March 08, 2012

Apple introduced a new model iPad, called "iPad," and an improved Apple TV set-top box at a media event in San Francisco on Wednesday, along with an update to its mobile operating system, iOS 5.1.

In addition, the company has updated the iPad versions of several of its apps, including the iWork apps Keynote, Pages and Numbers, and iLife apps iMovie and Garageband.

Apple presumably wants to revert to calling its tablets simply "iPad," but having already released "iPad 2," it might have seemed odd to go back to just "iPad," the name of its first-generation device.

Hence, Apple is stuck with unwanted adjectival baggage: It has to pair "new" with "iPad" so people know which iPad it means. The purchasing buttons on Apple's website offer this choice: "Select an iPad 2" and "Select a new iPad." Apple wouldn't want customers avoiding its new iPad for fear of ordering an old iPad.

Normally, using "new" on a retail website would be a way to distinguish between new and used (or "pre-owned") devices. But Apple isn't using the word to describe the device's condition; it's co-opting the term for its product name, at least until we forget the first iPad. With any luck, Apple will drop "new" as an adjective before people start selling their new iPads and secondary markets like are forced to list "used new iPads."

Presiding over the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the company sold more iPads last year than the number of PCs sold by any single competing computer maker. Apple, he said, is at the forefront of the post-PC revolution.

The new iPad doesn't quite live up to the unrealistic hype that preceded its launch. It does not support Siri, as many expected. Its battery life and form factor remain the same (count this as an improvement given the increased CPU horsepower and cellular networking). There's no sign of NFC, wireless charging, or hardware-based anti-theft technology. But wishing for something doesn't mean the technology is ready or the engineering is realistic. There's always next year.

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