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Eight Biggest Tech Flops Ever 627

Posted by michael
from the much-competition dept.
cuppm writes "Yahoo! News has an article on the The Eight Biggest Tech Flops Ever. 'What distinguishes a simply bad product from the truly awful? Sometimes it's a dreadful user interface. Other times it's a product that successfully addresses a particularly daunting problem - yet one shared by relatively few people. And often competitive or financial pressure forces new products to market before they're ready - full of bugs and horribly unusable. Still other times, the products arrive too early. Eventually they become a success, but often after the founding company has been ruined.'"
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Eight Biggest Tech Flops Ever

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  • Hey (Score:5, Funny)

    by xmuskrat (613243) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:15PM (#7852771) Homepage
    I didn't see Slashdot on there...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:16PM (#7852772)
    (Not talking about the codec, but the Circuit City "rentable" DVD scheme) Easily a bigger flop than WebTV or the Clik drive.
    • Probably was skipped on purpose to avoid confusion with the codec.

      That would have required another paragraph to be added just to explain the difference.
    • I know the codec guys were trying to be cute when they picked that name, but the fact that people still need to clarify which Divx it is shows that they were really stupid in picking it.
    • by Simonetta (207550) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:17PM (#7853133)
      My vote for the biggest tech flop (with the exception of all the tech stocks that went from $100 to $1 a share in the crash of 2001) has got to be the 'Pen Computer' of the early 1990s.

      This was going to be huge! A handheld PC that used a stylus instead of a keyboard. It would read your handwriting; It would communicate telepathicly. It would be bigger than free beer and chicken!

      Imagine...doctors would rush out to buy a machine that take their scribbles and convert it into clear word-processor ready text. So what if the software couldn't tell a handwritten prescription of Lysergic Acid Dythelemide from Lysterine and Diet Coke!

      Imagine...Restraunts would flock to buy these $3000 plastic boxes for each and every one of their $3.50/hr plus tips waitresses. They would do it because it would be so much more efficient than constantly buying 59 cent order pad booklets once a week.

      So here's a hearty cheer to all those people who listened to this insanity, opened their wallets, and showered money on these bozos.

      Here's to GO!, Here's to Milliennia!, Here's to Pi Systems!, Here's to IO!, and an especially grand huzzah to Apple, who spent several several hundred millions of dollars in the biggest positive-feedback bullshit loop in the tech industry history!
      • Actually... I started seeing these pen computers on closeout more often then I saw them stocked on the shelves. I remember going with a friend to some stupid "make your own business meeting"... where they actually had some good advice, but basicly wanted your money in order to get their product to make it EZ. They tried to get you in selling CDs that claimed to be website development software... but in reality they were just hyperlinks on autorun, but with a big bold friendly $299.99 pricetag on them.

        In
  • by jrockway (229604) <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:17PM (#7852782) Homepage Journal
    Windows! Why isn't Windows on there? What other operating system almost brings down the Internet every month because it's hosting 129873 viruses? Bob didn't do that, and it made the list.

    Shame on you, yahoo. :) Hey that's catchy.
    • WHat! Are you challenging Microsoft's right to innovate? Shame on you :)
    • by xmuskrat (613243) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:25PM (#7852827) Homepage
      What other operating system almost brings down the Internet every month because it's hosting 129873 viruses?
      I thought Windows *was* the virus...
    • UH NO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dave1g (680091) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:36PM (#7852888) Journal
      While the article was titled "Biggest Tech Flops" it clearly should have been title "Worst Tech Market Flops"

      Marketing wise, Windows is the biggest success in the history of mankind. Bill Gates strategies and tactics, however illegal or immoral they might have been, led to the rise of this operating system over the much more powerful Macintosh of its day.

      I know we all hate Microsoft, but as far as being a product that was marketed perfectly, windows gets that prize anyday.
      • Re:UH NO (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Bill Gates strategies and tactics, however illegal or immoral they might have been, led to the rise of this operating system over the much more powerful Macintosh of its day.

