The Real Meaning Behind Apple's Brand Name

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Have you ever looked at your iPhone, iPad, or Mac and wondered just why Apple is called Apple? The name certainly makes the company stand out among its rivals. We've got Microsoft, NVIDIA, IBM, AMD, Atari, and thousands of other names that either don't mean anything or that relate to technology in some way. In that crowd, Apple is a whole different story. Is there a deep meaning behind the name, or did it just happen to be the one that stuck in the company's early days?

To find the answers, we'll have to go all the way back to when Apple Computers, Inc. was founded. Two college dropouts and friends, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, created Apple on April 1, 1976 (via Library of Congress). According to Ann Brashares, author of "Steve Jobs Thinks Different," both Jobs and Wozniak wanted to create a computer that regular people could keep in their homes and offices. Back in 1976, computers were enormous mainframes that took tremendous amounts of space — entire rooms, even. Jobs and Wozniak teamed up to build a computer that was simple and small enough that everybody in the world could have one if they wanted to.

As per that same book, Jobs and Wozniak set their plan in motion by creating Apple Computers and setting up shop in the Jobs' family garage. Equipped with not much else but their enthusiasm for the idea, they were eventually able to build their first machine, dubbed "Apple I" — thus only reinforcing the naming and the brand. Does that imply "Apple" was something meaningful to them, and something they felt strongly about? Not necessarily.

Steve Jobs came up with "Apple Computer"

In Steve Jobs' biography, penned by Walter Isaacson, Jobs told the author that he was currently on one of his fruitarian diets. The day he came up with the name for the company that would change his life, he was on his way back from an apple farm. This is corroborated in Steve Wozniak's autobiography "iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon." Wozniak, who drove Jobs back from the airport after that trip, said that the company name was made on that very drive. Apparently, the place Jobs referred to as an "apple orchard" was in fact some kind of commune. Jobs suggested the name "Apple Computer," and as per his own biography, he thought it sounded "fun, spirited, and not intimidating" — all important factors for a company that hoped to revolutionize computing and make it much more approachable.

Wozniak was not immediately convinced. After all, The Beatles had (and still have) their own record label called Apple Records, and launching a company with such a similar name could spell disaster for the venture of the two Steves. These worries were not unfounded, as Apple Computer was, indeed, later sued by Apple Records for trademark violations. The lawsuit ended in a settlement that Apple Computer had to pay out to Apple Corps (the holding company that owned Apple Records), BusinessWeek reported back in 2004. The settlement was a modest sum in light of the giant that Apple grew up to be at $80,000. However, to the budding firm that Apple was at the time, it could have been a heavy blow — but it did not stop the company's success in the least.

The phone book played a part

Another book, titled "Apple Confidential 2.0," reveals that the two friends really tried to come up with something they liked better. A lot of the names thrown around, such as Executex or Matrix Electronics, were much more in line with other tech companies that already existed at the time. Be that as it may, they didn't like any other name as much as they grew to like Apple Computer, so that's what they eventually settled for.

Over the years, speculations popped up as to why exactly Wozniak and Jobs chose that name for their company. One of the most common reasons heard in the grapevine was that they wanted Apple to be the first in the phone book. These days obsolete, phone books were a huge deal when Apple was first created, and putting the company ahead above its rivals was basically free advertising. Jobs, who worked for Atari prior to making Apple, said in a 1980 presentation that Apple Computer was created because he liked apples a lot, and partially because it was ahead of Atari in the phone book.

While the phone book may have played a part, gathering all the evidence points to one chief reason behind the Apple name: both Jobs and Wozniak just liked it a lot. And maybe, just maybe, they simply couldn't come up with anything better, and their focus wasn't on the name, it was on making this company work out of a garage with little to no funds. Who would have thought that years later, that makeshift company would be a tech giant recognized worldwide, and its products would be topping the sales charts year after year? Life can be a funny thing indeed.