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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

iAm Tired Of The iStuff
June 20th, 2000

Sometimes you wonder when a trend will stop. Sometimes you wonder if a trend makes sense at all. Sometimes you wonder why they even start.

Sometimes we follow them because we think that they are cool. Sometimes we do so to make a quick buck. Sometimes we think that we have to do what others do without questioning.

Since Apple introduced the iMac, it seems that every new Mac product to hit the shelves comes with an iName. An iName is the iMac's promoted "i" prefix (iPrefix, actually) followed by the name of the product. I remember that the first product with such a name to hit the shelves in my favorite Mac store was MacAlly's iMouse. Of course, this rodent's intent was to replace the infamous Apple USB Mouse (iPuck). Zillions of iOfferings have come out since.

I wonder if people realize what they are doing.

Anything fashionable can be cool. It is cool because it stands out and one can easily identify himself with it. Therefore, to be cool, we adopt it. Why should we be cool? To please. Coolness is a universal and modern way to please without making substantial efforts to be worth anything. Fortunately, there are still people in our world who prefer depth to coolness, or who at least appreciate coolness only when depth is present.

I can understand and rationalize, to a certain extent, that it is an excellent idea for some companies to adopt such a naming concept (the iName) when a specific product targets iMac users. I actually question the pertinence of the scheme only when everybody adopts it, which is the case right now. Go to Mac stores or browse an online Mac catalog and you will find that loads of products use iNames. These products must sell because everybody associates them with the iMac.

Is profit our only motivation to do business or do we want to offer superior products WHILE making money? It seems much easier to come up with a basic product and tag it with an iName than to out muscle everybody in the industry with innovation and promote the result as a standard-defining evolution in its field.

An iKeyboard sells easily because associating it with the iMac places people in familiar territory. Producing a competing device that features the best ergonomics available is costly and difficult, while converting potential users is an incomparable nightmare.

I will give the benefit of the doubt to people who want to make money out of the iName scheme. The pursuit of profit, after all, is legal even if some methods used are dubious if dissected with a critical eye. I find it harder to swallow when I witness others following a trend just because everybody else is doing so. When all types of products, sites, titles and entities take iNames just because the iMac made it cool, we may be facing the sheep syndrome. No matter if it is an iNews site, iRule column or iWrite piece of software, I wonder if we are not going over the line.

Just because a movement follows certain guidelines or ideas, do we necessarily have to do it too? Just because a trend rages across the industry, do we have to conform to it? Is it because everybody wears Tommy Hilfiger clothes or names products with an i prefix that doing otherwise makes us outcasts? Maybe we could just sit down and ask ourselves if we make our own decisions or if our environment drives our thinking process.

This is one of the funniest contradictions of modern society. Throughout the centuries, human beings have fought for the end of one-man rule and slavery, as well as all other forms of control. The basic idea behind such a battle has been for people to gain their freedom from external domination over their lives, choices, opinions, etc.

Intellectual freedom is unquestionably a part of what our ancestors wanted. Mind control is to intellectual autonomy as cancer is to human health. Now that we have largely won the fight - thanks to our ancestors - we turn around and give up our legitimate personal liberty when facing social pressure.

It is a safe assertion to think that North American and European people enjoy large degrees of freedom, maybe to a superior level than other parts of the world. Despite or because of this, we then submit to mind control more than anybody else. Trends and fashion command minds better than other methods do, mostly because they are informal.

Many Mac companies or industry folks may have the impression that naming their work after the iMac's naming scheme is a guarantee of success. Therefore, they obey and conform to reach out to the masses. Somebody should inform them that there is always a market for innovation and that the iTrend will end one day.

I wonder when an "adult entertainment" company will come up with the iSpank paddle... for unique iMac users only, of course.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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