Is the iPad Name Going Generic?

Like many professional name developers, I opened 2010 by making fun of the Apple iPad name. Steve Jobs gave a strong case for naming the “tablet pc” in a way that was consistent with previous Apple naming conventions (iPod, iTunes, iPhone), but many of us poked fun at the similarity of the name with feminine hygiene products.

Who’s laughing now?

Apple sold almost 15 million iPads in 2010. And if you do a Google search and look for people making fun of the iPad name, you pretty much come up empty.

Was iPad a great name? I still think Apple could have broken the mold and gone with a more inventive name. But frankly I think Apple could call its next innovation “Poop On A Stick” and it would be successful (side note: as an Apple shareholder I really hope they don’t try that).

From a trademark standpoint, Apple is still not in the clear on iPad. While they bought the “global rights” for the iPad trademark earlier this year, a new dispute claims that “global rights” did not include China. Not exactly sure who needs to go to geography class, but I am sure the Cupertino lawyers will figure it out.

But I suspect a bigger problem may be lurking for Apple. The iPad is the first tablet pc that has been embraced by consumers and in a way it is defining the category. There are iPad competitors but Apple has an estimated 95% market share. So what is the risk of a dominant market position? One risk is a “genericizing” of the product name (think “Kleenex” versus “facial tissue”).

Think about it…when people talk about the portable device that holds thousands of songs they call it iPod, regardless of the actual product. The iPhone has become the “category identifying” name for a smartphone. However, neither the iPod nor the iPhone have anywhere close to 95% market share like the iPad does.

Is iPad the next “Kleenex?” Well, if you conduct a Google search on iPad you get over 189,000,000 entries. A similar search for “tablet pc” only produces around 21,000,000 results. I’d say with a 95% market share and a 9 fold lead in search results, the iPad name may be on a very slippery slope heading towards genericide!

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