Sprint Hates Spellcheck
Yesterday, Sprint held a conference in Tysons Corner to announce some new product initiatives. They included an upgraded version of its Direct Connect walkie-talkie service and a new voice/data package called Pivot that it well sell with cable-TV operators. But the big news was the name of its new WiMax wireless-data service: Xohm.
This spellcheck-defying moniker is pronounced "zoam"--though when I first heard it uttered by a Sprint executive at a Q&A session, I thought he said "zone." I didn't immediately connect that to the all-caps term in a press release that I had inwardly voiced as "ex-ahm."
Even in an industry littered with bizarre, computer-generated brand names, Xohm stands apart for its combination of minimal apparent relevance to the product in question and difficulty of pronunciation. It's even weirder coming from a telecom conglomerate whose name actually would have appeared in an English-language dictionary a century ago.
Some friends batted around possible explanations for the name last night; one asked if xohm.com was the only domain name Sprint could buy at the time, while my wife reached back to her electrical-engineering major to wonder if Sprint was making an allusion to ohms. I have yet to get a clear explanation from Sprint itself--but you're welcome to put forward your own theories in the comments.
The service itself, incidentally, is due for a quiet launch at the end of the year in the D.C. area and some other markets, with its publicized debut in April. It should offer cable and DSL-grade downloads and uploads--2 to 4 megabits per second down, 1 to 1.5 Mbps up. Sprint hasn't announced pricing, but does plan to market it as a fixed broadband connection in homes as well as for mobile use. Kim Hart's interview with Sprint chief technical officer Barry West today has more on Sprint's WiMax plans.
Elsewhere at the conference, Sprint also revealed Palm's next smartphone--a model that looks like a shrunken Treo, about two-thirds the thickness of the current model and maybe 15 percent less wide. And it showed off a Windows Mobile phone called the HTC Touch that evokes a certain other handheld device that you may have heard of, except that its software incorporates so many tiny icons and scroll bars that you need to pluck out the Touch's stylus to get many tasks done. See GearLog writer Sascha Segan's report for an initial assessment of each device, as well as descriptions of a few other gizmos Sprint demonstrated yesterday.
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