Apple's iPad Becomes Big Fat "Intimate" Joke

What was Apple thinking with the name?

By Helen A.S. Popkin
|  Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010  |  Updated 11:56 AM PDT
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Apple's iPad Becomes Big Fat "Intimate" Joke

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Apple's new app, iBooks, looks like a bookshelf and allows shoppers to browse and purchase books for their iPads.

Given today’s instant response to Apple’s hotly anticipated, yet inexplicably named “iPad,” one would think there are absolutely no women working in the upper echelons in Cupertino. And as quick click on Apple’s executive bios page reveals, one would be right. Still, as technology-entrenched as Apple’s male monopoly may be, at least one guy must know a woman.

So why, Apple? Why? Why did you go with “iPad?” How could you not have seen this coming? “MADtv” saw it when it satirized your MP3 player commercials 2006 — and that show’s totally cancelled! Maybe if a single employee, from Apple CEO Steve Jobs to the guy who fetches his lattes, was familiar with the former Fox sketch comedy show, the joke wouldn’t be on Apple. But it is.

Because dude, maybe y’all just introduced the most revolutionary piece of personal technology since the pocket calculator, but iPad totally sounds like a feminine hygiene product. And everybody thinks so.

“The new iPad from Apple — can set you up with fast uploading without all that water bloating,” confides one lady to another in the vintage “MADtv”sketch. This video rapidly resurfaced in e-mail inboxes and Facebook profiles Wednesday. But even before Steve Jobs finished his presentation, the universal zeitgeist exploded with the joke.

“iTampon” climbed to the top of Twitter trends before “iPad” made an appearance as tech-savvy yucksters tore up the micro-blogging site with puns in 140 characters or less:

“Apple iPad: Actually PULLS moisture away from you!”

“Attention Early Adopters! Hold out for Apple iPad 2.0 ... it comes with ‘wings’ ”

“Apple iPad: Sounds like a sanitary napkin, looks like Andre the Giant's iPhone. Just sayin' ...”

OK. Those are my personal tweets banged out while I watched Apple’s big event unfold online. No doubt you’ve either said or seen sophomoric remarks utilizing some or all of the above material (inevitably degenerating into remarks more crude than comic).

It’s not because we’re stealing each other’s acts. It’s because that instantly occurred to everybody when the name of this long-awaited touchscreen tablet was finally revealed — you, me, even "YouTube Hitler." Everybody except maybe Steve Jobs.

“It's so much more intimate than a laptop,” Jobs said, hitting the feminine product commercial keyword (“intimate”) without cracking a smile as he delineated the unique features of the sleek tablet the outside world just assumed he’d christen “iTablet” or “iSlate” ... anything but “iPad!”

Alas, nobody waiting in the wings foresaw “iPad.” And while it makes for a funny headline for your video link, “MADtv” did not predict the product. The writers were making a joke. An amusing joke that is as juvenile as it is obvious. So why wasn’t it obvious to Apple?

It’s no great mind leap to see how and why Apple became blindly enamored with the name. Its game-changing MP3 player is “iPod.” Here comes the alleged next big game-changer. “I know! Just change the ‘o’ to an ‘a!’ Viola!” But it’s unfathomable that not a single dude on that executive bio Web page raised a hand and said, “Um…y’all know if we call it that, every jerk with Photoshop will immediately graft our touchscreen with lady-product packaging and throw it up on their Tumblr blog, right?”

It’s enough to make the sniggering outside observer assume that Steve Jobs, and Apple by proxy, is as elitist as many tech blogs paint him to be — that the company is so arrogant that its brand is bigger than any potential turn-off of a name.

True, “iPad” isn’t the first product with an unfortunate name that instantly inspires juvenile titters. Currently Amazon.com carries a Winnie the Pooh-themed cook book titled, “Cooking with Pooh: Yummy Tummy Cookie Cutter Treats.” One also recalls “N.A.D.s,” the miracle hair remover from Australia. In the late ‘90s, its oft-played infomercial tickled the second-grade comedian in all of us, with its a bevy of freshly depilatoried Aussies shouting into the camera, “I’ve got N.A.D.s!”

Apparently the cookbook wasn’t a big enough affair to warrant a scatological double take from Disney’s gatekeepers. As for the hair remover, one might assume there was a cultural disconnect from the … um … land down under. In the case of Apple however, there is no fathomable excuse.

Remember, this is Apple we’re talking about — a company that’s made an art of fetishizing personal technology via elegant design and surreptitious marketing so insidious consumers are compelled to camp outside its glass-encased retail enclaves the night before a product launch for fear that if they go one more day without the latest sleek n’ stylish gee-gaw, their heads will explode. 

In the weeks leading up to the expected release, Apple kept its business-as-usual Kung Fu grip on the details, threatening legal action to any person or news outlet attempting to spill the beans, whatever those beans happened to be.

Now, months of building anticipation for the Apple tablet, maybe even decades of honing the Apple mystique, could be flushed away by a marketing misstep. Much to Apple’s chagrin, potential consumers are laughing about the name markedly more than they're talking about the product.

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