How conic Tech Products Got Their Names

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 and, of course, isn’t already in use and protected by various trademarks and copyright laws is difficult—to say the least.

BlackBerry: Sweet Addictiveness
Canada’s Research in Motion called on Lexicon Branding to help name its new wireless e-mail device in 2001. The consultancy pushed RIM founders away from the word “e-mail,” which research shows can raise blood pressure. Instead, they looked for a name that would evoke joy and somehow give feelings of peace. After someone made the connection that the small buttons on the device resembled a bunch of seeds, Lexicon’s team explored names like strawberry, melon and various vegetables before settling on blackberry—a word both pleasing and which evoked the black color of the device.

iPod: ‘Open the pod bay door, Hal’
During Apple’s MP3 player development, Steve Jobs spoke of Apple’s strategy: the Mac as a hub to other gadgets. Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter Apple hired to help name the gadget before its debut in 2001, fixed on that idea, according to Wired. He brainstormed hubs of all kinds, eventually coming to the concept of a spaceship. You could leave it, but you’d have to return to refuel. The stark plastic front of the prototype inspired the final connection: pod, a la 2001. Add an “i” and the connection to the iMac was complete.

Firefox: Second Time’s a Charm
Choosing a name that evokes a product’s essence and is available can be quite complicated, as the Mozilla folks found out. The early version of Mozilla’s browser was called Firebird, but due to another open-source project with the same name, the Mozilla elders renamed their browser Firefox, which is another name for red panda. Why? “It’s easy to remember. It sounds good. It’s unique. We like it,” they said. Best of all? Nobody else was using it.

ThinkPad: Simplicity Wins Out
The venerable line of PC laptop 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.

Wikipedia: Just What It Sounds Like
According to Wikipedia, the name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of wiki (a technology for creating collaborative Web sites) 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,” kids and adults now ruthlessly plagiarize Wikipedia instead of encyclopedias.

Red Hat Linux: A Name Rich with Meaning
Cofounder Bob Young (pictured) 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 his 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!
The news is from China electronics manufacturer.

One response so far

One Response to “How conic Tech Products Got Their Names”

  1. KrisBeluccion 01 6月 2009 at 8:22 下午

    da best. Keep it going! Thank you

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