One of the items that jumped out at those who watched the big Apple event on Tuesday was a change in the naming of their new products. In the past, it was almost guaranteed that a new device, and certainly one that opened up a new product category for the company, would gain the lowercase “i” prefix.
The iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad all followed that same pattern. Major software applications like iOS, iTunes, iPhoto, and iWork all inherited this same pedigree. Even some non-flagship products followed it as well. The iSight camera, iCloud, and the iAd platform are good examples.
Tuesday’s event, though, broke with that tradition. The new version of the iPhone is still called the iPhone, but the newly announced wearable device—the one that every tech pundit on the planet was certain would be called the iWatch—was unveiled as the Apple Watch. Sure, they use their iconic Apple logo in place of the word “Apple”, but the pronunciation is still the same. And that new NFC payment service they also announced? It’s not iPay, or even EasyPay; it’s Apple Pay.
Where did the Magic Prefix go, the one that everyone has gotten used to and grown to expect?
Well, I have a theory about that, and if I’m right, we will never see another iProduct again. I believe that every new product that was released during the time that Steve Jobs was at the helm of the company had a chance at gaining that famous prefix. Not all of them got it, but the big ones did. Those were the ones that needed a publicly recognizable name that pointed back to Apple without having to say so. They were the products that were sure to take off, gain traction in the public mind, and cross the lips of the average consumer. And they were all products that found their origin (at least to some degree) in the mind of the Wizard himself: Steve Jobs.
As far as I can tell, no new product released since the passing of Steve Jobs has earned the Magic Prefix. Sure, there have been revisions to many iProducts, but their names are purely a sign of their pedigree. The iSight camera that’s in my closet—the one with the FireWire cable and clip to mount to my Apple Cinema Display—has grown up to be the camera built into nearly every device Apple makes. It’s still the iSight, though. The iMac, iPhone, iPad, and iDrive all maintain the Magic Prefix because, by and large, they are the same devices Steve Jobs helped bring into the world.
Now, though, the Wizard is no longer here to bestow that blessing upon his creations, and the change is clearly visible.
Old iProducts that have gone through serious reinvention can be seen dropping the prefix. iPhoto, an app that has seen tremendous revision, will become Photos in Yosemite. Calendar replaced iCal. And if this pattern is true, we will see more and more Apple software drop the Magic Prefix, so long as it doesn’t impact the product’s brand recognition too deeply.
New products, though, are just out of luck. Tim Cook stated in an interview after the big event that development on the Apple Watch began after the passing of Steve Jobs. We can assume the same about Apple Pay. And if Apple moves deeper into the wearables market and creates a pair of glasses to compete with Google Glass, or partners with Tesla in creating a truly revolutionary automobile, your guess is as good as mine what they will look like or how they will function. But I can guarantee you one thing for sure.
The Magic Prefix departed with Steve.