December 8 , 2005
By Erik White
They wanted something environmentally friendly, but powerful. Something green, yet gargantuan.
It still sounds like a funny name for a microchip.
That's why Sun Microsystems rebranded its long-awaited microprocessor, which was developed under the code name "Niagara" when it was released this fall. It's now called the UltraSparc T1.
But Paul Durzan, marketing manager for the California computer company, said the firm's mostly business clients have been hearing about Niagara for so long, the product will likely have two names
"Niagara hit off so well, we'll see it around," he said.
Durzan said when the team charged with creating an energy-efficient processor with eight cores -- meaning it can handle many jobs at once -- was kicking around ideas for a name, it first thought of water
"We took the view that the current processors are a faucet that you turn on to make water come out, and to get more water you need a bigger faucet," said Durzan, a native of Deep River, Ont., who has a lot of family in Hamilton, but has never been to Niagara Falls.
This isn't the first company to borrow the region's name to sell its stuff. Niagara has been a ginger ale, a pressurized washer and dozens of other things
"Niagara is just really easy to remember," said Steve Manning, managing director of Igor International, a San Francisco firm that comes up with names for companies and products.
"You want to pick a word that's already in the public consciousness, rather than trying to force something new in there."
Ironically, he thinks the processors might have their worst sales here in Niagara, where the name has no pop after selling cars, tennis lessons and everything in between
"Locals have heard it over and over again attached to anything and everything and it just becomes white noise after a while," Manning said.
So, does Niagara mean anything?
William Lozito, president of Minnesota-based Strategic Name Development, said the word makes him think "big, powerful, unique, water and refreshing."
"It wouldn't be a good idea for a hair dryer or a heating blanket or hot chocolate," Lozito advised
"It also wouldn't be appropriate for Victoria's Secret."
There are 144 registered trademarks in Canada that use the word "Niagara," 96 in the United States and 42 in other parts of the world.
Here's a sample of some of the more unusual products trading on our name.