What's in a name? If the name is AT&T, a lot of corporate ego, that's what.
Cingular Wireless, which used to be called Cellular One, is now owned by AT&T;, which has been called a lot of things, and is getting a new name -- "Wireless from AT&T.;" That's not to be confused with the old AT&T; Wireless service that was purchased by Cingular back in 2004.
Confused? Wait, it gets worse.
It's all a result of the merger and acquisition game -- AT&T; has owned part of Cingular since being acquired by co-parent company SBC Communications. Now AT&T; has just merged with Cingular's other parent, BellSouth.
The AT&T; name just seems to stick with this crowd. When SBC, formerly Southwestern Bell, bought AT&T; a few years ago, it planned to continue calling itself SBC. But after sleeping on it a few nights, inspiration struck and SBC changed its name to -- you guessed it -- AT&T.;
Like a black hole, AT&T; goes around sucking other telephone companies into its maw and renaming them. Let's see, there was Ameritech, Pacific Telesis, SNET and probably a few others we've forgotten about.
Never mind that SBC and BellSouth during their few decades of freedom from AT&T; spent an estimated $4 billion -- that's $4 billion -- building the Cingular brand, which is regarded by everyone except aging white men who work for AT&T; as a much cooler name than AT&T.; After all, didn't AT&T; Wireless have a reputation for having a clunky network and poor customer service?
Didn't Cingular just do a deal with Apple to provide the network for the iPhone? Didn't Cingular ingratiate itself with every teen-ager in the Western world by sponsoring "American Idol" and counting all those votes for Bucky, Kellie, Taylor and Katharine?
Haven't expensive branding consultant laughed aloud at the idea of trashing a world-class brand like Cingular in favor of a stodgy old scandal-ridden 1970s-sounding moniker like AT&T;?
Starting Monday, Cingular stores will start changing their signs, stationery and uniforms; new ads will start appearing with AT&T;'s blue-globe-of-death logo instead of Cingular's cheery Big Orange motif.
The rationable offered by AT&T;'s dilberts is that consumers will now flock to AT&T; stores to buy more than just cell phones. Oh yes, they'll also be in hot pursuit of high-speed Interent, local telephone service and all those other cutting-edge AT&T; services.
Will it happen? Stay on the line to find out.