What Apple did by eliminating the numeric moniker was the right thing to do, in fact it may even be brilliant. The fact of the matter is numeric values that specify product generations simply can not last forever. Companies who use them generally change product names, create new names, or add some other moniker like HD, Extreme, Maxx etc. After a while they all get old. Does anyone think this would have continued to iPad 12? or iPhone 18?
This is actually a move I have been waiting for. Ever since the iPhone 4 I have been conversing with many industry insiders that the numeric moniker needs to go away. Many commenters and some smart folks out there in the press have been rightly observing that Apple themselves have been doing this for a while with other products. The Mac is not the Mac 25 or the iPod 8 or the MacBook Air 4, etc.
More importantly another industry, where legacy brands is hugely important does not do this and that is Automobiles. I do not drive the Honda Civic 17. I drive the Honda Civic and the model is 2009. The year is largely irrelevant when someone asks me what car I drive. I simply say the Honda Civic. Car companies often delineate the brand with a value for engine size or class but the brand is what matters the most. When consumers say they are getting the new iPhone it is common knowledge that that statement refers to the most recent or newest. Therefore the name is all that is needed not a numeric distinguisher.
Numeric branding simply gets old, tired, and generally more difficult to market after a while. The brand is the legacy not the number. I hope Apple does this with the iPhone. I hope it is not the iPhone 5 and just the iPhone. It may take people a little getting used to but believe me they will get used to it, past it, over it, etc and move on and it will be better for everyone.
You know who else does this? Intel. Intel has standardized for the time being on Core i3, i5 and i7. Each year this number does not change. What you know is that you want the latest Core i3, i5, or i7. Intel, like many other companies, knows how key branding is and numeric monikers to distinguish new generations are hard to keep up. They are also entirely un-necessary.
Why may this be brilliant? Well without a distinguishing moniker I wonder how the press will be able to speculate, rumor, etc without calling out which model exactly they are speculating or rumoring etc? A title like What Apple Should Bring to the Next iPad without a numeric moniker will become redundant. Would you follow that title next year with What Apple Should Bring to the Next Next iPad / iPhone? That would seem ridiculous. Now I am sure we are not lucky enough to get away from all the ridiculous Apple speculating that goes on the media. I am sure they will adapt and figure out ways to write crazy stuff but I do think this simple naming scheme will make it a bit more difficult–or at least I hope.