        Myth. By the time Windows took off, with version 3.1, it was technically as sophisticated as the MacOS of the day, and the hardware it ran on was faster and cheaper. It lagged in UI design and stability - but don't you realise that one of the reasons Windows was less stable than MacOS was because it was doing more? It had real mult
        • Re:UH NO (Score:4, Informative)

          by gozar (39392) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @06:44PM (#7855288) Homepage
          Myth. By the time Windows took off, with version 3.1, it was technically as sophisticated as the MacOS of the day, and the hardware it ran on was faster and cheaper. It lagged in UI design and stability - but don't you realise that one of the reasons Windows was less stable than MacOS was because it was doing more? It had real multitasking, for one thing, and virtual memory.
          Win 3.1 had the exact same cooperative multitasking as Mac OS 7 at the time, meaning one application could still take over the whole computer. Windows didn't get cooperative multitasking until Win95, with NT allowing old 16 bit Win3.1 programs to preemptively multitask.
    • Re:Um, like duh! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GoneGaryT (637267) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:17PM (#7853131) Journal
      No joke! I'm the Senior Security Analyst for the organisation I work for and come January 5th, when we return to work, Microsoft will be named as the primary security risk we deal with. Period.
  • by BWS (104239) <swang@cs.dal.ca> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:18PM (#7852784)
    The Clik! Drive is 40MB, not 40GB as the article states!
    • And if it had been 40 GB it would never made the list, cause the drives would have been selling like lemonade in Sahara.

      /greger

      • Yeah! I have one right here I got for Christmas a while ago.. Its laying there useless
    • by Rosyna (80334) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:02PM (#7853049) Homepage
      Yeah, can you imagine loosing 40 gigs of data instead of the usual 40 megs? ;)
  • by bigattichouse (527527) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:19PM (#7852787) Homepage
    During the war they promised me there'd be flying cars, where's my flying car? --Red
  • MMmmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by sparkes (125299) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:21PM (#7852799) Homepage Journal
    So the biggest tech flops all happened relatively recently and in america?

    There is an easy solution to this lets not only stop using technology, not only from the USA, but from since the americas where discovered by modern europeans!

    I'm blogging this right now on my own printing press and if anyone laughs I will get medieval on their arse (ass is such an americanism and is banned)

    or alternativly we could find something better to do than look at year end reviews, year coming previews and over hyped journalistic endevours.

    I can't wait for slashdot to leave the post holiday period and start getting good again ;-)

    oh, and my fav techno flop is the Sinclair C5
    • Re:MMmmmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cat_Byte (621676)
      Have you bought any of this new "free trade" Chinese stuff? I've blown fuses in my truck from cigarette-lighter adapters proudly wearing the "Made in China" stickers when they fell apart & shorted it out. Take it back & exchange/repeat. It's hard to get those things out when they're glowing red hot. They even had some special on the news a few weeks ago showing the extension cords bearing the stickers saying they were approved by American safety organizations were forged and they were nowhere ne
  • Dataplay (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:21PM (#7852804)
    I still use Dataplay. The sound quality on a dataplay disk is much higher than that of a CD.

    Also, and most people don't know this, but if you run a green marker around the edge of the dataplay disk, the sound quality is even better.

    • Re:Dataplay (Score:5, Informative)

      by pla (258480) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:14PM (#7853119) Journal
      Meta-comment here...

      In case people can't tell (and judging by an "informative" rating, they can't), the author of this one meant it as a JOKE.

      You don't get higher-than-CD quality in 2/3rds the size, and a green marker does nothing* to any form of digital media - You don't get better or worse quality, you get bits.

      Green bits don't sound better than clear bits or blue bits or red bits, although a little too much green might mean you get no bits (ie, render the media unplayable).


      * - Relating to making it unplayable, the Sharpie trick to remove the copy protection from some CDs works by making the invalid data track unreadable. It doesn't "improve" the cd, it just breaks it in a way that happens to fix it, ironically enough.
      • Re:Dataplay (Score:3, Informative)

        by onomatomania (598947)
        You don't get higher-than-CD quality in 2/3rds the size

        While the statement that Dataplay is of lesser quality than CDs is true, the above reasoning is misleading. The size of the media, or the number of bytes it can store, are irrelevant to judging its quality. If I had a dataplay disk that stored 100MB, and used it to store a single song at (say) 24bits 60kHz sample rate, it would definitely be "higher-than-CD quality", whatever that means.
  • Cue Cat (Score:5, Informative)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:22PM (#7852807)
    The Cue Cat [computer-society.org] was a glorified privacy-invading bar code scanner that flopped in the markeplace (even though they gave away 1 million of these beasties). I still have 3 of these things given to me through various magazine subscriptions. If I ever find the time I will have to hack the cat [cexx.org].
    • The funny thing is, there are all sorts of programs out there that are useful with the CueCat, if you can just get it to work. For instance, DVD Profiler [dvdprofiler.com], a Windows database program that lets you keep track of your DVDs will accept barcode-read input.

      If I could just get my CueCat to work with Windows XP...I've tried Catnip and YourCueCat drivers with no success yet. (I wonder if it could have anything to do with how I use a USB keyboard, so just have the 'cat plugged into the PS/2 slot without any keyboa
      • Re:Cue Cat (Score:3, Informative)

        If I could just get my CueCat to work with Windows XP...I've tried Catnip and YourCueCat drivers with no success yet. (I wonder if it could have anything to do with how I use a USB keyboard, so just have the 'cat plugged into the PS/2 slot without any keyboard attached to its other end?)

        I have never seen a cuecat, but back when I was an undergraduate in ... 2000? I used to write point of sale software for a small house. I spent a lot of time screwing around with barcode readers. Now, if the Cuecat is a s

    • Re:Cue Cat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:23PM (#7853177) Homepage
      actually I found the Cue Cat to be a gigantic Boon to me and my business.

      I modified over 50 of them and sold them to customers with linux Point of Sale systems for resturants and small stores.

      I was able to get barcode technology to businesses that could not afford it any other way. (A commercial keyboard-wedge barcode scanner costs $200-$500.00 I sold the cue cats for $25.00)

      Cue cat's were excellent and luckily I got 2 cases of them forom the local radio shack when they were tossing the leftovers to offer free replacements to my customers...

      (Yes, I have a freelance linux consultation side business/ General Computing consultation business on the side of my real job)

  • Push (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moderator (189749) * on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:22PM (#7852811)
    Around 1997 or so, one of the biggest catchphrases was "push," the ability for companies to put whatever information they wanted (News, stocks, weather) on your computer. Microsoft even went as far as to develop an "Active Desktop" so that the content could be placed directly on the user's desktop. Too bad push just turned out to be a constantly refreshing webpage ("fetch" would have been a better term) which took forever to load on the day's 33.6 modems.
  • Lame (Score:4, Interesting)

    by His name cannot be s (16831) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:22PM (#7852812) Journal
    That's a pretty lame article.

    Some of the items on the list are flops, but the biggest 8--not hardly.

    I'm sure that if we tried, we could come up with a better list of 8 flops..

    Shit, OS/2 ain't even on the list. How about Taligent? Bill Gates himself said that Taligent was the one thing he worried about that ended up being absolutely nothing.

    What about the Disney Sound Doohicky--It plugged into the parallel port, and gave some of the crappiest sound ever made on a computer.

    The list certainly could have been better than that. :p
    • Re:Lame (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zocalo (252965) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:39PM (#7852900) Homepage
      I don't know about "lame", it's just that the list is a little short. I suspect this article was hammered together in a rush because the author had been to busy partying to think of a decent list. Well, it is Christmas, so I'll cut Yahoo! some slack on that.

      Instead, why not try and think of some stuff they missed?

      • The SCO Group
      • The current incarnation of the music business
      • Digital Rights Management
      • WAP
      • "Push" based web content
      And some stuff which seems/should be doomed:
      • Spam
      • The current incarnation of the movie business
      • Tablet PCs
      • Film based P&S cameras
      • Geeks with no life ;)
      What are everyone else's personal "WTF were/are they thinking?"
    • Re:Lame (Score:5, Funny)

      by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:52PM (#7852989)
      What you failed to notice is that the article was written by Jim Louderback. This should explain everything.
    • flop vs. crap? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xtifr (1323) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @03:37PM (#7854122) Homepage
      Shit, OS/2 ain't even on the list.

      OS/2 may have been a failure in the home/desktop market, but it was a pretty big success in the business/embedded market. It's use in bank ATMs alone may well qualify it as the 2nd most successful OS to date.

      How about Taligent?

