Amy Moczynski / Digital Strategy / September 1st, 2011

What's in a name?

“They named the update what?!”

This is something I thought while reading an article about the latest update to the Android operating system. The name of new said system? Ice Cream Sandwich.

Yes, Ice Cream Sandwich. Like the summertime treat we all enjoyed at our neighbor’s pool as kids.

I’m all for personal expressions of creativity or in this case, corporate expressions of creativity — but I’m going to have a hard time keeping a straight face while reading or writing about Ice Cream Sandwich features and why the Ice Cream Sandwich Android may be poised to take on the iPhone 5.

We’re talking a delicious, chocolately treat here, people! How on Earth will I not want to head to the freezer after spending time reading about this update? And let’s not forget the Android updates that came before Ice Cream Sandwich: Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread and Honeycomb.

This led me to do a little digging about some odd or ingenious names for product and software updates. Have you ever noticed the creativity liberty companies sometimes take when they debut updates? Take the names for the Mac OS X: Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and now Lion. And of course, who can forget any of the names associated with Google algorithm updates, such as Panda/Farmer, Panda, Florida, Austin, Caffeine or Boston.

Microsoft has perhaps taken the most creative liberty in naming their updates, and they don’t fit into a certain category like Apple has done with big cats and Android has done with sweet treats. From the long list of creative update names Microsoft has created, my favorites have to be Cougar, Elroy, Astro, Dolly, Wolfpack, Whistler, Thunderclap and Corona.

Companies believe naming their updates makes it easier for consumers to remember the latest version of a particular product or service. For example, Apple probably thinks it’s easier for consumers to remember Lion instead of Mac OS X 10.7, and they are probably right. But are they actually helpful for the average consumer? Will Joe ask specifically for the Ice Cream Sandwich version of the Android when he’s going to buy a new phone in a few months? I think he’s more likely to ask for “the newest version of the Android” and not really know the specific name.

What do you think? Are update names actually helpful for the majorities? Or do you think they are tech companies’ way expressing a little name creativity?