CarolPinchefsky

12 Types of Bad Tech Names

by CarolPinchefsky on ‎22-08-2011 06:00 AM

Life is too short to want to punch a website in the face, but there I was, staring at Apple.com, feeling the rage. I was struck for the nth time by the sheer badness of the name iPad when I realized there were worse names of tech companies, products, and services. In fact, there are entire categories of bad.

I thought I’d do a roundup of them, because shared pain is lessened pai—I just need an excuse to self-medicate.

Unpronounceable names

No lie: English is a persnickety language when it comes to pronunciation. But it doesn’t mean that marketers have to roofie up English and take serious advantage of it.

Sony’s Vaio line of laptops: Is it Vay-o or Vy-o? Is the Cuil search engine pronounced Quill or Cool? Is Cisco’s Cius tablet supposed to be Sigh-Us or See-Us? I wouldn’t have known without a bit of research, wasting precious seconds I could have spent reading fan fiction.

Note to marketers: The time I took to look up this information, divided by a sense that marketers are failing to be cute, and minus the irritation when I had to look up a pronunciation guide, is equal to the amount of time I spent using these products.

Names that use symbols

The Pentax *ist was a camera. The Olympus m:robe was an MP3 player. These product names are particularly bad, and not just because they make me lapse into a confused silence. No, they’re bad for a very special reason.

Pentax has said that the asterisk was a “wildcard.” What they intended, I suppose, is that a “flor”ist can take a picture of flowers, a “dent”ist can take a picture of teeth, and an “existential”ist can take a picture of hopelessness and absurdity. As for the m:robe, Olympus said it was a contraction of “music wardrobe.”

In other words, we need special knowledge in order to figure out what these names mean. We can’t know by reading the words. We have to experience it. It’s enough to make one become an existentialist.

But then again, there’s the :CueCat. This barcode reader was a famed product failure (with it, a user could avoid all of that painfully slow typing out a URL).

How bad is the use of a symbol, really? In the case of :CueCat’s, very bad. The company abbreviated it as :C  …which looks like the world’s most emphatic frownie face.

For the icing on this cake, Google ignores punctuation in searches, so these product names then become difficult to find. Awesome.

Dishonorable mention: Google+ is, of course, easily findable on Google.

Names that overuse the letter Q

Some letters are overused in technology (see below), and let’s not forget the entire decade in which “e” was inflicted on us. But that’s not what’s bothering me now. It’s q-words.

  • Qube is an online networking site.
  • Qik is a mobile phone video-sharing service.
  • Qinetiq is a defense technology company.
  • Qoobox is a folder inside the Combofix tool to quarantine infected files.
  • Qriosity is a streaming media service.

At first glance, you can immediately see that these names contain the letter Q, which (in a fun fact that only a trivia nerd would love) is the second-least common letter in English, after Z.

Despite the fact that these names are, at first glance, unpronounceable (but at second glance, are easy enough to figure out), I suspect I know the reason these words were named the way they were: Because they look qool.

Names that shamelessly cash-in on someone else’s branding.

iSmell doesn’t work—and not just because the smell-o-rama feature didn’t make it past the prototype stage. iSmell is shorthand for “I stink.” But the name stinks on ice for another reason.

Apple Inc. doesn’t have the sole rights to the letter “I”—and wouldn’t i®t be funny i®f they did—but they’ve pretty much earned squatter’s rights to the use of the lowercased i before a noun. So when iSmell came around, it looked like it was cruising for a trademark bruising.

Had it actually gone to market, we might have been witness to an epic legal battle, where Apple could argue (rightfully, as it turns out) that iSmell was trying to make Apple Inc. look bad.

Names that are painfully obvious

Motorola Charm. Samsung Fascinate. HTC Desire. None of the names of these cell phones are bad, per se. However, the fact that they all are synonyms of the word “bewitching” looks like products that were named after reading the same marketing study.

These names seem to target gullible people who want products based on how they want to view themselves. “Ooo, it’s called Desire. If I have it, it must make me desirable!”

