Apple has launched the Watch to allow people to send emails, make calls and launch apps from their wrist. But why isn’t it named the iWatch? And what does that famous Apple ‘i’ stand for anyway?
The first ‘i’ in Apple’s history was the iMac – the computer which saved Apple from going under in its darkest hour.
Steve Jobs invited LA advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day to see the first, radical candy-coloured iMac in 1997 before it had a name, and asked them to come up with one. At the time it had been years since the company had launched anything which captured the public’s imagination, but that was about to change in an big way.
As Cult of Mac says: “Jobs said the new computer was a Mac, so the name had to reference the Macintosh brand.
“The name had to make it clear the machine was designed for the internet. It also had to be applicable to several other upcoming products. And it had to be quick: the packaging needed to be ready in a week.”
The agency’s Ken Segall came back to Jobs with five names, four of which were deliberately bad and designed to steer Jobs towards his favourite: iMac.
Segall told the site: “It referenced the Mac, and the “i” meant internet. But it also meant individual, imaginative and all the other things it came to stand for.”
Since then the ‘i’ branding has been used across the company’s devices: iBook laptops, iPods, iPads and – perhaps the most famous – the iPhone. It’s synonymous with Apple. So much so that everyone assumed that the new smartwatch would be an iWatch. Why wouldn’t it?
Maybe it was all a deliberate ruse. After all, Apple also applied for a patent which mentioned the name iTime. The famously secretive company may simply not have wanted its intentions to be known before this evening. Perhaps it even stoked rumours of the name “iWatch”.
But with the launch of this new product, Apple has made it clear that it is targeting a fashion-focused audience, rather than technology-obsessed first adopters. The ‘i’ brand, successful as it has been, is not what it wants to convey. It is after a whole new type of customer.
Regardless of the marketing decisions behind the name, it will no doubt be simpler than staking a claim on the iWatch brand. Almost every new product launched by Apple that starts with that familiar little ‘i’ causes a protracted legal battle.
A whole four years before Apple unveiled the first iPhone a Mexican company registered “iFone” as a trademark. There was a legal tussle, but the Supreme Court of Mexico sided with the smaller telecommunications firm and decided that Apple was in violation of the trademark if it used “iPhone” for certain things. It is perfectly allowed to sell phones bearing the name, but can’t operate telecoms services using it.
A Brazilian company also registered “iPhone” in 2000. The firm, Gradiente, even went so far as to launch an Android-based phone under the iPhone name. But after a six-year legal battle it was eventually decided that the two companies would share the trademark.
Gradiente can continue to sell Android phones using the name, but must prefix it with the company name (Gradiente iPhone) and Apple is allowed to use it as it does in almost every other country in the world.