It's Been 15 Years: Time to Dump the Term "PowerBook"

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 29th, 2005, 06:42
Category: Opinion

The venerable PowerBook has been with us since 1991 when Apple released the PowerBook 100 (with the help of Sony) and Xerox PARC veteran and long-time Apple Fellow Alan Kay coined the term. Apple trademarked “PowerBook” shortly thereafter further solidifying the term in the modern technical vernacular. Apple launched their consumer notebook in 1999 and called it the “iBook” to differentiate it from its more expensive brother, the PowerBook.
As the iBook gained in “power” over the years Cupertino had a difficult time differentiating between their entry-level iBook and professional PowerBook offerings causing a lot of hand-wringing inside Apple’s marketing department. What exactly is the difference between an iBook and a PowerBook these days anyway? Monitor spanning? Puh-lease.
Click through for some of my suggestions…


The venerable PowerBook has been with us since 1991 when Apple released the PowerBook 100 (with the help of Sony) and Xerox PARC veteran and long-time Apple Fellow Alan Kay coined the term. Apple trademarked “PowerBook” shortly thereafter further solidifying the term in the modern technical vernacular. Apple launched their consumer notebook in 1999 and called it the “iBook” to differentiate it from its more expensive brother, the PowerBook.
As the iBook gained in “power” over the years Cupertino had a difficult time differentiating between their entry-level iBook and professional PowerBook offerings causing a lot of hand-wringing inside Apple’s marketing department. What exactly is the difference between an iBook and a PowerBook these days anyway? Monitor spanning? Puh-lease…
Apple has their work cut out for them. They have the unenviable task of cleaning the Intel well that front man Steve Jobs spent the last several years poisoning with vitriol about the “megahertz myth” and the superiority of RISC over CISC.
As we approach a new era in mobile computing and the arrival of the Intel notebook (does any else feel dirty saying that?) the marketing folks at Apple need to re-brand their Intel notebook with a new name. The PowerBook has become tired. A name switch won’t be easy though, most of the good ones are taken.
What will Apple call the new Intel notebook? I am using this column to start a movement to abandon the term PowerBook. Sure it’s the namesake of this very Web site (at least partially, anyway) and a term that has practically turned into a verb – but 15 years is long enough, let’s shelve “PowerBook” for good. Now that that’s off my chest, let’s think of what we can call the new mobile iron that we’ll all be sporting (or coveting) this time next year.
One direction is a numbering scheme, a favorite of automakers (i.e. Chrysler 300, Mercedes 500, BMW 3, 5, 6 and 7-series, etc.)
The Apple Mobile 100.
The problem with that idea manifested itself during the Gil Amelio era (Performa 6115 anyone?) and is obvious: too many numbers that no one can make sense of. They could try to keep it under control this time and only use numbers that correspond to something – the Apple Mobile 300 could be 3GHz, whereas the Apple Mobile 325 could be 3.25GHz. Nah, it’s been tried before.
Another idea is to rip-off the lettering scheme from Intel:
The Apple Mobile M.
The problem with letters is that they quickly get out of hand too (“is that an Apple Mobile B?” “No, it’s a CX!”). Skip it.
Or they could stick with the status quo:
The Apple Mobile.
This concept is to keep all the model names the same, in theory, outdated models stay fresh a little longer because you’re still buying a “PowerBook G4.” The problem with this naming convention is that it quickly spirals out of control as it has with the current line of “PowerBook G4s.” Support personnel throw their hands in the air with this method because their is almost no reliable way to visually tell one model from another, which. (“I know that you said ‘PowerBook G4′ but is it made of Titanium or Aluminum? Which way does the Apple logo point? Is it colored or white?”). Learn from your mistakes here Apple.
My thought is to use colorful names that actually mean something for the new Apple notebook*. (*Remember that lawyers don’t let manufacturers call them “laptops” any more – for fear of liability). I think that Apple should use code names as real names, because that is what happens anyway. Kanga, Lombard, Wallstreet, Pismo, etc. all have character to them allowing us to relate to our given model.
Any of these terms could be prepended to the word “Book” or added to the end of a new model name, i.e. NeoBook -or- Apple Mobile Neo
Some options I came up with:
Neo
Turbo
Ultra
Free
Commuter
Explorer (doh!)
Gypsy
Globetrotter
Journey
Roamer
Rover
Voyager
Wanderer
Entrepreneur
Mercenary
Pioneer
Traveler
Venturer
Colonist
Departer
Exile
Fugitive
What are some cool potential names for Apple’s new PowerBook? Contact me and I’ll update this story with your best work (please include “PowerBook Name” in your subject.)

Recent Posts