Apple has decided to be done with big cats and name its new operating system Mavericks, after a surfing location in California.

In the Macworld office the name was met by confusion and disbelief. Mavericks, we asked, wasn’t that a fifties TV show about poker players? Wasn’t Maverick a 1994 Western staring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster? Or Tom Cruise's character in Top Gun... 

Even worse, we thought the term maverick was used to describe someone who isn’t trust-worthy, but it turns out a maverick is an “unorthodox or independent-minded person” or someone who “refuses to conform to a particular party or group”.

Given that insight we can kind of understand why Apple picked the name, it sums up their ‘Think Different’ mentality.

Even stranger is the history of the name of the location from which Apple’s new operating system takes its name. According to Wikipedia, Mavericks is a surfing location in Northern California discovered in 1961 by three surfers and their dog. The dog was a white-haired German Shepherd named, you guessed it, Maverick. (So Apple’s actually named their new operating system after a dog).

Unfortunately the Wikipedia page lists a number of surfers who have died in the “hazardous, sometimes deadly, conditions” at the spot so we don’t recommend surfing there. 

With the hazardous risks associated with the name Mavericks why did Apple decide to go with it?

The company gave a couple of reasons for their move away from cats. First, they joked that they didn’t want to have to delay the release of Mac OS X 10.9 due to a shortage of big cat names. Although, actually, there are plenty of good big cats left. The problem is that most of the remaining big cats have image or marketing problems of one kind or another.

For example, 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.

Another big cat, the 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.

One suggestion pre-WWDC was that Apple could name the new OS Sea Lion. Apple even went so far as to joke that they would be naming OS 10.9 Sea Lion, based on the fact that San Francisco is famed for its Sea Lions. 

This was Apple’s other reason for the name change. The company wanted a name that was based on “those places that inspire us here in California”. This decision comes at a time when the company is trying hard to stay in the good books of the US government (amid questions about its tax practices), even going so far as to announce that it will manufacturer the new Mac Pro in the US. With the new name Apple’s demonstrating what a proud American company it is.

Follow Karen Haslam on Twitter / Follow MacworldUK on Twitter


5 reasons why Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks isn't named after a big cat

Apple previews OS X Mavericks: tabbed Finder, multiple display support, Maps, Books and more