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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

The iPad: Insert meaning here

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

This week’s episode of the Connected podcast is a real treat, a nearly three-hour analysis of the original iPad launch keynote1, which took place five years ago this week.

Listening to the podcast in the car yesterday made me think back to 2010, when the iPad was announced by Steve Jobs at a special media event in San Francisco. The name of the rumored device was one of the hottest topics of late 2009 and early 2010, with speculation running from Canvas to iTablet to iSlate2.

I remember at the time advocating for the return of a then-disused Apple brand, iBook, as the name. It’s a nifty title—revived during that very event, in fact, but as software instead of hardware—but in 2015 I’m struck by how a bad name it would’ve been for that device.

Calling Apple’s tablet the iBook would have unnecessarily defined the device as more of an e-reader, rather than the more versatile device it actually was. In fact, one of the great coups of the iPad keynote was the rollout of a trio of iWork apps. Those apps might have been a little overly ambitious, but in the best possible way—and they made clear Apple’s position on the iPad as a device capable of doing real work.

I know that a lot of people feel like iPad is an awkward name. At the time the name caused quite a bit of tittering, and even today it doesn’t seem to be particularly loved. But I think it’s the perfect name, because pad—like pod before it—is a word that’s utterly devoid of meaning… until Apple inserts meaning into it. And that’s what the company did on stage in January 2010.

For a long time, I thought that Apple would redefine and recycle the iPod name at some point, too. But these days Apple is moving away from products with the i prefix3, so it seems like that chance has passed us by. The Apple Watch, when it arrives in April, will do so with the meaning of the word watch embedded into our expectations.

  1. I am not a huge fan of gigantically long podcasts, but this one’s a good one. It reminds me of an episode of The Incomparable, but the subject’s not a movie or a TV show or a book, but an Apple event. 
  2. Hilariously, CES 2010 was full of products trying to hijack the “slate” moniker, assuming Apple would use it. Those products were truly the last devices of the pre-iPad world, and most of them never shipped. 
  3. …despite the fact that a product with that kiss of death, that annoying little lowercase i, just sold 75 million units in a quarter. 

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