iPhone or not: What’s in a Name?

iPhone BackWith the lawsuit against Apple by Cisco over the iPhone trademark, the Apple iPhone name is not etched in metal, literally.

The back of the iPhone is branded with the Apple logo only. The iMac has “iMac” written on the back of it, the iPod has “iPod” engraved on it, the Apple TV has an Apple logo with the letters “tv” on it. The Mac Pro and the Mac mini do not have labels – but then again, these devices are not on display as much as an iPod or an iMac.

When people see an iMac or an iPod for the first time they look at the device from all angles. Apple’s showpieces have their names proudly emblazoned somewhere on them. The Apple iPhone is certainly another showpiece – it is the showpiece from Macworld this year. Yet, it does not have its name etched on its backside.

“We are calling it iPhone.” That statement has a bit of weasel language. Just because “we” – in other words, Apple, Inc. – are calling it iPhone doesn’t mean its official name is iPhone. When the iPod was first introduced, Steve Jobs stated, “That product is called ‘iPod.'” The nano introduction also featured a declaration – “It’s called the ‘iPod nano,'” Steve Jobs announced. No weasel language there, but there is ambiguity in this year’s Macworld keynote.

Apple introduced us to the Apple TV as the iTV several months ago. It was specifically noted that “iTV” was a code name. Steve Jobs stated, “internally we call it iTV.” The language “*Project code name only” prominently appeared on the screen along with the device. The name change to Apple TV did not create any fervor or confusion. The name change was accepted partly because its official introduction became quickly overshadowed by the introduction of the iPhone. Apple has previously warned of name changes, perhaps the ambiguous language at the Macworld 2007 keynote signals a potential name change as well.

While the phone was referred to throughout the keynote and by the press as the iPhone, Apple could simply rebrand the device. They announced the device six months ahead of its expected release date. That is plenty of time to rename the product or work out a deal with Cisco (although, it probably is not enough time for a full fledged lawsuit to run its course).

Lastly, Apple only makes one phone at this time. No matter what they call it, you will be able to walk into a store and ask for the Apple phone. The retailer will know what you are talking about. No matter what it is called, it’s still a cool phone.

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