What's in a Name?: That which we call an iPhone by any other name
would sound as sweet.
by Robert X. Cringely
There are a couple glaring mysteries surrounding Apple's new iPhone,
announced this week at Macworld -- the name and the Internet
connection speed. I'll get to Google in a moment, but first I'd like
to cover these two points about the iPhone.
If you've been in a coma the last several days, you may not have heard
about Apple's iPhone, which is a combination mobile phone, iPod, and
Internet access device. It isn't in the strictest sense a Personal
Digital Assistant or PDA, both because its Internet-orientation and
whole Web 2.0-iness makes being a PDA passe, and because John
Sculley invented that term. Steve Jobs, since he detests anything
related to Sculley, who cast Jobs out of Apple back in 1985, will
never make a PDA.
The iPhone is cool; the iPhone is neat; the iPhone is weird in a
couple of ways. You know it isn't even close to being the most
expensive mobile phone on the market, for all the grousing I've read
about the price. My Nokia N.93, which was technically not available
yet in the U.S. until recently, but could be freely found in the
United States of eBay, costs substantially more at around $800.
What's weird about the iPhone is, first, its name, since iPhone is a
registered trademark of Cisco Systems, which sells a variety of
products under that brand. Apple has been negotiating with Cisco
about licensing the iPhone name, so they can hardly claim ignorance
of the trademark, yet this week they announced the product without
such a license and of course Cisco filed a lawsuit in response. As
the trademark holder, Cisco had no choice, because to not file suit
would have been to not defend the trademark, perhaps making it more
vulnerable to poaching by Apple.
What makes these trademark shenanigans all the more peculiar is that
at the same MacWorld show this week Apple introduced another product
called Apple TV, which it first demonstrated last year under the name
iTV. (Just as an aside, one reader pointed out, "Look at the Mac
Mini, the Apple TV, and the new AirPort extreme, all the same size
and Bob's version of Apple's multimedia PC is stacking up, for less
than $1,000.") Well, it turned out that Elgato Systems makes a
product called EyeTV (pronounced "iTV" obviously), which is a line of
Macintosh video capture devices -- some with tuners -- so Apple
backed off and changed the product name to Apple TV.
So Apple changed its marketing, diluting its whole "iThis" and "iThat"
naming strategy in deference to Elgato, a company they could buy with
a weekend's earnings from the iTunes Store, but chose to go toe-to-toe
with Cisco, a company that's bigger, richer, and just as mean as Apple
any day. If an iTV can become an Apple TV, why can't an iPhone become
an Apple Phone?
I think it will.