Why “MacBook” is a weak name

Had an interesting talk with Phil Torrone this afternoon, wide-ranging, about a press room for bloggers, OPML projects we will do together (more on those topics later), and why MacBook was a bad name.

He explained why people don’t like the name. Here was their chance, once and for all, to make a statement that wasn’t “Mac” at all. By going to Intel, they could have claimed, in a clever way perhaps, to have erased the final objection anyone might have to using this computer. They could have a new position, instead of the snotty one they chose.

They could have said something like “Finally, a PC that’s colorful and fun to use.” That’s what I feel a Mac is, compared to a Windows machine, which is relatively joyless. MacBook is a weak name. It says “More or less what we were shipping before.” Totally unexciting.

42 responses to this post.

  1. i’m likely going to sandblast or remove the macbook name off my macbook and use xBook. xBook and iBook.

    Reply

  2. I hate the name Macbook too.

    But the fact is that Steve Jobs is from the age when people regard the word PC to mean Windows Computer. I’m not, I call my computer a computer/terminal/laptop thingy. And so he’s willing to ruin Macworld for a bunch of hopefuls because he still wants to set Apple apart from the rest of the PC industry.

    but that’s still no excuse for being snotty.

    Reply

  3. I second Phillip’s idea. xbook for the pro series and ibook for the consumer series.

    Reply

  4. Posted by joe on January 13, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    You could say that same thing about the name OPML which doesn’t say anything about what it does or why it’s important. OPML what does that that for: Other People Money Langauge?

    Reply

  5. Posted by Phil Larson on January 13, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    No, that’s not the reason at all. Why in the name of anything would anyone want Apple to stop being Apple?

    People don’t like MacBook because it sounds dorky and you feel silly saying it to anyone and keeping a straight face.

    Why do you feel like coming up with these completely ridiculous and complicated explanations for everything?

    Reply

  6. Posted by Jerome Camus on January 13, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    Besides… no one has noted that MacBook sounds like something you’d order in a pre-fabbed store identified by golden arches: cookie-cutter shaped, false pretenses on ingredients, served up by cheap labour, and smelly within a 200m radius.

    Reply

  7. But the fact is that Steve Jobs is from the age when people regard the word PC to mean Windows Computer.

    Even more so lately people think ‘PC’ means a desktop. As in “I don’t have a PC, I have a laptop.”

    I think Apple should have stuck with Power Book. I surely don’t think “Power Pc” when I hear the name “Power Book,” I think about the computer being powerful. Even Pro Book would have been better (but still bad).

    Reply

  8. Posted by Jim Armstrong on January 13, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    What if Apple had another project in the wings that was priced considerably less than the MacBook Pro, called the MacBook ________ (fill in the blank) and it had tablet capabilities, but it wasn’t introduced because Apple couldn’t get enough processors from Intel.

    I guess it might have to be introduced on Apple Fools Day, in a couple of months.

    Reply

  9. Why abandon a perfectly well known brand name like “PowerBook” that has been assoicated with Apple laptops- the premium designed laptop- for the last 10 years?
    A MacBook is something I buy at a bookstore written by David Pogue- a PowerBook is what gives me Power over my data-
    Quite frankly- the difference between the last gen iBooks and the Powerbooks wasn’t great enough to justify the huge difference in price- and the premium Apple was charging for their entry level iBook was starting to look painful when compared to PC laptop prices- where you could begin for as low as $500.
    The fact that this model seems like it was rushed to market- and that it wasn’t shipping in any configuration on launch- and that there was no 12 or 17 models available- maybe it is going to be a one shot brand much like the original Mac Portable-
    Apple is still missing a true subnotebook- ala the old Duo line-
    this brand name- and selection just seemed like a quick in-between fix until they could come up with a truly- insanely great computer.

    Reply

  10. I think that Apple had to bring out an Intel based computer for this year’s Macworld. If they didn’t, it would have meant a lot of disappointed fans and customers. From what I hear and read, it looks like the MacBook and iMac are rush jobs to satisfy that expectation.

    However, launching the MacBook with essentially the same look and feel as the PowerBook will now set the expectation in everyone’s mind that the 12″ and 17″ PowerBooks will soon be relaunched as faster Intel versions with built in iSights also. A buddy of mine, after drooling over the MacBook, said “I’ll wait till they bring out the 17-inch.”

