Short Takes

iPad – Good name? Bad Name?


I must be a naming guru because two days ago I was talking with a friend of mine who asked me what name I thought would be attached to Apple’s new tablet when it was announced yesterday and, after a good three minutes of discussion and analysis, I came up with iPad (ok, me and just about every journalist pundit on the planet). Check please…

The name was so obvious even before launch, it would be difficult to imagine calling this new product anything else. The question I’ve been musing on since it was announced is whether this is, in fact, a good name (regardless of the merits of the product, which is a whole ‘nother discussion).

iPad – Pros

a) positions the product well within Apple’s lineup of other mobile devices – iPhone, iPod; as distinct from its other product lines (e.g., Powerbook, desktop computing, etc.)

b) is better than, for instance, iBook – as it encompasses a wider range of functionality than just downloading and reading books (cf Nook, Kindle positioning).

c) Apple seems to pretty much own i[Anything], in much the same way BMW has come to own car models 3xx, 5xx, 6xx and 7xx. Not literally own, perhaps, but at least in terms of mindshare. (BMW’s iDrive not withstanding… good thing Apple doesn’t make cars :-)

d) In terms of phonology the a in iPad is spoken as a more nasally sound compared to the swallowed o in iPod, so ostensibly a listener would not misinterpret which product is being referred to in conversation.

iPad – Cons

a) After over a decade of use is the i[Product] naming schema getting tired? Given the perhaps tricky product niche the iPad inhabits, shouldn’t the name at least reflect something new and different, rather than just more of the same??

b) Although the phonology of iPad may help it remain distinct from the iPod in terms of its sound, from a cognitive standpoint I wonder whether owners of both (or anyone else) will unintentionally interchange the two names in conversation, especially given their similar user interfaces and functionality sets.

c) And speaking of phonology, I personally do not like the way iPad sounds, nor do I like saying it. The short ‘a’ sound makes it sound bland and dull; and my face has to work too hard to get the word out, unlike the soft, cruisy sound iPod makes. Maybe I’m just lazy.

d) And then there is the editor’s nightmare – which device did my writer intend to refer to?


The iPad name leverages well Apple’s huge brand equity that it has built around its highly successful iPod and iPhone products.  Apple’s use of the i[Product] naming schema dates back to the 1998 launch of the iMac G3. While this schema has significant association with Apple, it could be time to re-evaluate its currency, especially among Apple’s target demographic for these products. This last point could be especially critical in light of the ill-defined product niche the iPad is designed to fill. The introduction of the iPad may well turn out to be a missed opportunity for Apple to refresh its naming architecture with a successor to the i[Product] schema while providing a much needed boost in this new product’s market positioning.