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'Cloud' vs. 'source' in the battle of bland corporate names

Open source and cloud-computing start-ups have one thing in common: a tendency to wear their industry trend on their sleeves.

The technology industry has many virtues. creativity in naming is not always one of them.

Some of the industry's biggest brands are also the blandest. "Microsoft" is just "microcomputer" and "software" squished together. Intel? "INTegrated ELectronics."

And even when we do come up with somewhat creative names, like Google, they're a mistake.

So perhaps it's not surprising that two of the biggest trends in computing--open-source software and cloud computing--have been accompanied by some of the most staid company naming conventions ever.

For open source, it became de rigueur to include the name "source" in the company name, as a way to signal that the company was the source of the open-source project in question, and hence the "bank" to which would-be customers should be making a deposit. (The other reason, as open-source veteran Larry Augustin often points out, is that combining the company name and project name makes branding much easier.)

And so the open-source companies wore "source" proudly on their sleeves: XenSource, MuleSource, SpringSource, SpikeSource, SourceSense, Sourcefire, and more.

It's a telling shift in the market, however, that open-source companies don't seem to be appending their corporate names with "source" anymore as open source goes mainstream. Instead, it's the cloud-computing companies that are eager to tack a "cloud" badge to their name, as a selection of companies presenting at the upcoming Under the Radar conference show:

Is it cloudy in here, or is it just me? Matt Asay/Under the Radar

This isn't to say that the unoriginal names equate to bad companies. As in open source, several of these companies will likely turn out to be significant winners in the market.

What they won't get kudos for, however, is in breaking new ground in marketing.