    Still, I’d love to believe that Apple will launch a product that actually competes with an equivalent Dell in terms of price and spec. I don’t see it happening in the next 18-24 months though.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Aaron on January 14, 2006 at 3:37 am

    I’d rather be dead than own a laptop with as bad a name as “MacBook”. Yuck!

    Sony Vaio is the only other viable option now. Yeah, OS X is great but the name turns me off so much I don’t mind switching back to Linux.

    I really hope this is just for the gen 1 intel powerbooks and that it will change sometime soon.

    Reply

  12. 1. who the hell cares about the name of their computer? its not your baby, get over it.
    2. name had to change to differentiate the new intel machines from non-intel ones. so that an unexperienced new-to-apple user wouldn’t have to say “i’d like to buy one of these powerbooks, but not an old one, a new one that has an intel processor so i can run windows just in case…”
    3. every company wants to have its name in its product, its the best advertisement. there are tons of loosers out there who’s never seen a mac, never heard about it, and will google for ‘power’ to buy one. You’d be surprised how un-geeky some people are, especially from the windows world, who are mainly the ones apple is tagetting.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Mort on January 14, 2006 at 6:04 am

    Hey Aiden…hit the Dell site for a price compare. There’s only one core-duo laptop, a 17″ but with the same rez as the Mac 15″ (big pixels), weighs 1.5 lbs. more, is ugly, and is only $50-$75 less than the MacBook. It doesn’t include any apps like the iLife series and you still need to buy all your anti-virus, anti-this, anti-that crud so it ends up being more in the end. Go take a look, others already have, search Google.

    Reply

  14. You have it backwards. The danger that the move to Intel entails is that people start thinking Macs are just PCs and if so, why pay a premium? For the fun of it? no chance. That’s the reason they are trotting along with an ugly, bad name. And the reason that they didn’t change the basic design at all. They want people to think the change of CPU doesn’t mean anything (a lie). Later on they can change looks and name and make a normal PC (though they would have to lower their margins for that).

    Reply

  15. Posted by sfenerule on January 14, 2006 at 7:19 am

    “MacBook Pro”? Whotta cool name–not. Upside: Traps “Mac” in the lexicons of double/triple boot users. Downside: Instant summoner of the bad old desktop days’ aura-of-yesteryear. “Pro” moniker masks feature deletion and lower x86 unit cost from the asking price. Adds 1.1 lbs of weight to the unit.

    Reply

  16. I’ve done an informal survey of people I know and its only the technology geeks (including myselft) that think MBP is a bad name. EVERYONE else (non-geek) actually likes Mac Book Pro.

    Reply

  17. […] I tried to post this at Dave Winer’s WordPress blog, but it won’t post. […]

    Reply

  18. I don’t like MacBook either, let alone MacBook Pro.

    But xBook??? Can you say xBox? I don’t think so.

    I think it’s time to lose the “book” as well as the “Power”. The “Pro” to me is dated, old, lame. There are too many PC-industry “Pro” artifacts out there. That said, I would have rather seen the MacBook Pro come out as the iBook Pro, clearly implying that the iBook will continue on as the iBook, yet with entry-level (iBook) as well as professional (iBook Pro) models. I don’t think “Mac” is needed in the name.

    This way, you have all these i (life, work, tunes, photo, movie, dvd, web) running on i (mac, book, pod).

    As we say in the Mac world, “it just works”.

    Reply

  19. In my previous post, it was intended to read as i(apps) and i(things). I happened to use html-style brackets, which were lost in action.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Justin Walgran on January 14, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Jobs said in the keynote he wants the name ‘Mac’ on every product. The Powerbook was the only computer they sold that didn’t have ‘Mac’ in the name. Seems like it was just in the interest of specific branding. “Joyless?” I don’t burst out in a smile when I hear the word “Powerbook” either. “Make a statement that wasn’t ‘Mac’ at all?” Mac = quality engineering, beauty, and no viruses. Why would you want to disassociate from that?

    I’m a bit strapped for cash, so I can’t wait for the MacBook Mortal!

    Reply

  21. Too bad Apple chose “iBook” for the low-end machine, since “i” for Intel is the other option that would make sense for the MacBook. “Mac-anything” has to sound like a cheap meal.

    The suggestion of “xBook” would be an even cooler name if Jobs’d had the foresight to officially call that cubic black NeXt machine “xBox”… Hmm… Has Microsoft staked any kind of trademark/servicemark claim on “electronic device names beginning with ‘x'”?

