Has Apple forgotten how to name products?

What will Apple (or presumably Steve Jobs who decides) call the new tablet launching tomorrow?   The iTablet seems like a good guess, but eager to hear. I’ve been pretty disappointed in Apple’s naming techniques for products lately, more specifically  new models of existing products.  The iPod seems like a pretty good name, although probably only in retrospect.  Same goes for the iPhone although since the phone part of the iPhone is the most maligned part of it, maybe a new name is in order. The iPod Touch seems a bit odd too, it’s more like the “iPhone without the phone part” than an iPod with touch controls.

My biggest disappointment is in the models of the iPhone.  It seems that there was no plan there. The first iPhone was, appropriately just the iPhone.  Next up, the iPhone 3G was confusing to ordinary people who had no way of knowing that the 3G referred to the 3rd generation data network the phone was [supposedly] taking advantage of.   Mostly though when numbers like that are used it’s to refer to the generation of the device, not the network?? So now people with the first phones were left wondering if their phone was a 1G or 2G or something else? Not to worry though, we all figured Apple would figure out a snazzy new name for the latest iPhone this past summer. Lo and behold it was called the 3GS.  Huh? Did they just launch a plural of the 3G? Sure looks like it when you write about it.  Oh, the S is for speed? That’s clever. Or confusing…. So now, you either have the 3rd generation iPhone or is it 4G? Nope, it’s the S.  So people resort to  things like, mine is the one with video….

Why would Apple not get this right? It seems like they worry about every other miniscule detail (other than the phone/network part).  Blackberry nailed the naming for a while. Everyone knew what the bberry Pearl was and the Curve and even the Bold and the Storm.  Once in a while they’d slip a random one in too though, like the World Edition on Verizon that only got a number 8850. They seem to generally get it though.  At least Palm is trying with the Pre and the Pixi.  Android phones are very confusing now.  Since the Motorola Droid and the Droid Erris, everyone thinks all Android phones are “Droids”, understandably confused.  Google tried with the Nexus One, but nobody seems to like that name very much.  Nokia hasn’t really excelled here either – quick, name a Nokia model.

Back to Apple – they messed this up with their laptops too. Do you have a Macbook or Macbook Pro? Uh – I have the silver one, but it’s smaller, but it has the Intel chip? Or – I have the white one.  Maybe Apple thinks not having clearly distinct names is simpler?

I would argue that having a clear and catchy product or model name helps in a big way with word of mouth.  How can I recommend my phone if I can’t even tell you what it is in a way you’ll remember?

Anyway – will be interesting to see what the new tablet is called and what new versions of it get called also….. What do you guys think?

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14 responses to “Has Apple forgotten how to name products?

  1. The ‘MacLet’

  2. I never really got the iPod name. What’s the “i” for? Internet? What’s that got to do with music?And why pod?

  3. @EAF – interesting, but sounds a little like food to me… I think the iTablet or iSlate conventional wisdom will probably prevail.

    @Chris – agreed – I do think the “i” in everything is supposed to mean internet, i.e. that the music is downloaded from the internet. Pod is a different story, kind of a geeky type name I think, I think of spaceships. But as a completely new category, they made it work….

  4. Pingback: Apple iPad – because the sane names were taken « Ronfeldman's Blog

  5. yeah, the “i” stands for internet. if you remember, the original iMac was the first to ditch the floppy drive in favor of optical drives, USB connected drives, and the internet. that they continued to name nearly everything thereafter is questionable – it obviously served its purpose in terms of branding and consolidating everyone’s idea of an Apple product. iPod was great. iPhone worked as well. but i think that this product is so refined both aesthetically and in its interface that the “i” is too cutesy. i generally think that the “i” branding concept has run its course, just as “Computer” did as part of the company’s name.

    one of the better names i saw floated around before yesterday was Canvas. a blank canvas to create or do anything. perfect – crisp, clean, open to possibilities. Slate was also good – updated from the 19th c. version that schoolchildren used. unfortunately, that name became the generic moniker for every tablet, so no go. Ce la vie, it is what it is. it certainly isn’t the best, but it’s also not the absolute worst.

    i’m a firm believer in the name being part of the sell – i’ll never understand manufacturers that continue to use numbers and letters to label their products. i wrote a post a few years ago about what had been termed an “iPod killer” (god, i hate the term “killer” – if anything, it would be a competitor). it was aptly named the Samsung YP-Z5. i wrote how now matter how amazing the product (which i highly doubted would come close to the iPod’s interface), the name doomed it from the start. if people can’t remember it or say it easily, it’s doomed.

    while iPad certainly isn’t particularly inspiring, it gets the idea across and is easy to remember. and if the idea that the iPad gets across is “a device the does a bit of everything, but what exactly does it do?”, then you’ve hit the nail on the head. i think it’ll eventually take hold, but i think they’re going to have to eventually target it to a particular market at a time (first couch-web-browsing, then gaming, then ebooks, or whatever order). that’s kind of what they’ve been doing w/ the iPhone/iPod Touch. for months at a time they’ll highlight a different feature where the product excels. they’re going to have to do that w/ the iPad, b/c nobody understands what it does, or how it will make browsing, emailing, and reading a much more enjoyable and comfortable experience. that’s really what it’s for, anyway – comfort.

    and that, my friend, was not a comment. that was a post in itself. and that was the tip of the iceberg.

