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Apple is somewhat notorious for omitting articles when talking about their products, and statements such as "People love iPhone" hit my ear a little strangely. But when I stopped to think about it, I realized that I wouldn't say "the Windows" or "the iWork".

I couldn't come up with a reason that I use the definite article before some product names and not others. Is there some sort of convention (probably not a hard-and-fast rule) for usage here?

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Interesting. I certainly don't know the whole story, but I think we wouldn't say "the Windows" partly because it sounds plural, and partly because it's a "non-physical" product. Apple probably think plural "iPhones" doesn't have the cachet of being identified as a singular (single and remarkable) product, so they swamp the press releases with both singular versions to drown out the more obvious (and thus less striking) plural version. –  FumbleFingers Jan 19 '12 at 22:23
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I think we instinctively use determiners with countable things and omit them with non-countable things. "Windows" or "iOS" or "time" (the concept) are not countable, but "iPhone" and "PC" and "schedule" are. So we install run Windows on the PC and use iOS on the iPhone and report time on the schedule, but we do not run the Windows on PC or manage the time on schedule.

Edit (per comments): this is all for singular objects. If you use the plural (e.g. "iPhones") then it's natural to omit the determiner; in fact, if you said "the iPhones" then you would almost certainly be talking about either specific phones or various iPhone models (3 and 4 and 4S...).

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I think we instinctively say "People love iPhones" (plural). Clever people in Apple marketing steer us into using the singular in the first place - but in the early days they have to include the word "the" because it would sound really weird not to, for something that wasn't already a household name. But once they've got it established in the singular, the next step is to discard the word "the" because having just iPod all on its own makes it stand out even more. –  FumbleFingers Jan 19 '12 at 23:13
    
I think you may be right about countability. I tried it with a couple of non-tech product names and it seemed to hold true. ("I washed my clothes with Tide" doesn't need a "the" but "I worked out with Shake-Weight" sounds strange. –  Brian Sullivan Jan 20 '12 at 2:29
    
@FumbleFingers, I think you're right -- using the plural eliminates the question entirely, so that's easier. –  Monica Cellio Jan 20 '12 at 2:40
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I'm still trying to collect my thoughts on this one, but it does seem to me the "natural" usage would be plural. So I'd expect the BBC, for example, to have started off by reporting on "Apple's sales figures for iPads" in the first week after launch. A year later when it had gotten more "established", the BBC might say "Apple sales for the iPad last year were impressive". But only Apple itself (or trademag hacks) would say "Following the success of iPad, we expect great things from iTV" (or iGod, or whatever they have up their sleeve now). –  FumbleFingers Jan 20 '12 at 4:04
    
Without Jobs, you'd be lucky to find an iPhone 6 up their sleeve. –  Carl Smith Apr 2 at 2:41
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Like in man vs. Man: iPhone is an iPhone, any iPhone. The iPhone is the product family as an entity.

You buy an iPhone. The iPhone outsells most of the competition.

There's probably no Apple's artifact there. It's just incidental that the product family is so named with the generic name as part of the brandname. Say, in contrast to Android phones: they are not aPhones or something like that.

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The thing about Apple is they refer to the product line without the definite article, not with it as you wrote. –  Brian Sullivan Jan 20 '12 at 23:13
    
They don't need to as they own it, perhaps? :) –  Kris Jan 21 '12 at 5:14
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