I would tell these people that there are better ways to choose a cell phone—that tech specs are more important than any name that elicits envy—but I can’t seem to tear myself away from my iPhone.

And speaking of envy, HP has its Envy brand of premium, high-performance laptops. I have to tell you, no mere name is going to make me crave a product enough to purchase it. Unless it’s called Daniel Craig.

Misleading names

When I first heard the word “kindle,” I thought of starting a fire. Then I found out the Kindle was for books. The name suddenly put in mind mass libricide, a whole society where Fahrenheit 451 could have been the most important book, if only they hadn’t burned it.

Moments later, as my panic was reaching an apex, I learned that the Kindle was an eReader. Does that mean Amazon wants me to burn my tech toy after using? Stupid misleading name. It’s almost as bad as my stupid gullibility.

But it’s not the only misleading name I found. A shout-out to the 2007 search engine, Ex.plode.us. It sounds like we’re asking to be suicide bombed.

Names that only a marketer could love

The Nintendo gaming platform Wii is homophone of “we,” (or “oui,” if you’re either French or pretentious), which can turn any conversation with an elderly relative into an Abbott and Costello sketch: “I’m playing the Wii.” “We are not playing. You’re playing.” Etc.

I can picture the meeting that took place over the name Wii:

Marketer: “Whee! It’s about fun!”

Unconvinced guy with the purse strings: “Wee. It’s about urine.”

Marketer: “Wee! It’s about something small and cute!”

Unconvinced guy: “Wee. Urine.”

Marketer furrows his shallow brow. “Wii! Spell it with two I’s and we can trademark the name!”

Unconvinced guy: “I’m convinced!”

Only a marketer could love a name like Wii. But only an infant could love names like JooJoo, Bebo, and Ookle. I feel myself regressing just by typing them.

Names that try too hard to sound impressive

When you hear the words "death adder," you think of a serpentine nightmare, ready to slither itself into your office and bite you in the neck. And as the poison surges through your body, you think, "At least I've died in the most macho way possible."

Sadly, the Death Adder is a mouse. And we can see why Razer would come up with the name: the Death Adder silently glides across your mouse pad—nope, sorry. I can't think of one good reason to call it a "Death Adder." It's an even more ridiculous name for a mouse than at first glance: Mice are what adders eat.

Accidentally suggestive/foul names

If you can read the English language, have heard English spoken, or once slept with an English speaker, you’d know there are some very incorrect words out there. Products that contain these incorrect words include:

  • PublishIt
  • Mate ME
  • ExpertsExchange
  • TouchWiz

But these names pale in comparison to a product that almost but not quite made it to market: Panasonic’s Touch Woody: The Internet Pecker…which is what happens when Woody Woodpecker is licensed for a web browser by people who don’t natively speak English.

Fortunately, it was pulled before it became the world’s first browser targeted at autoeroticists.

Offensive names

As with Touch Woody, many terrible names in the world of marketing seem to come from poor English translations; if you’ve ever worked with multinational companies, you know translation errors are a very real headache. 

But even that can’t excuse I.Beat Blaxx.

It’s an MP3 player. It’s black. It’s…horrific. Even a formal apology from TrekStor, plus a rapid renaming, can’t prevent my urge to name my fists I.beat AnyoneWho Hasn’t Hired.a NATIVE ENGLISH-SPEAKING copyeditorrr Whenever Selling a Product That Uses English Words.

Names that lie

Microsoft’s Plays for Sure sure doesn’t. This DRM solution was meant to reassure you that any music you bought from a Microsoft partner would play on every Microsoft-supported player. Then Microsoft bought out the Zune, which introduced a whole new DRM system that for sure didn’t play any of your music at all.

I have to assume this was some very obscure reverse psychology marketing gimmick to give Apple more of a share of the digital music market because… nope, can’t think of a reason. Perhaps it’s something to do with Jerry Seinfeld.

And for that matter, the name “Microsoft,” which I imagine can only be a poor sexual rating, has bugged me for some time now. Also a bit like Jerry Seinfeld.

Just plain bad names

Skunk Juice – obviously, this refers to earphones. Which, apparently, stink.

