Branding and the decline of the IBM-compatibles


There’s a great post on the Baby Name Wizard blog discussing the latest name of the year —  Siri.

To English speakers, Siri comes across as classic Danish design: clean, spare, elegant in its simplicity. It feels namelike but isn’t overly familiar or tied to any time period. It’s approachable but not in-your-face. It’s cool.

This branding is typically Apple.

A look through computer history reveals less inspired choices. The first electronic relay computer was by Konrad Zuse, and called the Zuse Z1-2.


The first completely electronic computer was the Eniac, which computed firing tables during WWII.

IBM (itself a less than friendly name), came out with the personal IBM 5150, and with some exceptions (like the brilliantly-named Thinkpad) continues with such names as the System Storage SAN768B-2.

Apple, in comparison, has generally done a good job of choosing human-like names.  Think of names like the Lisa, Macintosh, or MacBook.  While part of this consists in such a limited product line, it generates generate a brand that is easy to talk about.

Compare Apple to Dell.  Dell has the Inspiron, Inspiron R, XPS, Z Series, and Alienware primary laptop brands.  Each of these have additional options, screen sizes, and customizations.  They don’t have a brand — they have 5.

The Thinkpads have always stuck out to me as one of the few viable brands opposing the Apple Macbooks.  While not IBM anymore, they’ve got a good reputation of reliability.  Ironically, I’ve seen some studies by rebate providers showing that Apple does not have the best hardware reliability.  But, the uniformly high-quality of their lineup means that they’re perceived as a safe choice. Compare that to Dell, where you can buy a great computer, like the XPS or Alienware, or a terrible one that barely runs the crapware that comes installed on new computers.

It’s been a long time since “no one gets fired buying IBM.”

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