March 13, 2012

The New iPad – Uninspiring Names Are Nothing New

It has probably been said many times in the past week (at least in regards to Apple´s iPad), but for the sake of consistency-sake “what´s in a name?” That question may be asked of star crossed lovers, roses and most certainly the new iPad. The latest tablet from Apple isn´t technically called “the new iPad” but it isn´t called iPad 3 either. It is simply the new iPad — as opposed to the New iPad.

After all, actually calling it the “New iPad” would be rather short sighted, as it won´t also be the new iPad. In time it will be old, and saying, “That´s my old New iPad” would be very confusing. As would Apple naming subsequent devices “Newer iPad,” etc.

New anything seldom takes off. New Coke was a disaster, probably one of the biggest corporate blunders in the 20th century. Products may otherwise be billed as “new and improved,” but it isn´t usually in the name. Likewise, while it might have worked for the British TV series “The New Avengers” it hasn´t always been good to be new. The New Monkeys as a rock band was only slightly more inspired of a name than the New Yardbirds — the latter at least took off as Led Zeppelin. Would the song have remained the same if they went with the other name?

So what makes for this uninspiring name? Some have said it is that since Steve Jobs passed away last year the company has lost its inspiration. That´s hardly the case, since the iPhone hasn´t exactly had a string of notable names. iPhone 2, iPhone 3, etc. aren´t exactly resounding waves of inspiration.

In fact, if anything it has just caused confusion. Whereas movies might be fine with Part 2 — in some cases the second parts are even quite good (The Godfather Part II having set the bar notable high) — devices don´t need the sequel moniker. It often only makes for confusion, and worse in many ways insults those bought the first one.

No one actually calls their “iPhone 4” an “iPhone 4,” it is simply an “iPhone.” The same thing has happened with the iPad 2 — it just an iPad. This sort of builds on turning the product into its own brand. BlackBerry may have lost some shine, but even with a little tarnish (or is it patina) the handheld is simply a “BlackBerry.” It hasn´t matter if it is a “Pearl,” a “Bold” or a “Tour” — because in the end it is just a “BlackBerry.”

Apple has long had a mixed time transcending the numbers. Case in point, the Apple II. Maybe back then it was necessary. But with the iPod the company made a brand, and essentially took over the market. Now it doesn´t matter what generation or model, at the core it is an iPod.

Naming Convention — Conventional Rules
But the question does need to be asked. Why doesn´t the new iPad have a name or a model number? In a way this is because the product isn´t about being a gadget, and instead is about transcending to a computer or consumer electronics device such as TV.

Maybe a few years ago people used to think about their PC model — and maybe still do if they have a Mac — but changes are many consumers know the brand and nothing else. They might know they have a Dell or a Compact. They don´t know what model. Same truth holds for TVs, where consumers might know if that flat panel HDTV is plasma or LCD and whether it is a Sony, Panasonic or Vizio. The model number has become somewhat meaningless once out of the store.

This is both good and bad.

What it means is that consumers look for those features at the time of purchase and it determines what they buy. After that it is just a TV or computer. And the same is likely happening with tablets. It tablets are going to replace traditional computers — desktops, laptops or otherwise — then the market will be shaped in part by consumer preferences and this includes buying and usage trends.

So the improved resolution, the onboard memory and of course the 4G LTE might get them to buy it, but after that the end user is just happy to have the latest iPad. The name doesn´t matter.

Beyond the Name, is the iPad a Step Back?
Now shifting gears, one point remains about the iPad that is still confusing to many gadget gurus, bloggers and anyone who loves their big screen TV. This is why the iPad, even in its third generation, remains a 4x3 aspect ratio device? This is supposed to be its third generation, but it even desktop monitors have gone wide. Back in the 1990s when TV sets were still sold in this format movies were either available in “widescreen” or “full frame,” but with the move to digital TV and Blu-ray “widescreen” is just normal — albeit in varying ratios, usually from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1. For the record there are some matted releases, while older content is still presented in the full frame 1.33:1 aspect.

So why hasn´t the new iPad adopted the 16x9 aspect ratio of TVs, or at least the 16x10 aspect ratio of most new laptops? Much has been noted about the tablet offering a 2048x1536 resolution, which is double its predecessor.

One answer has been that the iPad isn´t a TV, nor is video its primary function. Some of argued that 4:3 is better for reading documents as it more closely resembles the page layout of a magazine or book. Widescreen monitors, which are good content creation devices, allow for two pages side to side — but this is typically with 17-inch or larger monitors. By contrast the iPad´s 9.7-inch screen is too small for side-by-side pages.

Interestingly there has been talk that iPad´s 4x3 aspect ratio could result in a return to “pan and scan,” a technique that modified films for TVs. This basically crops out part of the picture, something hated by film buffs and essentially the reason “widescreen” became popular in the first place.

It is also worth noting that users have adopted to the iPad´s screen size despite other tablets going for the more video friendly widescreen. While Gizmodo noted that the lack of widescreen display was one of the “8 Things That Suck About the iPhone” the blog for all things gadgets and gizmos has seemed to have come around.

Finally, it is worth noting that Gizmodo didn´t think much of the name “iPad” either, but over time the name has stuck. So much so that it brings us back to the beginning. The name has become so excepted that the newest version is just the new iPad.


Image Caption: The new iPad (Credit: Apple Inc.)


On the Net: