What’s in a name? pt. 2

I noticed a good comment by Walter Mossberg in this morning’s Personal Technology column:

[L]ike a lot of network-equipment makers, Netgear is clueless about naming products so that normal humans can understand what they are. The XE104 is officially called the XE104 85 Mbps Wall-Plugged Ethernet Switch. That’s like calling a table lamp the LS482 75 Watt Wall-Plugged Switched Illumination Device.

My only quibble with this is that he limits the statement to network device companies. I think that most technology companies have this problem.

Today, I can go over to Sony and check out the Walkman Core™ NW-E505PINK, or I can just pop over the Apple and pick up an iPod. Half the brilliance of Steve Jobs upon his triumphant return to Apple almost a decade ago is that he took a whole line of computers with names like “Macintosh Performa XYZ123-A” and renamed them “iMac”.

A noteable, if more subtle, adjunct to this is that the web address to check out those iPods is the easily remembered “apple.com/ipod”, whereas the Sony equivalent is a mile long and only reachable via cut-and-paste or a search from the home page. Want iTunes? apple.com/itunes. Information on iMovie? apple.com/imovie, and so on.

This is the kind of marketing that generally only arises from a deep-seated corporate philosophy, and not from a marketing department brought in after the product has been finalized and built. It’s a philosophy I’ve noticed in only a small handful of other technology companies, (my Miele vacuum cleaner is the “White Star” — pretentious, perhaps, but I’ll never forget what model I have…) in terms of solid, elegant design reflecting the idea of design by designers instead of technicians.

It is also notable that some old-school companies appear to be finally picking up on this, as evidenced by this infamous parody of Microsoft that was reportedly created in-house by Microsoft itself.

Comments are invited and encouraged

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