      Better, although it might be disqualified on a technicality: does something have to exist before you can really call it a flop? :)

      What about the Disney Sound Doohicky

      I dunno, never heard of it. Are you sure it isn't just ordinary crap? To be a flop, there has to be an expectation of success, and to be a huge flop, there has to be an expectation of huge success. So things can be amazingly crappy without ever being a flop. In fact, when it comes to high-tech, crap is almost the rule, rather than the exception. And everyone knows this, which is why expectations are usually low, which in turn is why huge flops are kinda rare, despite all the utter crap that's out there. :)
  • Toll Collect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jrady (127288)
    Germanys System for automated colleting of autbahn tolls for trucks. Costs the german tax payer literally millions of EUR each month, has been set up by joint venture of Deutsche Telekom and Daimler Chrysler, meant to be working since '02, launched in Fall '03, failed, ETA '05!
    Snafu all the way.....
  • Also missing ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wingchild (212447) <brian@wingchild.net> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:26PM (#7852830) Homepage
    Iridium [iridium.com], one of Motorola's biggest all-time money losers. I think the DoD still has a contract with them though, even though their original concept (that of public market penetration) crashed and burned quite hard. The nifty air-droppable and instantly deployable solar satellite phonebooths they proposed for low-lying Africa and other places without appropriate infrastructure likewise didn't come into being, as far as I know.
    • Re:Also missing ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by zulux (112259) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:08PM (#7853085) Homepage Journal
      Iridium is still going.

      After bankrupsy they were able to change their price structure to somthing more sane. I use mine at $1.50 a minuite - and the phones are now under $1000.

      I highly recomended Iridium if you spend any time in the wilderness. With the serial calble and a old Psion Revo - I can telnet to any of my servers from anywhere and the whole package is under three pounds.

      • by freeweed (309734) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:58PM (#7853419)
        I highly recomended Iridium if you spend any time in the wilderness. With the serial calble and a old Psion Revo - I can telnet to any of my servers from anywhere and the whole package is under three pounds.

        Man, just when I think I've gone over the edge into complete geek, someone like you comes along and describes telnetting into your servers from the middle of Antarctica, and I feel much more normal again :)
    • by Animats (122034) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:55PM (#7853402) Homepage
      The US Government bought a big share in Iridium, for which they basically get all the airtime they want. When the Government bought in, Afghanistan and Iraq were still in the future. After the US bombed, invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, the people on the ground needed communications. Iridium is providing them. Without Iridium, the US probably would have spent more money frantically setting up communications systems than Iridium cost.

      Iridium handsets seem large by cell phone standards, but military radios with long range capability are still a backpack item or worse. There's more network capacity in the Iridium system than in military commo nets, and you can call any phone in the world.

      Think of it as an instrument of empire, like the British East India Trading Company, not a business.

  • by mooredav (101800) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:27PM (#7852844)
    The biggest FLOPS can be found here [top500.org].
  • by osewa77 (603622) <naijasmsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:34PM (#7852875) Homepage
    The funny thing is that many of these failures could probably be predicted. What makes them "big" is that they had the backing of bodies who could afford to spend so much money on them before concluding that their projects have failed!
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:37PM (#7852890)
    This should be #1 IMHO. It far dwarfed the whole early pen based computing infatuation. Also ...

    He breaks out MagicCap/Go seperately. Why? Throw in the Newton and a few others and just say that the early days of pen computing as a general purpose input device was a complete flop.

    How about failed OS ventures. Pink, Taligent, Be, NeXT, OS/2, etc.

    WebTV? It may have been a flop, but one of the biggest, I think not.

    TransMeta anyone?

    Windows version Lotus 1-2-3, it's failure helped to change the landscape of application isv's and helped to firmly root Office as defacto.

    Apple Lisa/III. Nuff said.

    PCJr, NOTHING compared to PS/2, the system that helped IBM lose the PC market.
    • How exactly is NeXT a failed OS venture?

      I mean, fuck, they got paid cash to take over Apple.
    • How about failed OS ventures. Pink, Taligent, Be, NeXT, OS/2, etc.

      OS/2 was hardly a failure in the way that the article means "failure," i.e. not just a product that was "simply bad" but one that is "truly awful."

      OS/2 was actually very nice. Certainly, it never gained any significant mainstream success (compared to Windows 95 at the time) by many people used it and loved it. I stopped following OS/2's progress a while ago -- but I think it may even still be available [ecomstation.com] from a third-party developer.

      NeXTSte
  • PCjr (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skater (41976) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:40PM (#7852917) Homepage Journal
    The PCjr was a flop, but it's interesting how many advances it had that other computers would start using:

    4-voice sound when most IBM-compatibles could only produce one sound at a time
    16-color graphics when CGA (4 color) was standard
    Video memory in system RAM - commonly used on many lower priced motherboards these days
    Infrared wireless keyboard

    Yeah, it was expensive and limited. But it also had some interesting advances.

