It’s the branding question of the week: Why didn’t Apple name its new wearable wrist-thing an “iWatch”?
iNames, RIP.— John Gruber (@gruber) September 9, 2014
Since Apple’s announcement of the Apple Watch on Tuesday, tech journalists have been digging for answers. One of them, Rebecca Greenfield of Fast Company, reached me via Twitter for my opinion. Here’s her story, which also quotes language maven Ben Zimmer. My bit:
“The watch is the first truly new product (and first entry into the wearables category) introduced under Tim Cook’s watch (heh),” branding expert Nancy Friedman said. “Cook may have wanted the name to demonstrate a break from the Jobsian past.”
I sent my comments in an email, which I hope excuses the parenthetical “heh.”
One observation in my email that didn’t make it into Rebecca’s story was this one:
It’s not just an Apple Watch, it’s an [Apple icon] watch. The icon moves the name into emoji territory – visual rather than verbal.
Apple is, of course, associated with breakthroughs in visual design.
Elsewhere on the Apple Watch watch, Mashable’s Todd Wassermann talked to name developers Paola Norambuena of Interbrand, Brannon Cashion of Addison Whitney, and Eli Altman of A Hundred Monkeys (“Goodbye i? What a Missing Letter Means for Apple”). Don’t cry for the i, Wassermann writes; its loss “is probably a net positive”:
The moniker came about in the first dot-com era, when IBM was touting its e-business. That roughly coincided with eToys, eBay and E*Trade, to name a few. The I’s were equally hot, spurring more obscure names like i-gift, i-drive, i-Won. On the product front, IBM at the time had an "i" series of ThinkPad notebooks and Polaroid marketed an i-Zone camera. (This was back when people still used film cameras.)
Also see the New York Times “Bits” blog (“With Apple Watch, a Naming Tradition Ends”), where reporter Nick Wingfield points out that Apple would have faced a trademark challenge from Swiss chronography colossus Swatch, which makes an iSwatch and could credibly claim likelihood of confusion.
However, trademark lawyer Kevin Hartley, of the Trademarkology blog, says the trademark issue is “up for debate.” (Kevin wins the headline contest with “There Is No ‘i’ in Apple.”)
Not about branding at all, but fascinating: “A Watch Guy’s Thoughts on the Apple Watch After Seeing It in the Metal” (“Apple absolutely, positively, indisputably NAILED its straps and bracelets.”) (Hat tip: Jeremy Kahn.)
And from the wayback machine: