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The 'i' Goes Silent: Why Apple Didn't Name Its Smartwatch 'iWatch'

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For months, Apple fans, pundits, and competitors have been speculating about what the new iWatch would look like. And wouldn’t you know, everyone got it wrong.

Turns out it's not an iWatch; it's an Apple Watch. As a brand strategist, this was the most interesting thing about today's unveiling.

No decision at Apple is taken lightly and I’m sure there were hours of feverish debate around the naming of Apple’s two newest products: Apple Watch and Apple Pay.

So, why did Apple break with tradition?

Theory No. 1: iFatigue

The "i" sub-brand naming convention has been around for almost 20 years and includes countless extensions, including: iMac, iLife (includes iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iWeb), iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCloud, iOS, iWork and iBooks.

In popular culture, the "i" craze has continued to chug along, from iHome (audio systems) to iPlay (babywear) to, most recently, iFetch (an interactive fetch toy for dogs).

Maybe the folks at Apple have seen one too many i-product spinoffs and perhaps this new naming convention – Apple Watch and Apple Play – is meant to subtly represent a new (post-Jobs) era at Apple HQ.

Related: The 3 Fundamentals of Wildly Successful Brands

Theory  No. 2: Lawsuits

Apple is definitely no stranger to lawsuits (issuing them or receiving them) and the decision to call its latest products Apple Watch and Apple Pay might be because someone else got to those other, i-product names first.

For example, in 2006, Apple TV was originally called iTV, but then ITV – a television broadcasting company in the U.K., threatened to take legal action against Apple if it used that name. Thus, in 2007, iTV became Apple TV.

Related: What Emmy-Winner 'Breaking Bad' Teaches Us About Brand Management

It’s also possible that Apple wanted to call its payment system iWallet instead of Apple Pay, but as it turns out there’s already another company out there called iWallet – a biometric locking wallet that “protects your cash, credit cards, and personal information with cutting edge technology.”

Ironically, it looks like Apple’s own i-success has become its greatest challenge in expanding the known iUniverse (which, by the way, is a professional self-publishing service).

Theory No. 3: Search Engine Sabotage

If Apple had gone with iWatch, it probably wouldn’t have had any problems with search engine suggestions, but then again, it’s entirely possible that Google’s search algorithm might have asked “Did you mean iSwatch?” when people went searching for their new, beloved iWatch.

Likewise, if Apple had gone with iWallet (if iWallet didn’t already exist), it’s possible that Google might have made suggestions like, “Did you mean Google Wallet?” Ha ha. Nice try Google!

Related: 7 Tips for Naming (or Re-Naming) Your Company

Either way, the name of the game has most definitely changed since Apple’s first i-products came on the scene in the late 1990s. Back then, Google was just a glimmer in Yahoo’s eye. Today, Google dominates the search engine landscape (along with so many other areas of our daily lives -- Google Maps, Google Images, Google Adwords, Google Driverless Cars) and as a result, Apple has to be very careful about how it names its newest products or else get caught in Google's search engine suggestion slush pile. It’s probably safe to say that Google-Apple partnerships won’t be happening any time soon.

We want to hear from you. Which theory do you agree with? Do have a theory of your own? If so, please share it in the comments section below. (iAppreciate it.)

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