    --RJ
  • by CharlieG (34950) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:44PM (#7852941) Homepage
    The "New" FAA AAS traffic control system - was going to replace the current system. MASSIVE amounts of money spent, 2.5 BILLION, where 1.5 BILLION of it had to be written off. About a billion of the development was salvaged by using the Display System Replacement

    Folks - that 1.5 BILLION wasted
    • $1.5 billion to potentially benefit the entire country is better than $16 billion wasted on one city [bigdig.com]. It's too bad it didn't work out (pre-set flight lanes essentially required by the fuzziness of VOR make the whole system less efficient than it could be), but at least it was federal money wasted on a national system, not federal money wasted on a local system.
  • Itanium may end up here, or?
  • by Artifex (18308) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:47PM (#7852953) Journal
    Perhaps it wasn't the biggest flop, but Sony missed the chance at a huge media market share, and perhaps propping up their audio MiniDisc format, by not pushing the MD-ROM format harder. Imagine a disc smaller than a 3.5 inch floppy, holding a lot more than a Zip disk eventually would (MD-ROM preceded Iomega's Zip line), at a cheaper price per disc, with no click-of-death? The only one I ever saw was in a press release, but they claimed their small drive was low-power, and at the time, it would have been excellent for laptop use. Not to mention that you probably could have played the music format discs with it. Now, you can barely find any information on the format by Googling.
  • Iomega Clik! Drive: In 1999, just as recordable CDs started getting really cheap and popular, Iomega released its own proprietary way to write nearly 40 gigabytes of data to a removable disk.

    If they couldn't move that in 1999, that's gotta be the biggest marketing flop in history!

    Can't entirely blame the author for this typo -- K, Meg, Gig, Tera -- can get a bit blurry in the psat tense
  • Unfortunately [Go's] software was buggy, the computers lacked the horsepower to translate handwriting to characters, and the devices were way overpriced.

    What really killed Go was probably a faked demo of Windows for Pen Computing at one of the big shows, which gave investors and buyers the impression that Microsoft was just about ready to release a high-quality pen computing environment. Yet, Microsoft didn't have much pen computing software, and when they eventually came out with something, it was far w
  • I asked him about the product, and he tells me the idea was way ahead of its time..

    Way ahead my ass!..
  • I'm a diehard Mac user, but Lotus Jazz' failure set the Mac back in the business world for years.
  • Yeah...cause Microsoft didn't advertise the service any longer! They bought it to kill it.
    Had they advertised, WebTV would be ubiquitous. If people buy WebTV, they're not buying a computer...they avoid the MS tax, no sales of office. I can't believe they put WebTV on that list. There are many people out there that buy computers to access the internet only. What better device for a novice user than their TV? I'm not being a proponent for WebTV, I'm just saying that WebTV was taking off up until MS bought it,
  • by mujin (705753)
    From the bottom of the article:

    From Yahoo! Shopping:
    - Apple iPod 20GB
    - Nikon CoolPix 3100
    - Nokia 3650

    Odd, I really didn't consider those some of the biggest tech flops ever...

  • Clik! drive? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by darien (180561)
    From the article:

    Iomega Clik! Drive: In 1999, just as recordable CDs started getting really cheap and popular, Iomega released its own proprietary way to write nearly 40 gigabytes of data to a removable disk. ... it was just too expensive to compete with either CDR or flash memory. The blanks alone cost around $10. Worse, the Clik drive was doomed by a problem with Iomega's popular Zip drives. Those devices had an annoying habit of spectacularly failing - taking a user's data along to the grave, as well.
  • Honorable mention (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knights who say 'INT (708612) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @12:57PM (#7853021) Journal
    ... to the whole concept of push content.
  • Wait a minute (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:19PM (#7853141) Homepage Journal
    The PCjr, Internet Appliances and WebTV are on the list but where is NeXT, Steve Job's bastard child went that went nowhere?

    I know one, precisely one, person who owns a NeXT Station. I know many who own WebTVs and Internet Appliances.

    Oh, wait a minute... I get it now. There are links to buy iPods on the page. Can't bite the hand that feeds you, I guess.

