How Apple has steadily been dropping the 'i' from its devices for over a decade

in General Discussion edited May 20

From the first iMac in the 1990s to today, the prefix "i" has symbolized Apple -- but Apple has been working to get rid of it since the original iPad in 2010.

Person on stage presenting an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro with a purple background.
Steve Jobs launching the iPad in 2010 -- the last Apple device to be named with an "i"

There is still of course the iPhone and the iPad -- but there's no iWatch or iTV, and certainly no iVision Pro. Across hardware, software, and services, Apple named around 30 products with an i following the success of the iMac in 1998.

It's just a letter, but it's so strongly associated with Apple that to this day there are people who call the Apple Watch an iWatch.

They do so even though the last entirely new Apple products named with the i prefix were iCloud and iAd in 2011. The last entirely new hardware device was the iPad in 2010.

When Apple began dropping the i

It may be just a coincidence, but the iPad was also the last new hardware device that Steve Jobs launched. It is definitely true that Jobs was a proponent of the i prefix because the man who thought of it says so.

Four men standing together, three in tuxedos and one in jeans and a blazer, holding trophies and smiling.
Ken Segall (second from left) with Steve Jobs (second from right)

"I'm milking this thing as long as I can," marketing executive Ken Segall told Wired. "That I came up with the 'i' in the original iMac makes people interested in what I say."

And what he says is that the "the 'i' needs to go... it's now meaningless." Segall says that Steve Jobs built up Apple around this letter and the name iMac, but there are now too many firms using it.

It has definitely lost its "internet" meaning since the iMac helped turn internet connectivity into an everyday part of society.

Segall is also right when he further argues that it's not possible to trademark, or otherwise protect, the prefix i. And that could actually be why Apple began moving away from it.

Apple's first moves away from i

In 2006, Apple gave one of its rare sneak peeks into the future when it showed off what was to become its television set-top box. At the time, it was called "iTV" -- but not for long.

Apple TV box with the text iTV above it and Enjoy your media on your big screen TV below.
It didn't stay as "iTV" for long.

The UK's Independent Television (ITV) network objected and the box was ultimately released as the Apple TV. At the time, ITV had been running in Britain for just over five decades, so it would have had no difficulty proving prior use in any legal case.

Apple has a tradition of not especially caring whether anyone else is already using a name it wants. For the iPad, it may later have spent years in litigation protecting the name iPad, for instance, but at the start it just bought the name from Fujitsu.

Or so much more recently that it's not clear whether this has been resolved or not, there is the case of the Apple Vision Pro. Before that can launch in China, Apple is going to have to find a way to settle a trademark fight over the name.

The future of I, Apple

"There might be marketing experts who say Apple would be crazy to drop the prefix -- it's still in front of some of the greatest brands ever," says Segall, "but it can't be protected, and for too long there have been companies with 'i' internet-connected things, and that's an issue for Apple, known for innovation."

He does also acknowledge that Apple may now be more risk averse over changing names, like the way it dropped "PowerBook" in 2006 and replaced it with MacBook. Being so much larger a company now, and therefore with the potential for more jobs to be lost if things goes wrong, Apple may prefer to play safe.

But then there is also the fact that the iPhone is the single most successful product in history. Apple could change the name, but it would need a reason and just not being as enamored of the letter i as it has before, isn't going to cut it.

What we leave behind

Again, there is still the iPhone and the iPad, plus the iMac, and iCloud, and iMessage. But over the years, Apple has dropped the iPod and the iSight.

It's also dropped iBook -- twice. First it was the name of Apple's consumer laptop, and then it was the app for buying and reading books on iPads.

That got renamed Apple Books, and the iBooks Store went the same way. The iTools, iDisk, iWeb, iChat, iSync, and iCal vanished alongside one you probably never noticed, an iTunes feature called iMix.

iSight webcam ad featuring a man on a video call, product description, and a 'buy now' button with Apple Store link.
Gone and forgotten -- Apple's iSight webcam.

There's another one, of course, as iTunes is still referenced occasionally. The app is called Music and instead of selling tracks, Apple is pushing the Apple Music streaming service.

We do still have iOS and iPadOS, plus iMovie, but iPhoto has become Photos, and today iDVD sounds positive prehistoric.

The latter three are still officially part of what was called the iLife collection of apps, while Numbers, Pages, and Keynote are still ostensibly the iWork apps.

But the last release of a product called iLife was in 2010, and while iWork has fared better, its last boxed release was in 2011.

So when Ken Segall thought up the name iMac, he created far more than he can have imagined. But now that he wants Apple to kill off the i, he's perhaps missing that it's been working on that for over a decade.