  6. @Kenny great comment, definitely appreciate your thoughts! Assume you read my more recent thoughts on the device itself? Will be interesting to see how it evolves. Someone mentioned to me today that it could be a big hit with middle-aged folks like our parents, maybe as a first portable device for the couch? My parents just have a desktop at home, for example. I can see that, I suppose, though not sure how intuitive the interface would be for a non-iPhone user.

  7. I also read about it being a potential hit for the baby-boomers, and I totally agree. You just have to get them to try it, as they’re generally loath to investigate new technology. I can’t see it getting much simpler than the iPad for them, though. No need to boot up the computer, squint to see where you’re supposed to click, double click, understand or ignore all the extraneous stuff, etc. Even if they’re not iPhone users, it’s pretty much the easiest interface around. It’s just easier for iPhone/iPod Touch users as there’s no learning curve for them.

    For me, the iPad is all about the comfortable couch experience. The web/email/etc pervade every aspect of our lives now. Sitting at a computer is fine when you’re working, but surfing/emailing is no longer an activity that you schedule time for or need to do while restrained at a desk. Anyone w/ a smartphone makes that obvious – we’re surfing wherever we are. But that’s not comfortable – our behavior has created the opportunity for a more comfortable experience. The naysayers I’ve argued with on this point return the point that they’ve got a laptop and a smartphone, why do they need the in-between? B/c it’s all about comfort – why would you restrain your experience to an overheating, battery draining laptop or a tiny screen if there was a more comfortable way to do the things you were doing while sitting on the couch? Remember the 3Com Audrey? It tried to nail this activity while standing at the kitchen counter. Same price point, mind you. It’s just that surfing and email hadn’t become important enough in our lives and the device’s interface wasn’t evolved enough to fill that void. This is ultimately all about comfort, and I think that people will slowly come around on it, especially if they see it in action.

  8. @Kenny – my big question though is whether or not the device can be held/used comfortably. Won’t know until I see/hold, but seemed quite awkward to me, too big to hold comfortably like the iPhone for long periods of time, but also awkward to rest on table or lap….

  9. It’s about the size of a hardcover book – roughly 9.5×7.5″, and 1/2″ thick, and it’s only 1.5 lbs. Basically like holding a, dare I say it, pad. I can’t imagine it’s all that different from holding a book for long periods of time. I’m also looking forward to trying it out, but I’d have a hard time believing Apple would overlook something like that.

  10. @Kenny, but you hold a book with both hands for the most part, you don’t need to interact. And for a completely passive experience like watching a movie, holding anything up like that seems uncomfortable? It just seemed odd to me that the preso and all the demos included odd sitting positions and/or leg crossing…..

  11. You hold a book w/ both hands? I think people tend to hold a book w/ one hand and flip pages w/ the other. But either way, I could easily see this sitting in my lap and using two hands to navigate, or likewise it sitting on a table. I could then see picking it up to hold it closer to my eyes if I desired, using my free hand to scroll text. Honestly, I just don’t see us paying attention to the physical component of our usage once it’s in our hands.

    Regarding passive viewing, I agree that it could probably get annoying having it on your lap, trying to prop it up. They’ve obviously thought about that – the leather case includes a prop. Not that we should all end up w/ that case, but obviously there is need for a prop in certain situations. Just like we have various pillows/work surfaces/fans, etc. that are 3rd party for using laptops, this will have a similar ecosystem.

    Do you ever read Daring Fireball? I find his Apple reviews to be the most spot-on and in-depth.

  12. Fair points all around. Will need to try it.

    I do read Daring Fireball and find him insightful, however I think he falls into the Fanboy camp. I find it’s hard to come by unbiased thoughts about Apple, it really is like religion, people are pretty one-sided…. I try my best to be nuanced, but it’s not easy.

  13. No doubt that he’s a fanboy, but I do find his posts to be pretty well-rounded. I agree with the pundits who call this a paradigm-shift in how we use the computer. It is. It’s just that everyone wants it to be everything from the get-go, and so there’s all this backlash.

  14. Pingback: My iPhone 4 Review « Ron Feldman's Blog

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