Cool names

Outstanding product names are becoming less of a rarity in the network industry. Here are some of the best.

Somewhere between the geekiness of the late 1980s and the greediness of the late 1990s, technology turned "cool." In the national consciousness, George Jetson was replaced by Max Headroom; Mad Max superceded by the Matrix (though a leather-clad Mel Gibson, no matter how sweaty, will always remain cool to some of us. Mel, if you're reading this, feel free to e-mail me).

The network industry was suddenly where the rich, hip and happening folks hung out. The type of marketing genius that had previously gravitated to, say, the small appliance industry or car manufacturers moved in on technology. True, I never understood all of their ploys, such as mass consumer advertising. (Why run a Super Bowl ad for a $100,000 server or a $25,000 router? Do the masses really shop for such products like they shop for beer? Do the masses shop for high-end network gear at all?)

Also see: Uncool names and Famous product code names

But those hip marketing minds do deserve applause for overhauling how technology products are named. Seems to me that engineers, with their love of numbers, apparently ran the product-naming show for many a year. So you had your IBM 650, your Wang VS-16000 850 and let's not forget your Cisco 2500. The whoopee naming innovation in those days was random capitalization and/or punctuation combined with the wild abandonment of spaces between words (like the IBM AS/400 or Digital Equipment's OpenVMS ).

But when technology became cool, so did a slew of product names.

Security products, it seems, sport the most creative names - particularly intrusion-detection systems (IDS), according to an informal survey of a few dozen Network World readers.

Respondents named IDS product Beadwindow (from the same-named vendor) as the favorite clever product name. You've got to do a little intellectual digging to "get" the wittiness here. Beadwindow is a military code word for when a radio operator has reliable information from a friendly source that the enemy has breached the radio network. Clever, but complicated. More to the point is IDS product Manhunt, created by Nexland and acquired by Symantec, with one respondent suggesting, "I bet they would sell more to IT geeks if they called it Womanhunt."

Other names that respondents said were among the industry's best are, in no particular order: StrokeIt, an open source advanced mouse-gesture recognition program; Skype, an open source Internet telephony product; Kill A Watt, a power-monitoring device from Convenient Gadgets; and Ethereal, an open source real-time network protocol analyzer.

On second thought, maybe I've been unfair to the older product gang. Admittedly, a few products, like the Apple Macintosh or Lotus 1-2-3, were clever-name forerunners - technology's equivalent of Britney to the mass number-laden names I'd liken to Gladys or Edna. Readers surveyed fondly recalled several older product names, such as Xylogic's Corporate LAN Access Module - the CLAM router (acquired by Bay Networks) and Scribble, a word processor for the Amiga. "Silly name, not a bad product though," one respondent admired.

Another contributed this vague recollection: "Several years ago there was some networking software called Promised LAN. Don't know if it ever made the market or not. I remember the hype and saw some beta stuff."

If it exists, I couldn't locate it. I did, however, find some PC gamers club that had adopted the term for its on-site LAN parties. Its flyer promised: "We bring the food, two power outlets and a network jack. You bring the PCs." A yee-hah interactive soiree if ever I heard of one.

One respondent says the network industry has never produced the best product names, nor the best slogans, but he had some ideas. "I used to use a small vacuum gauge that was made by a company called Consolidated Vacuum. They could have used the slogan 'We work for nothing!' "

But I still think today's crop are truly inspirational considering this, which I deem to be among the best: "TruSecure's Desktop Risk Assessment Tool" otherwise known as DRAT.

Also see:

Uncool names

Famous product code names

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