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Making a name for Consumer Electronics

What’s in a name? If you’re in the consumer electronics business, the name is everything. Problem is, even after living in the shadow of the ‘less is more’ mantra of Apple for so long, no one seems to be thinking as different as Apple do.

Take for example, take the Windows Home Server, which I’ve given praise to recently. While the product seems solid enough, the name is a huge turn-off for me.

And if the name isn’t working, I have to wonder if Microsoft are going to make the most of what looks to be a great opportunity, even with their legendary marketing clout.

Oh, you don’t agree? Well read on…

A recent article by Dan Blacharski over at ITworld.com helps make my case against Microsoft and their terminal conundrum-like naming convention:

“Now there’s a lot of folks out there who are saying, ‘what in the world do I want a server in my home for?’ And fair enough, most people wouldn’t. That is, they wouldn’t want a server in the conventional sense of the word. But Microsoft is turning the concept towards the consumer, with a server that is less of a business and productivity machine than it is a home entertainment storage and serving system.”

See that? He makes such a wonderful point, then totally breezes by the actual problem itself.

In an interview with Microsoft Server and Tools chief Bob Muggier back in 2005, he managed to let slip that Microsoft was thinking about some kind of home server rig:

“We have seen many people install Small Business Servers at home, which really works quite well.”

Who might these people be, Bob? Highly technically literate people, per chance? Might they not be the best example of the target audience for a home entertainment server product?

Most people who I know who still aren’t technically literate still have a good grasp of what a server is. So with that in mind, the idea of having a server in their home wouldn’t appeal to them at all.

Now, I’m technically literate and the thought of having a server in my home to help manage my digital entertainment just seems like hard work. And guess what? Do a quick straw poll and you too will see how turned off people are by the idea of a server in their home, too.

All of this because of a name? Yes, a name.

Just look at the recent kerfuffle over the Apple iPhone and its remarkable similarity to the .. now, hold on, I’ve got the name here somewhere…

Nearly there. No, that’s not it.

Hang on! Here it is .. yes, the LG KE 850.

Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Truly memorable. Now, I understand the need to differentiate, but then there’s a lot to be said for having a product that people can remember the name of without having to write the damn thing down.

There’s been military ordnance with simpler names.

Grommet! It’s the wrong trousers!

“No productivity applications and usability on Mac and PC have reached equilibrium. What’s more important is who will dominate the applications that will control your home-wide entertainment system and appliances, and the applications that will let you control your lighting and HVAC from your hotel while on vacation.”

People don’t want to do everything with their computer, controlling everything in the home. Some people still like to draw the curtains on a morning. Some people still like to walk about in the dark.

And as for farting around with your stuff while your on holiday .. err, no! Don’t we have friends & family for stuff like that? No wait, they’re at home reading their Windows Home Server manual, or trying to find the name of the new LG mobile thingamabob.

As I’ve said before, technology is about people. Technology that isn’t needs-driven is not needed.

I do not want or need to switch my porch lights on from Porto, or to adjust the heating from Helsinki.

The real danger here is just heaping all of this stuff into peoples’ hands and none of it ever getting used, when just giving people some stuff that they’d use everyday.

And when all is said & done, you’re still going to lose the damned remote control down the back of the sofa…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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