A couple of key excerpts:
Boeing was looking for a 7E7 order from China to help it meet a year-end goal of 200 sales. It didn't meet that pledge although officials say that's only because their airline customers control the timing for such announcements. However, the Chinese 787 commitment makes it less likely that Chinese carriers will be purchasing the A350, the A330 derivative Airbus is marketing as an antidote to the 787.
Rumors had Boeing ditching the "E" for "efficiency" in its worldwide marketing campaign for the 7E7 in favor of 787 if use of an "8" would help the Chinese sale. That logic ignores the fact that Boeing has sold more airplanes in China than any foreign manufacturer and none had eights in their names. Nonetheless, when asked about it last week, a Boeing official quoted CEO Mulally as noting: "In many Asian cultures the number eight represents good luck and prosperity."
Still, reverting to its traditional numerical naming pattern that marches up the 700 scale by tens has other advantages. One problem with using the "E" designation is how to name Boeing's next airplane. Would it be the 7F7? Company officials roll their eyes at the word play prospects for that one.
[Edited 2005-01-31 16:25:50]