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20 June 2012updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Microsoft Surface: good name

Why the Surface will work.

By Richard Morris

Names are funny things. Take for example Starkiller”. It’s not a bad name. It’s pretty appropriate for a character in a Sci Fi story – probably a bad guy, someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. But the world would have been a poorer place if George Lucas had left the main protagonist of his most famous work with that moniker, instead of the more evocative (and appropriate) “Skywalker”.

Which is why I think Microsoft are wise to name their new tablet the Surface.

Firstly, it’s an easy to name to say and write. It’s very hard to find single English words that you can trademark (let alone find a half decent url that hasn’t been sat on already), so when you already own one (as Microsoft did in this case), you’re wise to use it, even if the products that have gone previously have had less than stellar success.

Secondly, you can tie yourself in knots trying to find exciting new and different names to use. Choosing and then sticking with a name is really hard. Everyone loves how Apple brands products with their simple “i” device. But it so nearly wasn’t so. Steve Jobs was all set to call the iMac the rather less exciting “Macman” right until the last minute. If you’ve got something simple and evocative sitting right in front of you, grab it.

Thirdly, not everything makes sense when you’re naming. Can you imagine calling your product Gertrude, Centipede or 5t? No? Yet someone had the gumption to go for Mercedes, Caterpillar and 3M. Picking a new name needs courage, faith and a grim determination to make something work. Would you have sat in a room and bought “Blackberry?”

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Plus in this case, there’s fun to be had with name elements like “surf” and “face” that already resonate in the digital territory the product occupies. It just fits.

Finally, whoever picked surface really understands that one of the things people love about tablets is the tactile way our hands sweep across them, the touch, the glide, their smoothness. Remember those sweeping hand gestures Tom Cruise made as his hands shot across those giant touch screens in “Minority Report”. The way tablets feel makes using them special. And now Microsoft have a shot at owning that territory, both literally and metaphorically.

Of course, not everyone will love the name and these things are totally subjective. That’s the way of the world. But at least from a naming point of view, the Microsoft Surface has a real shout at making it.

Of course, whether the product’s any good or not –well, that’s another story…

‘Richard Morris runs branding and Design agency Identica.