There is more to products than naming, though, and separately, Segall has argued that the innovative spirit of Steve Jobs lives on at Apple.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 12
    Segall may have suggested the "i" for the iMac but Steve Jobs thought up the "i" in 1997 when he returned to Apple and referred to himself as the iCEO, for interim CEO! Because he originally thought that he was in charge on a temporary basis as he righted a floundering ship. He planned for someone else to quickly take over from him.
  • Reply 2 of 12
    mikethemartianmikethemartian Posts: 1,408member
    Doesn’t Apple license “iPhone” from Cisco?
  • Reply 3 of 12
    bonobobbonobob Posts: 386member
    Doesn’t Apple license “iPhone” from Cisco?
    Yes.  And iOS, too.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,841member
    There are certain products you don't mess with as far as their product name goes. iPhone is one and iMac is the other. Changing the names of either product I think would really hurt it. They're just such iconic names it would really damage their brand image which I think is why you don't see their names change. 

    The other products while some were popular, weren't the name people think of when they think of Apple. Today that may be slightly different with their MacBook lineup as its one of the most popular laptops in the world now but back when PowerBook existed, or iBook I just don't think people thought of those products first when they think of Apple unlike iMac or iPhone. 
  • Reply 5 of 12
    slow n easyslow n easy Posts: 355member
    This kind of seems like a fake headline to me. The headline makes it seem like Apple changed the name of  an existing product. Also, with the examples he gave, Apple tried to get the “i” and couldn’t. If they could have gotten it, they would have.   
  • Reply 6 of 12
    First of all… let us remember that the ‘i’ was not always mean ‘internet’!
    Steve Jobs was… iCEO… interim CEO.

    Although the ‘i’ run wild… I think I should remain in the iPhone and other places.
    The original ‘iMac’ was the ‘internet’ Mac… so it should be remain with that name.

    The problem began with the iPod… as a device it had nothing to do with internet.
    But its name came from a previous unreleded ‘internet Pod.’ The story goes that Steve, tired of discussing names, decided for it.
    On the funny side of events… it was the origin of… ‘podcasts’… a now internet only journalism.

    The original ‘iBook’ was also meant to ‘easily connect with the internet’… but it is good that it is gone.

    The origina ‘iTunes’ was also meant to download music from the internet. But it is now better being Music.

    The iPhone brought the full internet to the cellphone! Do we remember the ‘mobi’ sites?
    So… the iPhone… deserves the ‘i’ forever.

    The iPad is a kind of… someone between the iMac and the iPhone… Not the perfect name but no really bad. 

    iCloud… is a full internet service… so it is perfect as a name.

    So… what I meant to say is… keep the ‘i’ withe all the devices/services REALLY involving the internet.

    (As a side note, the PowerBook name… reflected the name of the chip inside: PowerPC… and that was a registered trademark of IBM. When Apple used Intel chips… ghould it name the laptop IntelBooks?)
  • Reply 7 of 12
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 1,151member
    ... is Apple still customer focussed, or since 2013 has this changed..?

  • Reply 8 of 12
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    Much ido about nothing.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,281member
    I think they will drop it entirely. The  Watch and  TV are great names too. The brand is so strong...

     Cloud
     Messages
     Mac
    .... all sound great.

    With the exception of:


    That sounds silly. Good luck to the marketing Dpt!
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Segall may have suggested the "i" for the iMac but Steve Jobs thought up the "i" in 1997 when he returned to Apple and referred to himself as the iCEO, for interim CEO! Because he originally thought that he was in charge on a temporary basis as he righted a floundering ship. He planned for someone else to quickly take over from him.
    Jobs didn’t use iCEO until 1999/2000 nor did he come up with the term. 

    Here is the video of him talking about it at Mac World San Francisco in 2000. I gives credit to an unknown person and says that term was a year old. So that puts the origin of iCEO after the iMac release in 1998. Presumably the unknown person that came up with it was riffing on the iMac and iBook names.
    edited May 21 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 12
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 2,005member

    (As a side note, the PowerBook name… reflected the name of the chip inside: PowerPC… and that was a registered trademark of IBM. When Apple used Intel chips… ghould it name the laptop IntelBooks?)
    This is incorrect. The first PowerBooks were released in 1991 but the PowerPC chips didn’t make it to Apple computers until 1994. 
  • Reply 12 of 12
    The original Powerbooks used the Motorola 680x0 processor, but it was very coincidental (or was it?) that Jobs abandoned the Powerbook name exactly when he abandoned the Power PC for the Intel chipset.
    edited May 21 watto_cobra
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