According to CNET (who claims their source is a developer at Apple who is normally quite reliable) the new iPad will be labeled the iPad HD and not the iPad 3 like we’ve all been calling it.
This could make good sense if Apple is trying to tie in the new Apple TV and improved HD capabilities for both devices. By including it in the name, HD becomes a part of the evolving Apple brand.
There may be other reasons for the change in suffix. It could be that Apple is indeed planning to keep selling the iPad 2 which makes the iPad HD a higher end option moreso than a replacement for the existing tablet. It could also be that the changes to the new device are so significant they feel it warrants a departure from the existing lineup –giving consumers a reference point that functions in much the same way as the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 4 (with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S as more minor upgrades comparatively).
It could also be that they want to refrain from having a product lineup in a few years that includes the iPad 7 (a name that carries very little impact). Microsoft is famous for employing this strategy as well, maintaining the Windows prefix but with new major releases having their own unique suffix (95, 2000, Vista, 7, etc.).
This isn’t the first time this news has gone around. Other news agencies have reported this new suffix, some as early as July 2011. Quick searches did indicate that Apple has yet to scoop up domain names related to the iPad HD name, but this likely has as much to do with secrecy and privacy than anything –Apple has lots of time to tidy up those details later if they choose.
Fortunately, we don’t have long to wait. It’s Christmas Eve all over again for those of us looking forward to the launch tomorrow!