By Galen M. Gruman
Created 2012-04-03 03:00AM
Here we go again. The iPhone 5 will have a large screen more like that of the Android flagship, the Galaxy Nexus . Or maybe it won't. According to all the gossip, it will have an LTE 4G radio, just like the new iPad .
As always, the rumor mill is a mix of highly suspect blogger fantasies and "duh" predictions, such as the inclusion of 4G. But let me be the first to tell you that whatever the next iPhone features, it won't be the name "iPhone 5."
I predict that the iPhone 4S  is the last numbered iPhone, and the next model will simply be the iPhone. Apple long ago dropped version numbers for its Mac and iPod hardware. The Apple TV never got them in the first place. The latest iPad drops the numbering for that product line. All that's left is the iPhone, and you can bet it too will join the versionless set.
The reason is simple: There's no need for numbers. The Mac and iPod are mature product lines, and although there are incremental hardware changes, plus occasional innovations such as last year's introduction of the Thunderbolt bus technology , what matters more is the line they belong to: MacBook Pro , MacBook Air , iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, iPod Classic, iPod Nano, or iPod Touch. When people need to distinguish among models in a line, they refer to the generation (such as third-gen iPod Touch) or year (such as the early 2011 MacBook Pro). The iPhone is as mature as the iPod Touch, and the iPad looks to be set for some years in its current basic configuration.
Apple understands that the deep value is in the ecosystem, not the box that runs it, and the importance for owners of all models to feel current. It doesn't really matter whether your MacBook Pro is from 2009 or 2011 but whether it runs OS X Lion and iCloud . Ditto on mobile devices, where iOS 5 and iCloud  compatibility is the major advantage.
Last fall's iPhone debacle  -- when the crescendo of hysterical rumors created a brief media, blogger, and stockholder backlash against the iPhone 4S because it didn't fulfill bloggers' "iPhone 5" fantasies  -- no doubt cemented Apple's decision to get rid of such version-based naming, to lessen the chances of any such label again turning into poisoned apple.
The PC market made this shift years ago, as the arcane model numbers on new PCs mean nothing to buyers; at best, they're part numbers for IT and retailers to use. If a PC is in the stores, it's current, and what matters is its ability to run Windows 7 . Next year, what will matter is the ability to run Windows 8 .
The mobile device market isn't quite there, but it's close. Samsung uses the Galaxy S II moniker to distinguish from the previous Galaxy S generation, but it hasn't done so for other Galaxy devices such as the Nexus  or the Note . Motorola Mobility does use version numbers on its original Droid  series, but nowhere else (so far) in its Android device families. HTC also eschews version numbers.
The only mobile device companies sticking to version numbers are Nokia and Research in Motion. Nokia's numbers are meant to indicate relative value; for example, the Lumia 900 is apparently better and thus costlier than the Lumia 800 , which is apparently better and costlier than the Lumia 600. RIM used numbers for the same purposes, but its four-character codes are hard to tell from each other, as they use some digits to distinguish carrier-specfic models, and they've all but lost their meanings. That's why people talk not of the BlackBerry 9900 but the BlackBerry Bold . Even old-fashioned RIM has recognized that family names -- Bold, Curve, and Torch  -- make more sense to buyers. Maybe Nokia will get a clue as well and stop confusing part numbers with names.
What all this comes down to is the rapid maturation of device hardware. Though hardware is important, software ultimately creates the most value, partly by enabling the hardware's value. We'll see version numbers on iOS, OS X, Android, and Windows for some time, but the devices that run them, not so much.
This article, "Why there won't be an iPhone 5 ," was originally published at InfoWorld.com . Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog  and follow the latest developments in mobile technology  at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen . For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter .
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Source URL (retrieved on 2012-04-06 11:02AM): http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobile-technology/why-there-wont-be-iphone-5-189493