    On the other hand, instead of “branding” the new powerbook with “Mac,” Apple could make an even broader market-cornering move and say “this is the top Apple laptop” by using the letter “A”…

    Query: “What’s that you’ve got there?”
    Reply: “Abook”

    Reply

  22. First, I hate the name too.

    But get over it.

    I agree with artemi; Aaron, I can’t believe you’d let the name get in the way of a purchasing decision like this.

    Hugh’s mini survey probably is dead on. The people who hate this name enough to go to war over it, are all us people who either love or hate Powerbooks, not the 99% of the people in between.

    I’ll be working on my 2004 Powerbook to carefully remove the name from above the keyboard (yes, that tiny tiny tiny little spot where it actually shows, not that BIG huge Apple logo on the back which lights up like Times Square, which if anybody cared to think about is where the real branding is on this machine) and I will then re-attach it to my new Macbook Pro-cum-Powerbook 2006. Well, 2007. I’m not jumping in on 1.0. Don’t ask me how I’m going to do this yet. I’ve got a while to figure it out.

    Reply

  23. I am not a fan of MacBook it’s true. For me it’s not a criticism of their branding (when the performance of their products suggests that they are less than gods I will second-guess them there), nor is it ugliness (I don’t care about that). No, I just miss “Powerbook”. To me, Power is what I like in computers and it made me feel good.

    To those of you that have strong negative feelings about MacBook I have one thing to say: Get a Life. The idea that this could cause even a momentary bit of ire says that your life is too easy and you need to get out and find something important to do with your life force.

    That said, I still love you.

    tqii

    Reply

  24. FWIW, I remember lots of folks saying much of the same about the iPod name when first came out. We have a way of getting used to things…

    Reply

  25. A couple of points. First, it seems obvious this is a transition machine. They needed a name that would make sure new buyers knew this was a Mac, not just a generic Intel machine, and they needed to differentiate from the non-Intel PowerBooks. Plus they’ve publically stated that they want to strengthen the Mac branding. I think they are putting this up against the whole “PC” thing – as previous posters said, Jobs hakes the PC moniker. “You use a PC? no I use a Mac.” Is what he wants to hear.

    Since this is a transition machine, and because they need to push the idea that it’s faster than previous PowerBooks, they tack on Pro. The transition argument comes because come April or late spring they’re going to redo the line again. I doubt that there will be any further “MacBook Pro” named machines.

    Reply

  26. The fact that Steve Jobs picked a name us geeks hate is a great sign. My mom instantly knows what a MacBook is. Calling it a colorful PC is only going to confuse her. Greatly. (She did know what a PowerBook was, but what’s done is done.)

    Apple has plastered downtown San Francisco with posters and billboards about how an Intel processor is doing more inside a Mac than it ever did inside a PC. As though switching processor architectures were a saleable feature (hint: it’s not), and as though the Mac platform is going to add users by talking about what type of chips go on its motherboard. Something like “The Mac Laptop: Now twice as fast” or somesuch would have been vastly preferable.

    Reply

  27. Posted by Jim Armstrong on January 14, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Take a look at the names of other laptop computers –

    Vaio, XPS, V5000Z, Satellite, Quomio, Portege, ZD8000, Inspirion B130, Presario, NX250X

    And how exactly, are these names better than MacBook Pro?

    The only other name I like for a laptop is ThinkPad, and it is owned by Lenovo, a Chinese company.

    Reply

  28. Posted by John on January 14, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Who cares, The Mac marketing people probably have a long term naming strategy designed to accomodate products yet to be announced. Its a whole lot more useful to examine things like screen resolution, battery life, real use speed improvements, retail price and over-all reliability than the name of a product. If it makes you happy keep calling it a powerbook. My only concern is related to its actual use not what name it goes by.
    John

    Reply

  29. I don’t know why Apple would even WANT to make a statement that wasn’t “Mac”.
    MacBook Pro doesn’t ring and sing like PowerBook, ThinkPad, Portege…but it’s just a name.

    I don’t think anyone expects you to get excited about the name. To do so, well, would mean you’re a marketroid and not a geek :)

    Reply

  30. Posted by T.S. [DigitalSymbiosis] on January 14, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Well, I think it is not a bad name at all. It gives plenty of possibilities from the marketing point of view.

    For instance, If Apple is going to introduce the extended memory/higher performance version it can be named | BigMacBook |. Or if the fans insist, it may be called even | iBigMacBook |.

