What's in a name? - Embedded.com

What’s in a name?

A few weeks ago Motorola—the biggest name in embedded systems processors—spun itself off from its parent corporation and changed its name to Freescale. Does any of this matter to you?

It might, only because the most respected and best-known name in the embedded systems business is no more. The company will certainly continue, but the name won't. No more “bat wings” logos, no more Motorola-labeled data books, no banners at the Embedded Systems Conference. And how much will that affect the embedded systems industry? That depends on you.

In our recent survey of embedded systems tool and processor vendors, thousands of embedded systems programmers and designers like you ranked Motorola first in almost every category. First in name recognition, first in software-development tools, first in component availability, first in reputation, first in familiarity with the chip architecture … the list goes on. In 15 different categories, Motorola ranked first in almost every one; in the few cases where it didn't, it came in second or third. The company swept the field. No one else even came close. It's a brand reputation Coca-Cola, Levi's, or Microsoft would kill for.

Now the company is voluntarily walking away from all that. Wiping the slate clean and calling itself by another name, Freescale. The age-old black bat wings are replaced by an orange B2 bomber”like logo. Even though the actual software, silicon, and personnel are the same, Freescale's fortunes are likely to change as suddenly and as drastically as its logo.

Think Renesas. In that same survey, thousands of readers ranked both Hitachi and Mitsubishi higher than Renesas—even though the two former companies haven't existed as embedded systems vendors for almost two years, merging into a new company called Renesas. Apparently nobody noticed. Renesas spent millions of dollars promoting its new name, publishing new collateral materials, taking out new ads. But after all this time, many of us still think of the H8 or M16C processors as Hitachi and Mitsubishi chips, respectively. Likewise, many of us will probably think of the 68HC11, ColdFire, 56800, and PowerPC as “Motorola chips” for a long time. When Datsun changed its name to Nissan in the 1980s, that company spent 10 years calling itself by both names, giving customers a chance to adjust. Nowadays, most young car buyers have never heard of Datsun, but Nissan is selling cars in record numbers. That changeover was a success, but it took the company 10 long years to wean the public away from its old identity.

To Freescale's marketing people I would only say, give it time—lots of time. Even though you've worked with the new name and corporate identify for months, and are well and truly accustomed to the change, the rest of the world is only now getting wind of it. Your customers are nowhere near as familiar with this new identity as you are. Nor are they inclined to care as much, frankly. They didn't ask for a new company.

To Motorola's many happy and loyal customers, don't panic. All the characteristics you ranked so highly should translate over to the new company. Nothing in the silicon or the software is changing. And finally to Motorola's competitors, surely this is a gold-plated opportunity to establish a reputation of your own. The king is dead; long live the king.

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