Naming the iCloud
If the best ideas are the ones that seem the most obvious when you hear them, then perhaps the best products are the ones which consumers have already started to expect or create for themselves from fragments of others.
Watching Apple’s keynote revealing iCloud, I was struck by two things:
1. The product is obvious
I’ve been trying to create this product for myself for about 5 years by assembling LDAP Google Calendars, DropBox folders, IMAP mail accounts and a whole Frankenstein array of syncs etc. I cancelled my Mobile Me subscription because I was paying for something I can do elsewhere for free – albeit with some complexity.
I wondered… Why does Apple force me to compromise my experience of their products in the natural way that I (and many others) want to use them?
Well, with the arrival of iCloud – a very obvious set of functionality to be offered for free, Apple has risen to the challenge many millions of users have set. It’s a great move from a brand that needs to be ever vigilant to stay one step ahead.
2. I’m not sure about the name
So first, let’s talk about its anatomy. Despite many copy-cats, Apple is the undisputed owner of the iName structure. So the name takes a reasonably well-understood concept to many – ‘cloud computing’ – and turns it into an Apple brand: iCloud.
Simple enough? But there must have been some agonising over this one. Why?
Firstly, although I describe cloud computing as ‘reasonably well-understood’, is this really the case? For developers, gadget fiends, Apple fans and many other niches – the idea of “the cloud” is probably well known. For the majority – itself split into its own niches – housewives, silver surfers and the kids who form the next buying generation – does this term mean anything at all?
Secondly, if Apple has an opportunity to name this new service – which aligns itself with natural consumer instincts – does a ‘cloud’ really conjure the right emotional impression? Sure, clouds are naturally occurring and we can understand the concept of data existing above us in some serene and quietly beneficial system. However, we can’t escape the fact that clouds have – for millennia – been associated with coming problems. In literature we can use the device of pathetic fallacy, where we invoke emotional implications from the actions or qualities of inanimate objects. A clap of thunder at just the right moment in a film, the scene changing to a cloudy, stormy and rainy one – these sorts of devices suggest a negative shift of emotion. If you are feeling down, you can be said to have a cloud hanging over you. We don’t like things to cloud our judgement.
iCloud is a strategic re-alignment for Apple. It puts the personal computer in its place as just-another-device and sets the focus correctly towards online distributed storage. So my concern is this: for such a strategically important innovation – surely a more positive and forward looking name would be better.
More than ever, brand Apple needs to have more to say about its future than its past. With Steve Jobs’ health a real worry for the faithful, it’s vital to offer reassurance about the sunlit uplands in the years to come. Naming should be part of this.
So to conclude? I would expect that within 5 years the name will evolve into something more positive – but for now I can only play my part and cheer, looking forward to the seamless synchronisation offered by Apple’s latest example of obvious genius.
Chris Charlton is a Freelance Brand Strategist, and co-founder of Pageplay.com.
In: Digital, Naming, Technology, Viewpoints · Tags: Apple, iCloud