What the i Can Tell You about Apple

by Chris Seibold Oct 28, 2009

Louis François I de Bourbon, Prince de Conti was fond of the number twelve. How fond? The rumor is that he owned twelve guns and twelve swords, that his shirt buttons were embossed with the number twelve, and that among other things, he always had a twelve-course dinner at a table set for twelve people. On first glance this behavior may seem a little obsessive, you can be forgiven for thinking that Louis had a severe case of Triskaidekaphobia but legend is that Louis had twelves everywhere because the number reflected the times he was able to engage Mme. Deschamps in a single night. So the plethora of twelves was a form of advertising, Louis wanted folks to ask "Hey, what's with all the twelves, man?" And really, who can blame him?

Sure, you can laugh at Louis, but there is a company that is obsessed with a single letter just as much, if not more, than Louis was obsessed with the number twelve. Like Louis the company knows that properly used a single letter or number can tell friends or consumers a lot. In this case the company is Apple and the letter is i.

How important is the i to Apple? There is probably no better example of just how seriously Apple takes the i than Steve Job's keynote at the 2007 MacWorld. You remember that particular MacWorld because it was the first time the iPhone was revealed and everyone snapped bad photos of the iPhone encased in a Lucite box. What most people don't remember is that the 2007 MacWorld was the same MacWorld where the AppleTV was introduced. While introducing the AppleTV, Steve Jobs made a rare mistake; he called the AppleTV the iTV. Since Steve is good at this stuff he quickly explained the gaffe by telling everyone in attendance that Apple had called the device the iTV internally before settling on the AppleTV moniker.

The fact that Apple originally went with iTV should tell you that Apple once thought the product was going to be hugely popular. The fact that the product ended up named the AppleTV should tell you that Apple realized the box of media goodness wasn't going to be the market mover the company had originally hoped. In fact, calling something AppleX is probably assigning the product to one of the lower rungs in the Apple naming scheme. A scheme one something like:

i = revolutionary, everyone will want it (iLife, iPod, iPhone, iMac, etc)

Mac = Just a computer or OS (Mac mini, MacPro, MacBook, Mac OS X)

Just a name= just a product (Airport, Time Capsule, etc). This is the stuff that is compelling but obviously unworthy of the i in front of the name.

Apple X = These are the things you buy just because you know they'll work with your other Apple stuff (Apple Remote, Apple TV, Apple Magic Mouse, Apple USB Power Adaptor etc.) It's Apple's way of saying "A million people make this but we make ours in white. Buy it."

So the i is on top and Apple is on the bottom. With that handy little chart you can tell what Apple thinks of any product it chooses to churn out, but the best test of the chart will be when and if Apple rolls out a tablet. If Apple calls the thing an iTablet (or some other i name) you can expect the reviews to be stellar and the product to sell like crazy generating a product ecosystem devoted to the tablet. If it is called the Mac Tablet (or something similar) you'll be able to instantly deduce that it is just another version of the Mac and nothing that will turn the world upside down. Finally, if the still-rumored device is unveiled as the Apple Tablet you'll know that the product is (likely) not worth your time.




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