Technology: September 2008 Archives

Has the T-Mobile G1 Brand Name Become a Nightmare?

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As you probably already know, the T-Mobile G1 smartphone started out with the code name the Dream.

Seems like the G1 dream has become more of a nightmare in terms of product naming.

G1Phone.pngThe concerns I raised about the G1 name in my earlier post have intensified. It turns out that T-Mobile's new phone limited the bandwidth to 1-GB of data per month.

I then thought to myself, gee, might it be called the G1 because of the 1-GB limit? Maybe so, maybe not, but T-Mobile has rescinded the 1-GB limit, so I wonder if they will now call this phone the G1 Unlimited or the G1 Plus.

It is probably very unlikely that the G1 referred to the 1-GB limit, but I'm also reminded of another reason G1 is such a poor name. The G1 phone runs on the G3 network, which only adds to the aforementioned confusion.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, and I don't mean to be, my guess is that the G1 name was lobbied for by the T-Mobile engineers who worked on it.

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Will Apple's Brick Product Code Naming be a Smash Hit?

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Apple-logo.pngThe award for the clumsiest product code name goes to Apple this week for its secret something that the blogosphere is now gleefully referring to as "Brick."

The "Brick" is designed to, you guessed it, smash Windows with its sheer Appleness.

Many bloggers are wondering what the "Brick" is, but it is most likely just software updates. Although there are rumors that it might be a new Mac Mini or a new dock (these would actually look like bricks, I suppose).

The funny thing is that the word "brick" does not carry positive connotations in relation to technology. "Bricks" are usually useless devices, such as clunky cell phones or slow computers. The word "brick" is also a slang term for "bummer," like, "That movie had a brick of an ending." So "brick" would be a less than ideal code name for a new MacBook, for instance.

Brick.pngEven more tantalizing, giving the current economic climate, is that the "Brick" is simply a large price reduction for MacBooks. This would indeed throw a real brick at Windows.

The Brick gets unveiled on October 14th (we think), so be sure to keep an eye out to see if lives up to its name, or doesn't.

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What do you think of the T-Mobile G1 brand naming?

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t-mobile g1.pngThe new Google phone is out and it has been named the "G1."  Well, let me be more precise. 

This is a Google-powered phone sold by T-Mobile USA that uses the vaunted Android operating system. It's official name is actually the "T-Mobile G1" leading one blogger to ask "G1, Gphone, Tphone - what will you call your Google phone?"

To confuse matters even further, HTC, the Taiwan based manufacturer of the phone, code-named it the Dream. I've rarely seen a technology device referred to by so many names.

PowerMacG5.pngWhen I first saw the term G1, I immediately thought that this must be for an old product. Why?

I was immediately reminded of:

  • Apple's G-Series of Towers which ended in the discontinued G5
  • Then there is the Pontiac G5 and G6
  • Oh, did I mention that ASUS has a G1 and G2 laptop
  • georgeforemang5.png

  • Finally, maybe this is a little bit of a stretch, but I was also reminded of the George Foreman G5 grill

Most likely G1 refers to Google's first generation Android smart-phone software, since the tagline is "G1 with Google."

While I agree with New Gadgets and Gizmos that the T-Mobile G1 Phone is not an iPhone killer, I strongly disagree with the assertion that iPhone will become a genericized brand, like Kleenex, Xerox and Band-Aids.

Just as Apple tightly controls third party developer software for the iPhone, it has a track record of vigorously defending its brand trademarks.

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plastic-logic-electronic-reading-device.png Top Ten Reviews wonders who in their right mind would unveil a really cool electronic gizmo to the public "without the catchy name already chosen?"

The well named company, Plastic Logic, is about to learn about the plasticity of product naming thanks to its newly unveiled Electronic-Reading Device. We can only hope that this name, with its weird dash, is just a place holder.

This product, which uses a technology called "electronic ink", is a lightweight, magazine size electronic reader that is going to be given its own name by bloggers and fans before Plastic Logic officially gives it a moniker. If you doubt me, take a look at the way the bloggers have dubbed it an e-Newspaper reader. Or should it be an E-Newspaper because its electronic ink is made by E-Ink? Heck, maybe its just an electronic newspaper reader.

kindle.pngAlthough, this thing may actually work for reading things other than a newspaper. In fact, it can do far more than just display newspapers, it's a competitor to Kindle and Sony Reader Digital Book and as such can handle documents, magazines and books in addition to the Wall-Street Journal and New York Times.

But because it has not been introduced with a real name, it is already being shoved into its own niche by eager writers and fans.

