I wrote this last night, as an op-ed for Macworld. Then, today, just about everyone left at Macworld got fired, with a smidgen of exceptions. (Not being coy—just haven't heard definitively at this writing.)
My editors at Macworld would have turned this piece into something awesomer. They may have made me tamp down my Trump insults, but they would also have tightened up my writing and my arguments and fixed whatever grammatical errors you can find below.
The management team at Macworld didn't know what it had, and now it doesn't have it anymore. I can't wait to see what those fine writers and editors do next.
Anyway, here's my opinion about the crappy names for those new Apple products. PS: Macworld would have come up with a better headline, too.
Whether you think Donald Trump is a blowhard, or merely eminently unlikeable, we can probably agree that his approach to naming his possessions skews a bit self-absorbed: Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Tower, Trump Palace, Trump National Golf Club, Trump Winery, and on and on.
It bums me out that Tim Cook’s Apple is gung-ho on following in Trump’s footsteps when it comes to naming things. As exciting as Tuesday’s announcements were, the names Apple Pay and Apple Watch leave me cringing; they lack the creativity, style, and uniqueness exhibited by the products they describe.
(Quick aside: Remember that Steve Jobs’s Apple only called the Apple TV the Apple TV because the UK’s iTV threatened to sue if Apple kept that name. And Roku is a way cooler name than Apple TV.)
The reality is, these names don’t matter much: Apple will sell roughly a bajillion Apple Watches; Apple Pay will succeed or fail depending upon whether people are willing to trust their iPhones with their credit cards, name be damned.
An Apple Watch by any other name would be no more seemingly awesome than the device Apple unveiled Tuesday. But Apple could have done so much better.
An i for an i
I suspect Apple didn’t call the Apple Watch an iWatch in part because everyone assumed it would; Apple hates to be predictable. I also suspect Apple recognizes that the naming convention kicked off with the iMac in 1998 is showing its age. (And the parade of ancient software bearing the i-Prefix—like iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, iWork, and iLife—isn’t helping matters.)
I’m all for change. Ken Segall, who is credited with naming the iMac, suggested that the “i” stood for “Internet,” but also represented “individuality” and “innovation.” Customers today know that Apple’s devices are Internet connected, and I firmly believe that Apple’s innovation speaks for itself. I’m okay with Apple’s seeming inclination to retire the “i.”
And yet I’m not nearly as supportive of swapping the Apple for my i.
Apple achin’ mountains
As named by Apple, we have an Apple Watch that can use Apply Pay to buy an Apple TV at the Apple Store.
I’m not saying I have better ideas for what Apple could have christened its new technologies. I am saying I miss the era when Apple was making up wacky, original names like Performa and Quadra. I’m delighted that the company that names apps like Mail, Messages, and Calendar at least named Safari “Safari” and not “Browser.”
I don’t know why the Pebble smartwatch is called the Pebble—but it evokes some sense of personality in a way that Apple Watch can’t. PayPal and Stripe and Simple are all money-related technologies, and their names offer up a flavor that Apple Pay sorely lacks.
Surely, any clever or original names Apple settled upon would be similarly scrutinized by some overly judgmental jerk who thinks differently from me. But that hypothetical hypercritical person is wrong.
News anchors reporting on Apple’s big announcements needed to resort to awkward constructions like “Apple unveiled its long-awaited watch, called… the Apple Watch.” It’s an uninspired name that suggests going for the safe choice, the bland choice, the uncontroversial choice—all descriptors that sound decidedly un-Appleish.
Despite The Donald’s perspective, more memorable names trump safe ones.