Following the new iPad event, the internet erupted not with praise for the new iPad's Retina display, or it's A5X quad-core graphics chipset, or the availability of 4G LTE models. No, it erupted with controversy surrounding Apple eschewing the name "iPad 3" and going with simply the new "iPad."
Note, that's not "the new iPad", it's the new "iPad". Apple is just referring to it as "the new iPad" because it's the iPad that is new. Heck, even with the iPhone, that currently does have a numbering system of sorts, is referred to as "new" by most people. Many people don't know what model number the newest iPhone is at, or think they do and get it wrong. On multiple occasions, I've had people say something like "yeah, well my brother has the iPhone 4G!" when telling them I had an iPhone 4. It's a well known point of confusion (and one that likely just got worse, thanks to AT&T and Apple).
Yesterday, Simon Sage, expressed his dislike for the new name and argued that even though the rest of Apple's product line -- iMac, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, iPad -- aren't numbered, Apple still doesn't run around calling them "the new [insert product name here]".
Actually. They do. Here's "The new iMac".
And "The new MacBook Air".
And "The new Mac Pro".
They may not have done it as repeatedly or in as many places as they've done "the new iPad", but they have done it. And for a reason. MacBooks and iPods haven't had numbers before, so thew new MacBook or the new iPod is an easy transition. The last iPad was the "iPad 2" so Apple needs to stress that while the latest model isn't being called the "iPad 3", it's still the latest model. It's still new. The word is simply a descriptive term to go along with it and emphasize the transition.
I guarantee your new iPad will not arrive in a box labeled "The new iPad".
As to the argument that there's be no way to distinguish between iPad models, that's something we've already learned to deal with. Just like we have "iPod touch (3rd generation)" and "iMac (early 2011)", we'll have "iPad (3rd generation)" or "iPad (early 2012)". Now, I do agree that with the iPad, it is a little different because Apple will be selling two models at the same time, but really, it doesn't change anything. The current iPad will get the spotlight, and somewhere in the corner will be the previous year's model with the appropriate label.
I also agree that for this year, and this year only, this rebranding might confuse customers. The fact that the iPad 2 is older than the iPad is bewildering, so, absolutely this will be confusing to consumers -- but that's precisely why Apple is being so adamant about referring to the latest iPad as "the new iPad".
Apple has always been relentless about embracing change and it's served them pretty well. "iPad" is simpler, stronger, and more Apple-like. It's better. People have a tendency to resist change, so it's certainly understandable that many reacted strongly, even negatively to Apple calling the new iPad simply the new iPad.
Arguably, Apple's mistake was not with axing the numbering scheme now, but with starting it in the first place. The repercussion of that mistake is to have one confusing year. In a couple years from now, this will be a non-issue. And in reality, how much will this confusion actually hurt them? A customer is going to walk in and ask for an iPad, an employee will show them both models, and they'll make a decision. It will have zero effect on Apple's bottom line.
Back in October, I predicted that Apple was going to make this naming move with the next-generation iPhone. Looks like I nailed it, I just underestimated how quickly they'd move.