Dear tech blogs, Can we agree on the meaning of "launch"?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Dear tech blogs, Can we agree on the meaning of
If you've been a longtime reader, you may have noticed that I am a stickler for language specificity. I’ve talked before about how eventually the word “smartphone” should probably be phased out, because at some point all phones will be “smart”, making the distinction unnecessary. I’ve talked about the metonymy of Apple’s mobile brand names, and how the fact that people idly using the words “iPhone” or ‘iPad” to stand in for “smartphone” or “tablet” isn’t really that big a deal. And, multiple times, I have argued that the word “fragmentation” is wholly inaccurate: it exaggerates the issues of the Android ecosystem, hides the real offenders, and impedes progress towards potential solutions.

This time of year has brought up my bile, because it highlights one of the most most annoying examples of muddled language that you will find in the the tech world. I am speaking of the use of the word "launch". You’ve likely seen it used plenty of times in various contexts, and often the word has two distinct and incompatible meanings.

In any other market, the word “launch” refers to the day that a product is made available for users, that is to say it is a synonym of the word “release”. As in: today was the launch day of Grand Theft Auto 5; or, today saw the launch of GTA V; or, GTA V launched today on multiple platforms. That is easy enough to understand. Unfortunately, for some reason in the mobile tech world, the word “launch” doesn’t only stand in as a synonym for “release”.

Instead, in our world there are plenty of sources who will use the word “launch” interchangeably with the word “announce”. You likely saw headlines last week proclaiming that Apple had “launched” two new iPhones as well as iOS 7. Of course, iOS 7 isn’t actually being released until tomorrow, and the new iPhones won’t be released until Friday. So, you can see where there will be confusion.

The awkwardness of usage gets even worse when it comes to rumors and speculation, because it completely muddles the context of a statement. For example, there have been rumors recently that Google is planning to “launch” the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 KitKat on October 14th. Unfortunately, because of the inaccuracy of the word, it is impossible to know whether that rumor means Google is planning the announcement event for mid-October, or if the announcement event will happen in early October, and the release of the device and software update will be coming in mid-October.

We can try to parse the rumor with other rumors, like ones from earlier in the year which stated that Google was aiming for a late October launch of the Nexus 5, but of course that’s just going to compound the problem.

So, I’d like to put out a call to all tech blogs, mobile device leakers, and OEMs as well to simply stop using the word launch for a while. Eventually we can work it back in with its proper context meaning “release”, but for now I think it might be best to give the word a rest and just stick with the more accurate and easy to understand options of “announce” and “release”. I don’t know that I can go through October reading the same headlines from earlier this month about Samsung “launching” the Galaxy Note 3. It may cause me to launch my computer out a window.



1. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

"If you've been a longtime reader, you may have noticed that a stickler for language specificity." See what did there!

2. DaNTRoN

Posts: 135; Member since: Jul 23, 2012

One of the more genuinely funny things I have seen in a while. Thanks for the laugh.

4. PostalJim

Posts: 46; Member since: Sep 01, 2011

Announcing the Launch of the groundbreaking new device, The AppleWinDroid X-1!!! The launch of the X-1 will begin at the IWC in Buenos Aries possibly as soon as next week, At the event they will also launch the first software update that will launch the day after the launch of the X-1. Remember the grey brick with the black flexi antenna that made your ear hot? Did it have a launch?

6. Ishmeet

Posts: 111; Member since: Sep 16, 2013

I agree; just yesterday, as I was reading the newspaper, my eyes went onto a headline saying "Samsung launches the galaxy note 3 and gear in India", while, exactly, they had just announced its availability in the country and the device would be coming in the market by 25th of this month. It can get seriously confusing for someone who doesn't know much about all this.

7. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

You know what I love about Michael's articles? I can tell they're his from the headline alone. This industry needs a good dose of self-criticism and snark.

9. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

I go to phone arena for my instant news and I go to pocket now for the well written commentary.

10. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

The term, "phablet" is off-putting -_-

11. iDroid8

Posts: 155; Member since: Oct 16, 2012

Nice article! +1

13. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

I think this behaviour actually started back around 2004, and primarily by one major instigator, Nvidia. I remember when they were "launching" their 5800 series cards where they announced it and said available from today but none were to be seen anywhere. They released a handful and just couldn't produce any more because of bad engineering. Back then launching actually meant availability as well, so they had to say both. Then they kept doing it and after a series of "paper launches" the word launch eventually became just an announcement. Now the actual launch is replaced by the word "availability" and you'll see that a whole bunch of articles mention "with availability on (date)".

14. HildyJ

Posts: 338; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Amen. Besides phones, CES is a major offender. At least most "launched" phones eventually make it to market, unlike some CES launches that vanish into the aether. The recent iPhone event was a Announcement. When the fanbois can actually purchase the iPhone it will be Launched. If Philippe Stark had told Steve Jobs that his new yacht Venus was "launched" once the plans were complete, Steve would have laughed in his face. Too bad Steve and his successors and their competitors can't be honest with their customers.

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