We take for granted that Apple’s products often have an “i” in front of them. Where did this naming come from? What does the “i” actually mean? How does this naming influence Apple? Let’s take some time to tackle these questions.

Apple has had a little over 20 iThings in their hardware, software, and web service history. The iMac kicked off the iThing trend in May 1998. Steve Jobs offered the only explanation of what “i” means to Apple during this keynote. For Apple, “i” means internet, individual, instruct, inform, and inspire.

The iMac meant all of those things to Apple. It was a machine built for the internet age, it became a very individualized computer (at the time offering tons of color options), it instructed and informed the industry where desktop computing was going, and it inspired others to think outside of the box.

Having this viewpoint of what “i” means, it becomes even more apparent why the iPod, iPhone, and iPad were named the way they were.

These devices are very personal and very individual. Many have claimed that the iPad  is in fact the first personal computer (PC). Most of Apple’s handhelds are now equipped with internet via Wi-Fi or cellular data.

These devices have instructed and informed on many levels. The industry as a whole has used Apple’s iPods, iPhones, and iPads as the device to imitate and replicate. This is evidenced by Apple’s lawsuit with Samsung over iPhone imitation. These devices are also being used as educational tools in a way that is revolutionizing the education industry.

Perhaps the most important of the “i” traits is “inspire”. When we first saw the iPhone and the iPad it truly was an inspiring moment. I remember holding the original iPhone and thinking to myself, “What if they made this bigger?” A few years later, they did, and it is called the iPad. The possibilities of these iOS devices is amazing. It is inspiring to think of what kind of world we will live in as these devices evolve and we realize their true power and potential. The Mac has been around for 27 years. Imagine an iPad that has had that kind of time to evolve and grow. It is an exciting thing to think about.

So the next time you hear about a new Apple iThing, take some time and try to think what part of the “i” this product embodies.

For your enjoyment we have compiled a list of Apple’s iThings:

Macs

iMac (May 1998)

iBook (July 1999)

Software (Macs)

iCal (September 2002)

iChat (June 2003)

iWork Suite (2005)

iLife Suite (2003)

iMovie (October 1999)

iTunes (January 2001)

iDVD (January 2001)

iPhoto (January 2002)

iWeb (2006)

Mac Peripherals

iSight (June 2003)

Web Services

iTools (January 2000)

iDisk (January 2000)

iCards (January 2000)

iSync (January 2003)

iCloud (2011 Rumored)

Post PC Devices

iOS (renamed in June 2010)

iPod (October 2001)

iPhone (January 2007)

iPad (January 2010)

Apps (iOS)

iBooks (January 2010)

iMovie (June 2010)