MacBook Pro: What's in a Name? (Updated)

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Date: Friday, January 20th, 2006, 11:12
Category: MacBook Pro

I was sitting there Tuesday morning all stoked about what would be revealed at MWSF, clutching my mouse and double clicking the refresh button on all the news sites. I eagerly waited. I guessed the Intel iMac debute and waited anxiously for the Intel Mac mini but to my surprise the PowerBook received the Intel chip – or should I say the “MacBook Pro?”
Eek… MacBook Pro?!
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I was sitting there Tuesday morning all stoked about what would be revealed at MWSF, clutching my mouse and double clicking the refresh button on all the news sites. I eagerly waited. I guessed the Intel iMac debute and waited anxiously for the Intel Mac mini but to my surprise the PowerBook received the Intel chip – or should I say the “MacBook Pro?”
Eek… MacBook Pro?!
Jason amused us all here at the PowerPage a few months back when he asked if the PowerBook name needed to be retired (Hey Jason, does this mean you’ll change the PowerPage’s name?) and I ask a similar question: did they really need to change the name?
The PowerBook name worked on so many levels. The word “Power” really worked because it portrayed serious computing power that could be harnessed while on the run and away from the typical desk. The word “Power” associated with “Book” help to differentiate itself from the herd of other lame laptops out there. And from a marketing perspective, it just worked.
The word PowerBook was so Apple. It has become entrenched in Macintosh lore and even amongst analysts and techies the word PowerBook was synonymous with Apple’s mobile hardware. So why mess with it? Nike didn’t retire their “Air Jordan” line once the great one retired. These companies realize that the existing product name was accepted and functioned well despite what was going on behind the scenes. The names just worked.
So why did Apple have to monkey with the name? Was it a bit ego? Jobs got the shaft from IBM/Motorola in so many ways. They undoubtedly made it clear that Apple was such a small player and only purchased single-digit percentages of their chips while the auto industry (BMW uses something like 30 processors in each of their 5 and 7-series cars), handheld electronics, and embedded machines were the key markets to success. So did Jobs change the name to satisfy an inner urge or was it a sound thing to do to differentiate the MacBook Pro?
Maybe the marketing people forgot to travel down to the local fast food chain and realize that MacBook Pro sounds like a item off of the “Mac”Donald’s menu? “I’ll take the MacChicken, MacNuggets and the MacBook Pro. “Can I supersize that to a 17-inch please?” I’m sorry but “MacBook” sounds cheesy. Steve: ya goofed
Sorry to all you Mac faithful who believe that Apple can do no wrong. C’mon though, don’t take yourself or the tech industry too serious, lighten up and get out and do something else (like get a tan and a girlfriend :).
But why didn’t Apple play with the iMac name? Is it because the term iMac refers to nothing under its hood or perhaps the “i” in iMac could double to represent Intel? Personally, the play on the “Macintosh” name was excellent for their desktops and the play on the word “Book” worked well for the portable line.
Why bring the word “Macintosh” into the portable line? Apple must think that the public needs more brand awareness. I think the Apple logo says it all without needing the word “Mac.” If Apple is trying to separate their consumer and professional product lines will we then see a name change for the desktop tower (Power Macintosh)? Maybe MacDesk Pro, MacTower Pro or MacStation Pro?
I guess my questions boils down to this: why did they do it?
As it stood, the naming convention worked:
Consumer products began with “i”:
iMac
iBook
iPod
Professional models began with the word “Power”:
PowerBook
PowerMac
Education with “e”:
eMac (end-of-lifed)
eMate (end-of-lifed)
The product that needed a name change was the Mac mini… it doesn’t fit. Or (conspiracy music playing) was the Mac mini the forebearer of things to come when naming Apple’s new products?
Does this mean that we’ll see more name name changes down the road? Who knows? Maybe we’ll see them introduce another variety of fruit : )

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4 Responses to “MacBook Pro: What's in a Name? (Updated)”

  1. Cool post.
    The original idea was to put a “computer in a book”. I the late 90’s their mantra was to cram a Macintosh in a space the size of book in a set time period, hence the the “book” label. Rest of the industry went the “laptop” route. As for power…. ther is no “Power” relevant to the new Intel chip. Plus, like you said, the IBM folks didn’t prioritize chip development the way Steve saw fit.

  2. Of course all the Mac fans would know that PowerBook was made by Apple… But now Apple starts to be presented to the other 90% PC users who do not know anything about Macs!
    So the name “Mac” had to be branded back to the streets.

  3. “I’m sorry but “MacBook” sounds cheesy. Steve: ya goofed”
    This from the guy who came up these fine names:
    Neo
    Turbo
    Ultra
    Free
    Commuter
    Explorer (doh!)
    Gypsy
    Globetrotter
    Journey
    Roamer
    Rover
    Voyager
    Wanderer
    Entrepreneur
    Mercenary
    Pioneer
    Traveler
    Venturer
    Colonist
    Departer
    Exile
    Fugitive
    No. Seriously. These are his ideas for new names for the Powerbook. Venturer. Seriously:
    http://www.powerpage.org/archives/2005/07/its_been_15_yea.html

  4. Just to clarify to all those who keep posting some derivative of “‘Power’ refers to the PowerPC chip that is inside”: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
    The original PowerBooks (the 100, 140, and 170) came out in 1991, and were based on Motorola 680×0 processors. The name has nothing to do with the chip inside, and everything with brand identity – “Power” simply meaning “Powerful”.
    See history references such as http://www.apple-history.com/?page=gallery&model=100 for more details.
    More trivia: These units were an incredible design coup beyond the old Macintosh Portable, and were essentially the first in the industry to move the keyboard to the back, and a pointing device (then, a trackball) to the front, establishing what is still the industry-standard form factor for nearly all laptops.