Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Coming up with a great technology product or service is only half the battle these days. Creating a name for said product that is at once cool but not too cool or exclusionary, marketable to both early adopters and a broader audience, and, of course, isn't already in use and protected by various trademarks and copyright laws is difficult--to say the least.
The makers of these 10 tech products--the iPod, BlackBerry, Firefox, Twitter, Windows 7, ThinkPad, Android, Wikipedia, Mac OS X and the "Big Cats," and Red Hat Linux--all have displayed certain amounts marketing savvy, common sense and fun-loving spirit in settling on their products' names. Here are the intriguing, surprising and sometimes predictable accounts of their creation.
ThinkPad: Simplicity Wins Out

The venerable line of PC notebooks rolled onto the scene in 1992. While the concept was spot on, there was turmoil at IBM as to what to call it. IBM's pen-computing group wanted to keep it simple; they liked ThinkPad. But IBM's corporate naming committee didn't--it didn't have a number, and every IBM product had to have a number, and how would ThinkPad translate into other languages? Due to the chutzpah of the IBMer who unveiled it, ThinkPad won out, and it was a huge hit for IBM, which eventually sold it to Lenovo in 2005.
Android: Secretive, But Still Not Exciting

You'd think the story behind the naming of the Open Handset Alliance's new open-source platform for mobile devices, which includes the brand-new G1 loaded with Google's goodies, would be cool. But, uh, not so much. Back in 2005, Google quietly acquired a mysterious startup named Android Inc., which had been operating under "a cloak of secrecy" on "making software for mobile phones," reported Businessweek. The result of all Google's secrecy and Internet hype was the debut of T-Mobile's G1 on Oct. 22, 2008.
Wikipedia: Just What It Sounds Like

According to Wikipedia, the name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites) and encyclopedia (you remember, those large books that, as kids, we ruthlessly plagiarized for school book reports). FYI: a portmanteau is a fancy way of saying that we're going to take two words, jam them together and (hopefully) create a new concept that people will love. So far, so good. In an illustration of the axiom "the more things change the more they stay the same": Today, kids and adults now ruthlessly plagiarize Wikipedia instead of encyclopedias.
Mac OS X and "The Big Cats": Catlike Sleekness and Style

Apple's popular Mac operating system X actually denotes the Roman numeral 10, since it is the OS's tenth release, following Mac OS 9. To the ire of Apple fanboys, many people do refer to it as letter 'X.' More interesting have been the "big cat" code names assigned to each succeeding X release that have stuck with Apple's marketing: Cheetah (10.0), Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger and current kitty Leopard. Snow Leopard has been assigned for the 10.6 release, with rumors that Lynx and Cougar are in the works.
Red Hat Linux: A Name Rich with Meaning

Cofounder Bob Young has given multidimensional origins of the red fedora name:
1. It was named after red, which in Western history is "the symbol of liberation and challenge of authority."
2. Cofounder Marc Ewing wore his grandfather's red Cornell lacrosse hat in college and became known for this tech expertise--those with problems went to see the guy in the red hat.
3. Ewing named his software projects Red Hat 1, Red Hat 2 and so on. "So, when he started his Linux project, he just named it Red Hat Linux," Young said. All righty then!

Thomas Wailgum, CIO

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