SpongeBob SquarePants is cool, and Bob the Builder isn't a bad guy. I can even root for "Smiling Bob" on those Enzyte natural male enhancement commercials.
But bastardizing BOB into a lowly IT industry acronym is just going too far. Yet that's exactly what some industry watchers such as Forrester Research and Gartner are pushing with their shorthand for "branch office box" or "branch office-in-a-box."
Yes, the Bob-ification of America -- and beyond -- has been underway for years. Bob is everyman. Some 2,400 members are listed on The Bob Club .
"Are you going to call Bob from Accountemps?" asks one of countless commercials featuring good ol' Bobs. "What About Bob?" references still pop up 15 years after the Bill Murray movie debuted. "Weird Al" Yankovic celebrated the name in the all-palindrome song called "Bob" on his 2003 album "Poodle Hat." And some of you might even remember a popular college drinking game called "Hi Bob" (involved chugging a drink every time that phrase was uttered during the old "Bob Newhart Show"). The Arizona Diamondbacks used to call their baseball field BOB, for Bank One Ballpark, and Bob was even pitched as the name for the remainder of the Northwest Territories.
People are getting kids started early, too. Countless Bob books have popped up from "A Snowman Named Just Bob" to "Bob the Booger."
Naturally, the IT industry has not been immune. Bob of "Alice and Bob" fame has been helping to explain cryptography and other security technologies since the late 1970s. Then of course, there was the short-lived Microsoft Bob software back in the mid-1990s. Baby Bob, one of those creepy computer-aided talking babies, was the spokesman for an ISP called Freeinternet.com that burst during the bubble and was later sold to the Quiznos sandwich chain (the tough talking tot was later exposed to be a girl). More recently, Bob the Jagex Cat has made a name for himself in the popular RuneScape online game.
Of course, the computer and network industry have been boosted by "real" Bobs too, like Bob Metcalfe, the Father of Ethernet, and Bob Kahn, a co-creator of TCP/IP.
Yesiree Bob, you'd think this Bob-o-mania would have run its course by now, especially given that the name Robert has seriously tailed off in popularity over the past decade-and-a-half. It's gone from being the 13th most popular baby name in 1991 to the 39th most popular last year.
Yet "Robert" Whiteley and colleagues at Forrester just couldn't resist. "Close, but no BOB yet," laments the Forrester crew, in search of a product that integrates the unwieldy mishmash of network and IT gear currently bogging down branch offices.
I'm sure this sort of product will have its place, but maybe the marketing geniuses out there can come up with something a little fresher. The Bob thing has been overplayed.
What about Linus? (Oh yeah, that's been done, too.)