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Naming Steve Rivkin

How Did Apple Computer Get Its Brand Name?

by

Brand Strategy Apple Computer

One of the many sidebars to media coverage of the death of Steve Jobs in October 2011 was an old question: Where did the name Apple Computer come from?

Lots of speculation has floated by:

  • Jobs & Wozniak wanted their startup to be in front of Atari in the phone book.
  • They wanted distance from the cold, complicated imagery created by other computer companies at the time – with names such as IBM, Digital Equipment and Cincom.
  • It was a tribute to Apple Records, the music label of the Beatles.

For solid answers, it’s always a good idea to go to the founders.

In the just-published Steve Jobs biography, Jobs told Walter Isaacson he was "on one of my fruitarian diets" and had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded "fun, spirited and not intimidating."

Writing in his 2006 book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon, Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak explains it this way:

"It was a couple of weeks later when we came up with a name for the partnership. I remember I was driving Steve Jobs back from the airport along Highway 85. Steve was coming back from a visit to Oregon to a place he called an “apple orchard.” It was actually some kind of commune. Steve suggested a name – Apple Computer. The first comment out of my mouth was, “What about Apple Records?” This was (and still is) the Beatles-owned record label. We both tried to come up with technical-sounding names that were better, but we couldn’t think of any good ones. Apple was so much better, better than any other name we could think of."

His concerns turned out to be justified. Apple Computer, Inc. was sued by Apple Records over trademark violations in 1989.

In a 2006 interview with an MIT newspaper, Wozniak was asked again about the rationale behind the Apple name. Wozniak confirmed that it was Job’s creation, and that he came up with the name after spending a few months working on an apple orchard. “After trying to think of better and more technical names, both Jobs and I realized that Apple was a good fit,” he told the newspaper.

A book titled Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company says that both Wozniak and Jobs tried out alternate brand names such as Executex and Matrix Electronics, but they didn’t like anything as much as Apple Computer.

Contributed to BSI by: Steve Rivkin

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2 Comments

Anthony Denny on November 18th, 2011 said

To add to the legend, I have always understood that the reason the Apple logo has a bite out of it was as an homage to the late Alan Turing – the father of modern computing – who, when he was about to be outed for being gay, took his own life by reputedly injecting an apple with cyanide and taking a bite out of it.

Allon on November 19th, 2011 said

The name also made for a good slogan in the early days: “Byte into an Apple”…

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