Eee PC – “Aieee!” you scream as Asus then went on to name around one zillion products (we may have missed a few) “eee”-something.

The Gimp – The GNU Image Manipulation Program developers still can’t see what the fuss is about.

Some actual good names

Apple Peel is a case for iPod Touch’s with a multitude of features, which includes the ability to turn it into an iPhone. The name’s descriptive, and easy to remember. Best of all, all the vowels are present and in the right place.

Yummly is a search engine dedicated to recipes. It’s about food and it’s a play on the word “yummy” in it. It’s the best name ever.

ThinkPad is a brand of laptops, a name that, at first glance, evokes quiet contemplation or perhaps concentration. It’s also a callback to IBM’s slogan in the 1920s.

What other bad names have I missed? A whole bunch, I’m sure. Tell me in the comments, below, because shared pain is a great excuse for a piña colada.

Comments
by LisaVaas on ‎22-08-2011 10:05 AM

Any excuse to post a link to Mad TV's iPad skit is golden, in my book: http://youtu.be/lsjU0K8QPhs. Great article, loved the existentialist photo quip!

by SDuarte(anon) on ‎25-08-2011 04:46 AM

I've mixed feelings about this article, some examples are spot on, but others just sound like nitpicking.

Fox example i think that Wii is a brilliant name for the product. All the other consoles at the time where focusing on the "you", on the typical nerd basement duelers who played alone. Nintendo wanted something different, they wanted ti bring consoe gamming tothe masses, and create a family product, so they focused on the "we", and they where right to do so since now both microsoft (with the kinect which is a really bad name for a product btw) and sony (with the Move) are focusing on the "we" side of consoles as well.

I also disagree with the unpronuncable names. They might be unpronuncable in english speaking countries, but in any other country they're fairly easy to pronounce (except maybe cuil which is just retarded).

Finally in the DeathAdder case the name is also not bad for two reasons. First we've to consider that their target market is the gamming market where a mouse is much more important than in the home and business/office markets. Second it's part of their branding, all their mouses have names of snakes like for example Mamba, Naga, Orochi, Lachesis, etc. The meaning is that their products eat the competition, they are trying to show that their products aren't simples mouses, they're much better.

by Jeff(anon) on ‎25-08-2011 01:49 PM

SmartBear Software! Coolest name I've ever seen in software. HP? IBM? Booooring.

by Nicolas(anon) on ‎25-08-2011 02:06 PM

For the mouse, it's plain simple. It's targeted to gamers, and more precisely to ones that in particular need lot of speed and precision to kill more people, faster in First Person Shooters. Hence the name...

The name is still stupid and pueril, but it target their audience pretty well.

by Lingam(anon) on ‎30-08-2011 11:31 PM

I once worked at a company that has a set of software test tools named 'Tools for Windows Application Testing' (**bleep**).

by Jonathan Wilson(anon) on ‎10-10-2011 01:09 AM

I remember the story about how Borland Delphi (a software development IDE) was originally going to be sold as Borland AppBuilder but the people making the software pushed to use the Delphi name (which was the products code name) instead.

Delphi sounds so much better than AppBuilder.

 

by rogerdodger(anon) on ‎13-12-2011 01:44 AM

PowerGen opened/bought a subsidiary in italy-  the website

www.powergenitalia.com

is gone now, but we had a day and a half of good laughs.

by Fraser(anon) on ‎10-01-2013 06:43 PM

Are you kidding? Yumm.ly is hideous! It's sickeningly cutesy, it's not a real word, and it looks like one of those trying-too-hard "domain hacks" that uses a TLD (in this case, Libya's) to spell out an overwrought web 2.0 company name.

by gary(anon) on ‎20-01-2013 10:30 AM

surprised there's nothing about bs like "Sony Bravia KDL22PX300"

by Teresa V(anon) on ‎15-06-2013 06:49 PM

I mysteriously lost the camera off of my 4th generation ipod touch.  It worked fine for around 3 years and then disappeared one day without deletion.  How do I get it back?  Everything that I try to download through app store is stating that I can not load it due to the "appliance missing a camera".

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