This reminds me of the hype around the iPhone, which was named by Apple lovers long before it was introduced, and even before Apple had secured the final name.

However, I'm reminded of one of the Laws of Branding - If you don't define yourself, someone else will (this applies to politics as well).

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Trademark and Naming: the Good, The Bad and the Ugly

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Trademark law is a special interest of mine, not least because I am always interested in how good brand names are used (licensed) and misused (trading off someone's brand equity).

lamborghini-logo.pngThe Good: Lamborghini is now licensing its name for office equipment, which looks pretty interesting to a car loving desk jockey.

They also have licensed their name for a men's jewelry line. Here we see high end, finely crafted products that reflect well upon the mother brand: the watches offer "classic styling and superior performance under the most demanding conditions."

The Bad: AAA is defending its well known trademark against various pretenders, including one outfit called AAA logo.pngAAA Smogz and another company based in Tacoma called AAA Insurance, Inc.

The real question is whether or not there is a likelihood of confusion between the real AAA and a few imitators? The obvious answer, yes! The real AAA offers insurance and of course car related products and services. Many would consider this outright theft and we wish the real AAA well in its efforts to protect its very recognizable brand name.

tatanano.gifThe Ugly: The Tata Nano, India's answer to The Beetle, already had its clever naming poached by . . . bakers? Small time fruit cake makers in India are using the Nano name to sell their products and there is nothing that Tata can do about it. What's makes this even more interesting is that these fruitcakes just grab any name that is in the news and run with it. "People may not have any idea of the product or its quality but they will want to nano-ipodhand.pngbuy one just out of curiosity." This has led some people to think that auto giant Tata is now in the cake biz.

You have to wonder what Steve Jobs is thinking. Some people think Tata grabbed the Nano name after seeing the success of the iPod Nano.

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Google Chrome Offers Shiny New Browser Naming

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googlechrome_180_119.pngGoogle Chrome is out. As a browser designed to take on Firefox, Opera and IE8, it's become big, big news.

The world already knows the Chrome name and frankly, almost anything with the name Google behind it is going to pique our curiosity, it is a brand that appeals to anyone with a computer.

Still, Chrome?

It sounds like a fragrance for men. Google claims that it refers to the typical bells and whistles around browsers, with the idea being to "minimize chrome."

Regardless, it is a name that has seen a lot of use in the XUL, "an XML user interface markup language developed by the Mozilla project."

Most of the features on Chrome have pretty standard names, although it does feature an "incognito mode" that is similar to Microsoft's new InPrivate browsing feature. Mozilla is also working on a similar feature and Safari already has a setting simply called "Privacy" for Mac OS.

Computer browsers all have odd names but I think this one is possibly a little impractical because it has been used before and because it is so jarring. "Google" is a funky word we've never seen before, but "Chrome" is not.

Nonetheless, I'm curious, and that's half the battle won for Google. And as a great blog post at Nature and Cyberspace mentions, this is a fabulous word but "this browser name is loaded with metaphors, both good and bad."

I think this is an example of "inside baseball" naming.

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A Cloud of Vague Naming Besets Trademark Law

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"Trademark [law]," according to the Paul Goldstein, a Stanford law school professor quoted in the New York Times, is the "sleeping giant of intellectual property." This conclusion was made for many reasons, but the one that catches my eye is the quest by companies to seek names for products that simply are not that well defined.

The two examples cited in the article are "Cloud Computing," which Dell unsuccessfully tried to trademark, and "Live Mesh," which Microsoft is currently trying to trademark.

cloud computing copy.pngCloud Computing, an innovative offsite Internet service, is a great name because it speaks to the so-called "computer cloud" (all the devices out there that access the Internet). It's also a term that has been floating around the geek world for some time.

Live Mesh, on the other hand, is a super application that is meant to keep all of your web devices in sync, although it looks like the term Open Mesh is already in use.

It looks to me like tech companies, are discovering that names are being registered faster than ever before, especially after running into trademark issues on products that customers might have a hard time understanding, much less buying. Never mind the difficulty of "dot-whatevers," we're seeing a virtual race to get names into the books before the product development is even finished.

virgincola.pngThis is nothing new, of course. Companies in more traditional fields are already borrowing from different markets of brand naming to get their own trademarks. For example, "Mango" is a fashion line and there is a "Virgin" cola out there alongside the airline.

Business Line in India asks "Will we soon have motorcars called Sweat and deodorants named Cylinder & Piston?"

Of course we will. Names from different categories is one of the factors that helps keep product and brand naming interesting.

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