Stinky: We got a new bar, little fireplace, menu, apps.
Stinky: Yeah. Appetizers. We got apps.
Tommy: He’s the proprietor. He’s got the lingo down.
–from Beautiful Girls (1996)
Language is powerful. People who know this choose their words carefully. People who are smart not only choose their words carefully, but change the conversation.
This is what Steve Jobs did a few months ago when he introduced the new MacBook Air laptops. Prior to October 2010, the term used to describe the hard drive inside a MacBook Air was SSD or ‘Solid State Drive’. What makes SSD’s so great is they have no moving parts, so there’s not hard disc to get scratched and corrupted and they’re also extremely fast, reducing boot-up time to mere seconds.
But Jobs didn’t call them Solid State Drives up on stage in October. He called it Flash Storage. I was aware of the change in wording but I didn’t think much of it. My friend Jory did. Apple even went so far as to make flash storage a part of their official product descriptions.
What’s going on is according to Steve Jobs, we’re leaving the PC era with our tablets and smartphones. I think you’d be stupid not see it’s already happening. We’re also leaving behind technologies like Flash, which was developed for the PC and not until a few months ago has been optimized by Adobe for mobile computing platforms. So in order to expedite this process, Jobs has decided to borrow the word ‘flash’ and change the conversation.
Another term Jobs did the switcharoo on was ‘PC’. This is from their press release announcing the new App Store for desktop Macs:
“The App Store revolutionized mobile apps,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We hope to do the same for PC apps with the Mac App Store by making finding and buying PC apps easy and fun. We can’t wait to get started on January 6.”
Remember, PC just means ‘personal computer’. It became synonymous with Windows because Microsoft beat Apple back in the 80’s and 90’s for the lion’s share of the personal computer market. Now that Apple is seeing a meteoric rise in not only iPhones and iPads but also in their desktop sales, Jobs sees he chance to reclaim the PC for Apple.
The latest fight is over ‘apps’. Microsoft is suing Apple over the ‘app store’ trademark. Apps is short for applications and Apple put a stake in the ground when they debuted the App Store for iPhone in 2008. Since then every smartphone competitor to the iPhone has created their own software outlets. Apple most certainly popularized the term ‘app’, but I don’t agree that a generic term like ‘app store’ should/can be trademarked.
So always read things carefully and be aware of how someone is describing a situation and what the reality of the situation actually is. They’re not always the same thing.