Naming new tech products is hard.
For every inspired choice (Apple’s iPod), there’s usually one that’s bizarre (Tivoli Audio’s iYiYi), off-putting (DigiScents’ iSmell) or just plain incomprehensible (Samsung’s LA46A850S1F).
Henn Tan, the Trek 2000 CEO who trademarked the “ThumbDrive” name for those ubiquitous USB flash drives, is hoping he has another hit brand in his hands with his company’s latest offering—the FluCard, a next-gen SD memory card with advanced wireless features.
We at Techland will leave it up to you to decide if this name is ingenious or one big fail, but it’s at least comforting to know that Tan had a reason when he “unilaterally decided” to associate this new feature-rich SD memory card with the flu. Like the influenza virus, Tan, 54, says his Singaporean company’s new memory card will spread rapidly across the world.
Tan’s confidence is understandable considering he recently inked a deal with memory-card market leader Toshiba to promote the FluCard as the new standard for digital camera storage, and Toshiba will also begin selling FluCards supplied by Trek in 2011. That said, only time will really tell if this newfangled SD card will spread as rampantly as its odd name suggests. (More on Time.com: 100 Gadgets of All-TIME)
For now, here’s a short Q&A with the very candid Mr. Tan where he discusses the tech behind the FluCard and answers Shakespeare’s eternal question: What’s in a name?
Why did you decide to name it the FluCard?
HT: Contagious. It’s going to spread. It’s the same as the flu—by the time you’re down with flu, you’re already a victim of the flu. It’s a no-brainer product, like the ThumbDrive which we invented. (IBM and Trek both introduced USB flash drives 10 years ago)
What was the process of naming the FluCard like?
HT: Well, frankly, unilaterally, I decided. I’m very straightforward. I look at it very simply. You can recall easily the word “flu” all over the world. When you mention “flu,” everybody knows it. It’s one word that nobody in any country in the world cannot understand so I decided to use it. There was no specific naming process where I picked. It came directly from me.
Were you concerned that it might be associated with the flu as a sickness?
HT: Some of my customers in Japan and Europe, when I did the launch, many of them were curious. [They thought] it must be something related to medical field. But when I explained the reason behind naming it FluCard, everybody came to understand. (More on Time.com: The Best Inventions of 2010)
What makes FluCards better than ordinary SD cards?
HT: The FluCard could be easily mistaken for any normal dumb-dumb SD card. But it can do more. It creates a user experience and changes the way digital cameras operate. A camera with an ordinary SD card enables you only to take photos and store them. But with a FluCard, you can share photos with any of your friends with Wi-Fi enabled phones, cameras or PCs without downloading any software. It has a motion sensor, so you just shake the camera and it will send the photos. We have a special Wi-Fi protocol that will make the devices talk.
And this Wi-Fi protocol precludes the need for an Internet connection?
HT: Yes, you don’t need the Internet or any infrastructure. In the jungle environment, you can swap photos. It’s free of charge, and this card is scalable. By first quarter, this card will support seamless printing and can be connected to a projector.
What technology enables all of these features?
HT: Our ingenuity in the manipulation of the Wi-Fi protocol. Wi-Fi is an open standard, so we manipulated it to make it go that extra mile, to do things that others would not have thought of. The beauty of it is it’s compatible with most brands in the world without having to toggle anything. You just have to insert the FluCard in your camera.
Which brands are we talking about?
HT: Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Kodak – almost all the major brands.
So when will you start selling the FluCard in the U.S.?
We’ll leave it for Toshiba to do it for us, but probably first quarter [of 2011]. But if they can’t wait, they can buy through our portal (website). (More on Time.com: Visions of a 3D Point and Shoot Camera)
With the ThumbDrive, and then the DivaDrive (Trek’s portable hard drive), and now the FluCard, you obviously take great care in naming products. How important is a product’s name?
HT: Of course it is very important. This is how you will allow consumers to recall the products easily. That is the single most important thing—they must be able to recall.
Do you have any other creatively named products in the pipeline?
HT: The FluCard is not the end. We have another killer product we’re going to launch very soon, and I believe it’s going to go the way of the ThumbDrive where it replaced floppy [disks]. This next product will be even more exciting. I’ve done internal product reviews and most of the analysts cannot sit still.
Can you give me a hint?
HT: If you are a user of a ThumbDrive, you will say that you will never use a ThumbDrive again [after this is released]. I will come out with something that will cannibalize my own invention. This new product will be called “KissDrive.” And you will love it.
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