Apple Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks was announced at WWDC 2013 tonight. It's the first in the Mac OS X line to be named after a Californian place name rather than a big cat. Why the change of direction?
Here are five reasons why Apple finally stopped with the cats and named Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks.
Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Not a big cat in sight
1. Apple ran out of big cats
As an amateur zoology fan, I can confirm that actually there are plenty of good big cats left. The lynx, for example, with its amazing tufty ears. The problem is that most of the remaining big cats have image or marketing problems of one kind or another.
Lynx is already a well-known brand in the UK, famous for making deodorants. It was for a similar reason that when Apple launched OS X 10.2 Jaguar it was unable to refer to it as Jaguar in the UK due to the car company owning the copyright to that name. There was also an Atari Jaguar games console.
Cougar is bound to invite some negative connotations due to its use as a slang term referring to women who seek to have relationships with younger men.
Macworld readers voted for their favourite names for the newest version in the 10.x lineup. The most popular choices were Lynx and Cougar, but other suggestions are Sabretooth, Ocelot, Cheetah (which was used for OS X 10.0, but just as an internal code name), and Clouded Leopard. Obvious problems: prehistoric, obscure, used already and too long.
Napoleon Dynamite fans will probably share his love of the liger, a hybrid of the lion and tiger that's bigger than either, but the marketing disadvantages of being named after an improbably conceived, infertile genetic freak are probably obvious.
[Related: Apple previews OS X Mavericks]
2 The names were getting repetitive
Leopard: cool. Snow leopard: cooler. Lion: cool. Mountain lion: are you kidding me?
Repeating yourself twice looks like evidence of desperation, at a time when Apple really doesn't want to look desperate. What was next? Mountain lion with a hat?
3 Mavericks is cooler
Mavericks is a surfing spot in Calfifornia. Here's a fact for you: surfing will never not be cool. Here's another fact for you: big cats are only really cool when you're 12, even though the liger is still kind of amazing.
Seriously, it's enormous. Look!
Naming versions of Mac OS after Calirornian place names is mature, it's interesting, it's memorable and it doesn't sound like you're trying too hard. The big cat thing had been going on for long enough. Because...
4 It's a symbol of a new era
Will Tim Cook ever escape Steve Jobs' shadow? Every major announcement and keynote speech is greeted by articles explaining how Steve would have done it differently, or how Apple wouldn't be moving in this direction with Steve at the helm.
Yet Apple's success under Cook has been phenomenal: it's less rock and roll and more quiet evolution, but the money has been rolling in and the products rolling out.
Apple isn't the same company it was when Mac OS X launched, and it doesn't hurt to make another small step to show that Apple has moved on.
5 It's a good time to be a proud American company
With the tax issues raised in the US, and the concerns over manufacturing conditions in the Far East, now is a good time for Apple to emphasise that it is proud to be American: the creeping perception that it builds its Mac overseas, brings them back to the US to sell them and then makes sure the profits are ultimately located elsewhere is damaging.
We've heard that a Mac will soon be built in the US; here's another small cosmetic nod to the quintessentially Californian company's roots.
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