    Reply

  31. Posted by vanni on January 14, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    MacBook won’t last long. It doesn’t fit in too well with the name iBook, which sounds higher end than MacBook. And xBook would be… too Xboxish ;-) allthough i do like the name… PowerBook was uber cool. it said it all. So it’s back to the drawing board for the marketing team. ps any one for iMachine? iLab. iLap. iPower, iRocket, …. good night….

    Reply

  32. Well, the reality is that the MacBook is a Mac. It is meant to run Mac OS X for Intel. Not Microsoft Windows for Dell. At least for now. This name eliminates confusion.

    I didn’t like the name “iPod” when it first came out. The rest is history.

    Reply

  33. Yeah, sometimes watching the Apple scene these days is like watching an indie band finally get the recognition it deserves. Both sets of fans just start tearing into it, because simply liking it no longer makes them cool.

    And this is coming from an Apple user since the IIgs days. Go MacBook Pro!

    Reply

  34. It’s not a weak name. And it is essentially what we had before, the CPU is different (and a few other bits). But it’s the same. It’s just about branding. Then again, like most things, you’ll get used to it and forget about the whole thing. As others have mentioned, people hated ‘iPod’ when it first was released.

    Reply

  35. Posted by Jerome Camus on January 15, 2006 at 4:10 am

    Jobs said in the keynote he wants the name ‘Mac’ on every product.
    naturally I missed that…

    So the 17″ will be a BigMac.
    desktops will be TunaMacs.
    extremes sports pods will become MacShakes…
    … how ’bouta intel-powered vibrator… MacVibes!

    Branding is all invention. It is positioning. And oh so important for big firms. This feels shaked but not baked. Jobs clearly does not have anyone pushing back at him behind closed doors. To enforce the association with cardiopathetic food chains is suicidal. No more class, but greasy crass… Hmmm… given Apple’s arrogance, maybe Jobs is coherent after all.

    I am definitely going to ensure that new boxes I buy get artwork to hide this. Hmmm… maybe there’s a business model in this. Any takers?

    Reply

  36. To paraphrase Shakespeare, what’s in a name? That which we call a MacBook by any other name would smell as sweet….

    I am writing this on a “nc6000,” I normally also a “TC1100,” and I never heard anyone complain about those names…

    As far as I am concerned they can call it whatever they want and I’ll still want one. Cheesh….. it doesn’t matter if we like the name.

    Anyway, it makes sense, along with the MacMini. MacBook. Maybe it’s where you put the emphasis when saying the word. mac MINI; mac BOOK.

    Reply

  37. The thing is, Jobs isn’t stupid, so they must ‘know’ it’s a bit of a crappy name, and at the end of the day, they’re still going to sell a hell of a lot of the things anyway.

    When the cheap Intel ibook we all want???

    Reply

  38. Posted by Nicholas Paredes on January 15, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    My original opinion matched your. However, after a little thought, I have to say it worls well. Why? Well, imagine a MacTablet, or a MacPhone, or a MacBook iBook repacement… It extends. Also, imagine a wolrd where OS X becomes OS XI, or OS XII, or OS XX… It is a Mac not an OS, which is where I believe the name is going. But, what’s up with the iMac?

    Reply

  39. […] Dave Winer after a talk with Phil Torrone: “He explained why people don’t like the name. Here was their chance, once and for all, to make a statement that wasn’t “Mac” at all. By going to Intel, they could have claimed, in a clever way perhaps, to have erased the final objection anyone might have to using this computer. They could have a new position, instead of the snotty one they chose. […]

    Reply

  40. Posted by Motts McGregor on January 17, 2006 at 8:03 am

    I also suspect the folks at Apple saw “Power” as a still-lingering association with the PowerPC? They are wrong of course, as Powerbook has been the name of the Apple laptops since the 68000-series days.

    -Motts

    Reply

  41. I’m sorry Dave, you don’t really seem to understand the idea of the Macintosh. Figures, not like you use one. When was the last time you bought one anyway? I think your comment about the advertising campaign shows that you know nothing about marketing. “Oh, I sure do want a more colorful PC!!!” Give me a break, That gives them no advantage over their PC competitors.

    I will agree that MacBook is a weak name, but bashing Apple and claiming that they aren’t even Macintosh anymore? Please, It’s not about the processor, it’s about the Operating System and partly Hardware. A great peice of Hardware with an OS that is not only more well built than Windows, but is IN FACT more secure due to the Password guarded installation of programs.

    It’s okay to not like the Mac. But, bashing it like this is not necessary.

    Reply

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