Sunday, June 26, 2011

Naming Steve’s legacy

Steve Jobs is promoting a new Cupertino HQ for Apple, perhaps his most enduring legacy to the company.

A local newspaper columnist solicited suggestions for a nickname for the futuristic building design, and in Sunday’s Merc revealed the three finalists he (and three journalist buddies) selected from the submissions:

  • Fruit Loop
  • The Halo
  • The Core
Of course, he’s a reporter and (as he wrote in response to my email) “This is about having fun.” Still, the list suggests a lack of understanding of branding, positioning and (my own specialty) punmanship.

Semifinalists that didn’t make it into the finals were:
  • The Glass Donut
  • SteveHenge
  • Apple Saucer
The (drinking) journalists’ committee ruled out all the i-series names, including iSite, iO (after the moon), and iCycle. They had earlier ruled out Jobsite and Eden.

The problem is that the finalists lack the emotional core of some of the more abstract names (SteveHenge, Eden) and the cleverness of the i-names. (The building will only be used for 25-35 years before it needs remodeling, and I’m sure people will remember the iPhone by then.)

My sentimental favorite is SteveHenge, because this is literally the office that Steve built — after rescuing the company from the near-death condition he found it in 14 years ago. Perhaps the ruins will even be examined four millennia hence.

The Little Kingdom: The Private Story of Apple ComputerAs a business historian, however, I think the name that best summarizes Jobs’ 30+ legacy for the PC industry is Eden. The intended imagery is the Apple of temptation from the Garden of Eden, and of course the paradise-like working conditions that the coddled employees of high-margin Silicon Valley companies enjoy (at least until they get Mark Hurd as a boss.)

Probably unintentionally, it evokes the second book published on Apple Computer, Frank Rose’s West of Eden, which picks up where the seminal first book (Little Kingdom by Michael Moritz) leaves off.

West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple ComputerThe subtitle for West of Eden is “The End of Innocence at Apple Computer,” because it covers how Steve Jobs was forced out in his power struggle with John Sculley, the man who admittedly almost single-handedly wrecked the company. What more fitting a tribute to Steve Jobs do we need?

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