by Kristin Burnham

Uncovering Tech’s Most Peculiar Product Codenames

Nov 29, 20114 mins
AppleBrowsersComputers and Peripherals

Tech companies go to painstaking lengths to keep new products confidential, which is why many of them assign "secret" product codenames. Here's an insider's look at some of the most unusual codenames, with themes ranging from felines to fairytales.

What’s in a Codename?

The brains behind consumer tech’s most popular products have borrowed top-secret code names from everything from cuddly animals to tasty treats, exotic locations and more.

So what’s in a codename? Take a look at the following companies and their unusual naming conventions for products both past and present.

Penguins, Lizards and Apple’s X Factor: How Famous OS Logos Got Started

Facebook’s Rumored Phone


Vampires may be trendy among teens now due to the whole Twilight thing, but it appears that Facebook employees are fans of an older vampire TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Last week, reports hit the Web suggesting that the rumored Facebook phone may already be in the works. Supposedly manufactured by HTC, the Android-based platform would have the social network baked in. Its codename: Buffy.

Apple Walks on the Wild Side


Lions and leopards and panthers, oh my!

In 2000, Apple released its first version of Mac OS X in public beta form, which it codenamed “Kodiak” after the Alaskan grizzly bear. While some companies rename the product once it goes to market, Apple kept theirs, sticking to the exotic animal theme with the following eight releases of Mac OS X, which included Puma (2001), Jaguar (2002), Panther (2003), Tiger (2005), Leopard (2007), Snow Leopard (2009) and most recently, Lion in July.

Google’s Sweet Tooth


Google sure seems to love its sweets.

Google acquired Android Inc. in 2005, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary of Google. At that time, the Android operating system had already been released in four versions, named Cupcake, Donut, Éclair and Froyo.

After its acquisition, Google continued the alphabetical dessert trend, releasing Gingerbread (version 2.3), Honeycomb (3.0) and most recently, Android 4.0, which it calls Ice Cream Sandwich. The Android team is rumored to be working on the next OS, which is reportedly dubbed Jelly Bean. Hungry yet?

Visiting the Googleplex

BlackBerry and the Three Bears


In 2007, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry turned to fairy tales—specifically Goldilocks and the Three Bears— to codename three versions of the BlackBerry Curve 8300.

“Baby Bear” referred to the version with the most basic features, which was camera-only; “Mama Bear” referred to the 8320 model, which included a camera and Wi-Fi; and “Papa Bear” described the 83xx model which came equipped with the most features: camera, Wi-Fi and GPS.

Apple Upsets Carl Sagan


In 1994, Apple codenamed the PowerMac 7100 “Carl Sagan.” When the famous scientist discovered this, he sued Apple to change the name. Apple, in turn, renamed the computer “BHA,” which stood for “butt-head astronomer.” Very mature, Apple.

Once again, however, Sagan caught wind of this new name for the PowerMac 7100 and promptly sued the company for libel, but ultimately lost.

Mozilla Enjoys the Outdoors


Mozilla, whose past philanthropic work includes support of wildlife preserves and national parks, named several versions of its Firefox browser accordingly.

Firefox 2.0 was codenamed Bon Echo after Bon Echo Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada; 3.0 was codenamed Gran Paradiso after Gran Paradiso Mountain Range in Italy; and Firefox 3.6 was codenamed “Namoroka” after Tsingy de Namoroka Nature Reserve in Madagascar.

Ubuntu’s Unusual Animal Names


Ubuntu is well-known for its odd, creative and alliterative codenames that it assigns to OS releases. Version 4.10, for example, was codenamed “Warty Warthog.” Version 5.04 was called “Hoary Hedgehog,” followed by “Breezy Badger,” “Dapper Drake,” “Edgy Eft,” “Feisty Fawn,” “Gusty Gibbon,” “Hardy Heron,” “Intrepid Ibex,” “Jaunty Jackalope,” “Karmic Koala,” “Lucid Lynx,” “Maverick Meerkat,” “Natty Narwhal,” “Oneiric Ocelot” and, most recently, “Precise Pangolin.”

Microsoft Windows’ Favorite Cities


While Mozilla’s has demonstrated an affinity for nature, Microsoft chose several U.S. cities as codenames for its Windows products. Windows 95 was codenamed Chicago, Windows 95 OSR 2 was codenamed Detroit, Nashville was used for a cancelled upgrade for Windows 95 as well as Explorer 4.0, and Windows 98 was codenamed Memphis.

Side story: Apple codenamed Mac OS 7.5, a competing product to Microsoft’s Windows 95, “Capone” after the legendary Chicago mob boss.

Nintendo’s “Revolution”


Nintendo originally chose the name “Revolution” to represent its new gaming console that the world would later know as the Wii. But because “revolution” is long and hard to pronounce in some cultures, Nintendo then sought something that was more to-the-point, easy to pronounce and distinctive, ultimately going with “Wii.”