Within moments of Apple executives unveiling the latest version of the iPad, ripples of confusion began spreading across the blogosphere, centered on one key fact: The new device seemed to lack an official name.
Executives onstage had referred to the tablet simply as "the new iPad." That ran contrary to the buzz heading into the event, which uniformly suggested it would be saddled with either "iPad 3" or "iPad HD."
At least one analyst has offered an explanation for Apple's lack of a firm moniker for the tablet. "Finally, the product will be called 'the new iPad' rather than the iPad 3," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a March 7 research note. "We think this implies that future updates will be driven by software rather than hardware, so Apple is switching its naming practices to be closer to those of the Macs and iPods." Overall, he saw the eventand the new iPad's offeringsas an overall positive for Apple.
Apple's new iPad includes a high-resolution "Retina Display," a new A5X processor with quad-core graphics, and a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video. It weighs slightly more than the iPad 2, at 1.4 pounds, and offers comparable battery life. Those in the United States will have the option of purchasing the new iPad with 4G LTE connectivity on either Verizon or AT&T.
Other analysts believe those features will help strengthen the iPad's market position.
"Given the 8-inch Kindle Fire ($199) and several lower-priced 10-inch Android Tablets," Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in a March 7 research note, "we see the price reduction of the iPad 2, and the lower entry-level price for the iPad family, as a strong defensive move from Apple." Munster doesn't see the iPad 2 price reduction as negatively impacting sales of the new iPad: "Rather, it expands Apple's addressable market in the rapidly growing tablet space."
He also believes that a smaller, cheaper iPad will someday appear on store shelves. "If the tablet market grows to be larger than the PC market," he wrote, "which it already has for Apple on both a unit and a revenue basis as of the Dec-11 quarter, we believe the market will support multiple form-factors."
In fact, he added, "We expect the iPad segment (40.5m sold in CY11, 60m est. in CY12) to require multiple form-factors for the many geographies, demographics, and use cases that it addresses."
It's anyone's guess, though, what Apple might actually call a smaller iPad.