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1/9/2007
06:16 PM
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Apple Drops 'Computer' From Corporate Moniker

After introducing the iPhone at Macworld, Steve Jobs declared that his company was dropping the word Computer from its name and henceforth would be known as Apple Inc.

Apple Computer Inc. is no more. After introducing the new Apple TV digital media hub and iPhone at the Macworld Conference on Tuesday, CEO Steve Jobs declared that his company was dropping the word "Computer" from its name and henceforth would be known as Apple Inc.

For a company that still describes itself as having "ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh," the new name signals official recognition of the changing nature of Apple's business and of the computer industry in general. So many electronic devices now qualify as computers that the term "computer" no longer seems necessary.

The re-branding of Apple isn't really a surprise to anyone. Standing atop a Segway scooter on Howard Street in San Francisco following Jobs's conference keynote, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak endorsed the name change. "They make so much more than computers now, it totally makes sense," Wozniak said.

Indeed, since the introduction of the iPod in 2001 and the music player's subsequent success, it has been obvious to industry watchers that the company had aspirations beyond the desktop.

"Apple has been much more than a computer company for years now," said analyst Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group. "It just reflects reality that they're changing their name."

Jonathan Hoopes, managing director of equity research at investment bank ThinkEquity Partners in New York, points out that the branding of Apple's retail showrooms revealed its ambitions years ago. "It's not called the Apple Computer Store," Hoopes said. "It's called the Apple Store. The name change signifies that this company wants to address a much larger consumer electronics mindset and user group than just the techie crowd."

Jack Azout, a certified Apple consultant with Prescient Solutions, said he was "slightly" disappointed that Jobs didn't announce any news regarding the Mac desktop and notebook lines or with the upcoming Leopard operating system. "When he said he wasn't going to talk anymore about the Mac and that we're going to move forward, I thought, 'But this is MacWorld. We should have news about the Mac,' " Azout said.

Azout, however, says once he heard about the iPhone, he figured it warranted its own keynote address. "When you see the Apple name change, it's clear computers are everywhere now. It's not just a phone or a computer," he said. "It's the same thing. They've come together."

Indeed, with the introduction of Apple TV and the iPhone, the well-traveled roads of media distribution all lead to Apple and its iTunes Store.

Convergence, in fact, was the narrative Jobs used to introduce the iPhone. Jobs said he would reveal three new products -- a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communications device. He then said, "These are not three separate devices" and revealed them united in the iPhone.

When Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google and Apple's newest board member, took the stage, he, too, sounded the theme of convergence. After proposing in jest that merging Apple with Google would let them call the new company "Apple Goo," Schmidt said of the iPhone: "What I particularly like about this is it's the first time it's all come together in one place."

For Schmidt, the convergence is more about disparate data sources coming together in one place, an idea that Google, in its mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible, holds dear.

For Jobs, it's a matter of hardware and software working in harmony. Quoting computer scientist Alan Kay, Jobs said, "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware."

Microsoft, with its Xbox and Zune, appears now to share that philosophy. But if convergence has a name today, it has to be Apple Inc.

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