes, model numbers help us differentiate products when talking about them in a historical context (What was the first iPad you ever bought?), but the model numbers don't really enhance the experience.
Model numbers help new products feel new, but Apple is confident that its next-gen iPad offers enough standalone newness that a name or title would just be redundant.
Apple could've named this iPad anything, too -- I'm sure they know this. With 4G LTE and the first-ever Retina Display on a 9.7-inch device, Apple could've bestowed any number of names to its next-gen tablet: iPad 4G, iPad LTE, iPad 4L, iPad RD, and of course, iPad 3 or iPad HD.
Any number of names would've worked. Any name would suffice, really. Apple fans just wanted a decision. Any decision. Anything but a non-decision. Anything but the new iPad.
The Wall Street Journal asked Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of marketing, why Apple broke from convention. Schiller's answer:
Because we don't want to be predictable.
Those crafty little devils. Schiller's tongue-in-cheek answer is EXACTLY why Steve Jobs would've loved the name. Maybe not the name itself, but definitely the decision behind it.
Apple may be a secretive company, but it's not blind. For months, Apple has remained silent but vigilant from the company's ivory tower in Cupertino, Calif., witnessing tech journalists and consumer tech media fight over the rightful name of the next iPad. The company probably leaked names left and right to its employees, but in the end, decided to fool everyone.
This is a very Jobs-ian move, because releasing a new iPad without a name is the ultimate prank.
Jobs loved to prank people, ever since he was a kid. One time, Jobs and a friend brought posters to his school announcing Bring Your Pet to School Day. According to Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson, teachers were beside themselves as dogs chased cats all around the school. On another occasion, Jobs set off an explosive underneath the chair of his third grade teacher, which gave her a nervous twitch.
Apple fans probably got a nervous twitch of their own when it dawned on them that there would be no new iPad name. No model number. No tradition. But that's exactly what Jobs would've wanted.
Jobs hated the status quo, and the tech world was creating its own status quo by releasing new products each year with a new model number. It was like clockwork. Predictable. The last thing Apple wants to be.
By naming the third-generation iPad the new iPad, Apple shook some of its demons while making its late founder proud. Now, tech journalists will think twice before they assign a name to a new Apple device -- iTV, anyone? -- and Apple stayed true to company tradition by breaking from tradition. But most of all, Jobs would be proud to know that Apple, from when it was a two-man operation working out of a garage to now the largest and most valuable company in the world, is still run by a bunch of rebels.