Why Apple might kill the “i” forever

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Double down indeed. Not one glimpse of the Apple Watch was leaked to the press or even Chinese manufacturers ahead of this week. No one got the name of Apple Pay right. And who could have predicted the Digital Crown as the UI input for smartwatches? Say what you will about the new products, but Steve's secrecy machine is on point like never before.
Has Apple made the right choice to ditch the i-naming scheme for new products? The man who named the iMac thinks so. (Photo: Business Insider)

From books to phones, Apple’s named everything with the same “i” moniker since 1998. With the Apple Watch and Apple Pay, however, it looks like that convention is set to change. 

Cult of Mac reached out to Ken Segall — the former Apple employee who started the tradition with the original iMac — for his surprising reaction to Apple ditching his naming convention for new product categories.

“There has long been debate inside Apple about the i,” Segall says. “To some, its time had passed years ago — but given the strength of that branding element, it was tough to walk away from.”

As Segall explains, when he first came up with the name iMac the i stood for “Internet,” although it could also mean “imagination,” “individual,” “inspire” and “instruct.” Until he was talked out of it, Steve Jobs had planned to call the iMac the MacMan.

The i was always slightly problematic for Apple, however, since other companies were using it. An Israeli company called InfoGear copyrighted the name iPhone in 1996, more than a decade before Apple debuted its handset. InfoGear was later acquired by Cisco which threatened litigation when Apple announced its iPhone. (The case was settled out of court.)

With the i brand having had its time in the sun, Segall says that he sees the value in Apple using its own name (one of the world’s most valuable brands) to sell products going forward.

“It does make sense that Apple would want to shift to something that can’t be hijacked, and actually pays off the master brand more directly,” he says. “The use of the logo in the name [Apple Watch] is pretty cool.”

With regards to whether he ever got credit for the i-naming after the iMac, Segall notes that, “It is what it is, really. My contribution was the first i-word, which we did believe had value as a foundation for future naming. We quickly applied the i to iBook, iMovie, iPhoto, etc.”

“To be honest, none of us — including Steve Jobs — were thinking ahead to a time when Apple would get into the consumer electronics biz.  It all happened in a very organic way, one step at a time. Nobody gets any kind of ‘credit’ for such things — nor should they — but the history is there if anyone ever cares to look.”