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Is It "System i," "i5," "System i5," or "iSeries"?

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As many of you know, I was recently planning to relaunch my iSeriesTV.com Web site as "System i TV" in February. I had decided to brand it "SystemiTV.com" to give it a somewhat distinctive look. But first, I thought I should check the IBM Web site to determine the latest and greatest official name IBM uses for the AS/400 today. On the IBM Web site, I saw the following names referencing our beloved black box:

  • AS/400
  • System i
  • iSeries
  • iSeries i5
  • System i5


These are five different names on the IBM Web site, all referring to the same product. In fact, I recently received an invitation to a new software product launch from IBM. It included the following line: "a new release of XYZ software for iSeries." Yes, iSeries. So is the product iSeries or System i?

On many Web sites that are devoted to this many-named box, you'll find a new iSociety.com search. iSociety is a joint venture between IBM and the COMMON users group. iSociety.com is supposed to provide a Google-esque search of System i Web sites. If you go to iSociety.COMMON.org, you'll see that it is the home for "everyone who believes in the System i philosophy of business computing." This site refers to the box as "System i."

If you listened to the audio podcast on iSeriesTV.com from the COMMON Expo show floor last fall, you may have heard me asking Greg Veal (who co-hosted that episode of the "Shoot'n iT" podcast) about all the "i" this and "i" that banners. He said the most interesting one from a marketing gimmick standpoint was "i want i."

So with little consistency from the Web sites of IBM or its largest users group, I had to resort to ranger tactics. That is, I checked with the U.S. government.

On September 18, 2000, IBM filed a trademark request for "ISERIES." Two months earlier, Centennial Technologies filed a trademark request for "ISERIES." Centennial received registered trademark status for "ISERIES" on March 11, 2003. IBM also received registered trademark status for "ISERIES" but not until March 1, 2005. Since both marks were for "Computer goods and services," I'm at a loss as to how IBM received registration—probably IBM and Centennial struck an agreement for use of this mark.

On June 15, 2001, IBM filed a trademark request for "I5/OS." This mark was approved on May 17, 2005, and is currently a registered trademark of IBM Corporation.

On February 9, 2005, Karsten Manufacturing Corporation of Phoenix, Arizona, filed a trademark request for "I5." This mark was approved on October 17, 2006, and is currently a registered trademark of Karsten Manufacturing Corp.

On June 20, 2005, IBM filed a trademark request for "SYSTEM I5." This mark was published for opposition in June 2006 but has not yet received registration status.

On November 30, 2005, IBM filed a trademark request for "SYSTEM I." This mark was published for opposition in July 2006 but has not yet received registration status.

On November 30, 2005, IBM also filed a stylized trademark request for "i5" (lowercase "i"). According to the Trademark Office, this mark has not yet been published for opposition, as I suspect Karsten is probably not too excited about IBM owning a stylized version of this trademark.

One last name I researched was "AS/400." On June 20, 1988, IBM filed a trademark request for "AS/400." This mark was approved for registration on July 24, 1990, and was up for renewal in the year 2000. IBM renewed this trademark, and it is currently "live."

This means that currently IBM has only "AS/400" and "iSeries" as registered trademarks for goods and services in the computer industry. The company first filed an application for "System i5" and then filed another one for "System i" on the same day it filed for the stylized "i5" mark.

So what's the product name? My guess is that IBM decided that "System i" is a cooler name than "System i5," and "System i" provides more leeway for an "i6" or "i7" or whatever.

The problem I have with "System i" is that it is not descriptive enough. How do you refer to "System i"? Hell, the MS Word autocorrect feature keeps capitalizing the lowercase "i" when I type it, yet it leaves it alone when I type i5 or iSeries or even System i5.

To me, IBM simply renamed its eServer iSeries line "System i," dropping the eServer element. The first product in that line is the System i5. Perhaps one day, there will be a System i6, and it'll all become clear. But to be honest, I was just getting used to saying "iSeries" instead of AS/400. Hell, I could have easily dealt with "iSeries i5." But now I have to decide what to call it. Is it "System i," "System i5," or simply "i5"?

My vote...just say "i5."

Bob Cozzi is host of iSeriesTV.com, an audio and video podcast/netcast Web site dedicated to the iSeries/System i world. Bob is also the author of several books, including The Modern RPG IV Language and RPG TNT: 101 Tips 'n Techniques for RPG IV. He is also the producer of RPG World, an annual conference for RPG IV programmers.

Bob Cozzi is a programmer/consultant, writer/author, and software developer. His popular RPG xTools add-on subprocedure library for RPG IV is fast becoming a standard with RPG developers. His book The Modern RPG Language has been the most widely used RPG programming book for more than a decade. He, along with others, speaks at and produces the highly popular RPG World conference for RPG programmers.

MC Press books written by Robert Cozzi available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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