New iPad's lack of a new name leaves Apple enthusiasts puzzled

Apple's introduction of the latest iPad has left Madison Avenue, and Silicon Valley, scratching their heads.

While some pundits predicted the device announced Wednesday would be called the iPad 3 -- and others said iPad HD -- Apple threw a curveball and didn't use a specific moniker for its latest upgrade. Rather, the company simply called it "the new iPad."

The company didn't provide a detailed explanation. Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, simply said that Apple broke from the convention "because we don't want to be predictable."

Branding experts said the lack of a new name is potentially confusing, given the fact that the company has given new names or tweaks to its line extensions before.

"It does seem to be a bit confusing, when you have a product evolution naming is a way to differentiate," said Charles Rashall, president & founder of Brandadvisors, a branding firm in San Francisco. The new name is "communicating that they are going backwards."

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Some attendees at the device's San Francisco unveiling, hosted by Chief Executive Tim Cook, seemed confused, too. For years, Apple has named new iPhones with new model numbers. The initial iPad gave way to the iPad 2, which will remain on sale at a lower price following the arrival of the new model. It has used subnames, not numbers, for its iPod product line, which has different-sized hardware. It currently sells an iPod nano and iPod touch.

An Apple spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to request for comment about the possibility of naming confusion.

The company also surprised customers last fall by naming its latest iPhone the 4S instead of iPhone 5. It had, however, taken a similar approach when it upgraded the iPhone 3 to the 3S.

The lack of a new name quickly became a hotly debated topic on the Twitter website. "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," read one typical post.

Ad experts predict that consumers will eventually call the product the iPad 3.

For more on Apple's newest member of the iPad family, see The Wall Street Journal.