Today news has broken out that UK TV network ITV sent Apple a letter last year basically saying: ‘You’d best not name your HD TV sets iTV’. Even though it’s now been denied, everyone’s now gearing up to cover a huge legal battle. But I just don’t think it’ll happen. More to the point: if you do, you probably don’t understand the way Apple works…
The news claims that Apple is about to lawyer up to fight ITV over the use of the name for its HD TV sets. Except it’s probably not. While the company has ben relatively cavalier with product naming in the past – calling the iPad the iPad without really checking the legalities – I find it incredibly hard to believe that the company is about to launch into a battle that it can’t possibly win.
Let’s take a quick look at Apple’s previous naming lawsuits. iOS, the name of the iPhone’s operating system, was fought for on the grounds that the name was being used, but not in the public eye. iOS is also the name Cisco used for its Internet Operating System software, found inside corporate-style network equipment.
The same applies for the iPhone – the term was so buried in Cisco’s corporate infrastructure that it would never have been known by consumers.
When Apple TV initially launched it did so under the name ‘iTV’. That changed to Apple TV following anger from the UK broadcaster ITV. The name was changed, Apple learnt its lesson, things ironed themselves out. But it wasn’t about lawyer fees or court time. It was about simplicity.
That’s the key point here: Apple’s most obvious quality is its eye for keeping things simple and uncomplicated. Find me another Apple product name that causes any confusion whatsoever, or mirrors that of an existing product at all, and I’ll be impressed.
ITV in the UK is a national institution. Since its inception in 1955, the channel has grown to have a product portfolio of both channels, websites and original content to rival any of the other British broadcasters. In short: it’s not going anywhere. Similarly, the UK is an enormous market for Apple. It was the only market in the world during Q4 2011 to buck the trend and show an increase in Apple Mac sales, for one.
The problem in terms of the media is that there’s a perception that Apple will overlook this fact. American media tends to be heavily US-centric, so it probably doesn’t understand that some tiny little broadcasting shack from New HamLondon-shire bearing the same name as the Apple sets would be much of a problem. And that’s ridiculous.
While UK viewing figures are obviously far smaller than those in the US, it’s still an important piece of Apple’s pie – one that it can’t afford to annoy, confuse or ignore. Calling the next generation of Apple TV ‘iTV’ is basically the same as calling it iNBC in the states.
Thinking that the company is really going to release a range of TV sets on these shores with the same name as a company that makes up major part of the nation’s collective viewing is madness. The can of worms that doing so would unleash just wouldn’t be worth the hassle and would go against Apple’s streamlined, simple ethos. The confusion just wouldn’t be worth the risk for the sake of a name.
“Did you see that thing on iTV last night?” “The channel or the Apple thing?” – Yeah, quite. More than anything, Apple will want its product to be a one of a kind. It named the iPod the iPod and the iPad the iPad because they’re memorable, instantly recognisable names with their own personas. ‘Apple Tablet’ wouldn’t have been quite the same.
As for the case of Apple TV as it stands? The name was forced in as a quick replacement following that initial legal action. The Apple TV set top box is and has always been called a ‘hobby’ for the company, but the TV sets will be the full on assault – the result of some three years’ tinkering time. It will need its own catchy, distinct name, but I’d bet my last penny that it won’t be iTV.
Of course, I have no idea what it’ll actually be named; iBox, iView or anything similar seems far more likely. Just not iTV.