    LK
  • by glomph (2644) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:30PM (#7853224) Homepage Journal
    These have been around in some form or other since the 1960s. Every few years somebody introduces a new one. The problem was initially economic, or technological. Now it's simpler. People do not want to be seen, and do not want to see where creative conversationalists might place their camera. Remember 'Freevue'? Sort of like CUSeeMe for people who surfed without the unnecessary restriction of trousers.
  • by Hao Wu (652581) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:33PM (#7853244) Homepage
    Segway.

    Wow, an electric wheelchair where you get to stand up... that's what Americans need is less exercise. Good thing you can fit 6 of them in your SUV.

  • kozmo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattdm (1931) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:36PM (#7853266) Homepage
    Hey, Kozmo.com! Spells it wrong, and not selected as one of the grand failures, but still mentioned. The real sad thing, as I understand it, is that the service was actually profitable in Boston and New York -- markets where a service like that makes sense. But they tried to extend way too far, and into cities like Dallas and Chicago, where I could have told them it wasn't likely to work. And then they got into so much debt they had to shut the whole thing down, just when Bostonians were getting really addicted.
  • by adzoox (615327) * on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:37PM (#7853274) Journal
    Some posts have mentioned Apple's hits & misses:

    The Newton is really neither. It wasn't really a money loser for Apple (but wasn't a money maker either) - we also have to consider that the CREATORS of the Palm and later Handspring moved on from the original Newton team. The latest Treo is essentially what I think the Newton would have become.

    Three of Apple's biggest misses are actually some of the coolest products they've ever introduced:

    1) Apple Set Top Box - it was going to be a Tivo/Media Server - almost 10 YEARS before they are starting to become mainstream. I have one of these boxes and was able to get some content working on them. Apparently Apple tried to market these to resort hotels (the info I've been able to run on the box was for DisneyWorld Hotels)

    more info can be found at www.applefritter.com

    2) Apple Macintosh TV - this was a really cool looking Mac/TV combo that was sold in the education market that is underpowered but again WAY before the time of this type of integration (by about 3 years)

    3) G3 All In One - this was only distributed in the education market and was actually a better iMac (had PCI slots, floppy, zip, CD, A/V in and out and three NORMAL RAM slots) I use this unit as my TV - it has great speakers and I have recently been able to upgrade it to 1Ghz G4. This was out 8 months before the iMac

    more info can be found at www.apple-history.com
  • by Radical Rad (138892) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @01:42PM (#7853324) Homepage
    Internet Appliances
    PC component prices plunged during the Internet Appliance heyday, so a full PC wound up costing just a few dollars more than the truncated Applicances.

    WebTV:
    But when sales stalled at around a million users, someone woke up and realized that low-resolution TVs are lousy at displaying emails and web pages

    If these are really the reasons for their failures then both may experience a resurgence. I say that because of the new TV's that are in the stores today. Plasma/LCD TV's were a big seller for Christmas and their price has been projected to drop to half what they are today by next Christmas. Their crisp, bright, HDTV capable pictures will cure what Louderback says ails the category. It is just a matter of time. And Microsoft makes so much money in its monopoly markets of OS and Office S/W that it has all the time in the world for WebTV to take off.

    Secondly, WebTV IS an Internet Appliance just not in the form that Ellison was pushing with the "Internet Computer". People will continue to buy TV's for their livingrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and the backseat of their SUV's not PC's. And once those TV's are capable of displaying high definition images, then the asian commodity manufacturers will jump into the market and bring the prices down along with a multitude of features. I can imagine settop boxes competing year after year with new features like voice and gesture recognition instead of a clumsy remote controls, DRM, long term storage of data in Internet connected facilities, access to grid computing, MMORPG, biometrics, etc. all for $199 and the effort of connecting a few cables to a preexisting TV.

    Within a few years I think we will finally see the success of both of these categories.

  • by blanks (108019) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @03:14PM (#7853950) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, the only experience I had with WebTV was at my parent's house many years ago.

    For them this was better then any computer. You sign up, you get your email account, you get access to weather, channel listings (they have WebTV with cable) You can program it to switch to specific channels at specific times. No worries for viruses, worms, corrupted file systems or bloated registries.

    For people who just wanted an email address, gamble online, check news, weather, and program their tv/vcr, it was amazing.

    Sure low res, and most of these features are in many products, but at the time it was a great idea.
  • yahoo DSL (Score:3, Funny)

    by mraymer (516227) <mraymer AT centurytel DOT net> on Thursday January 01, 2004 @03:35PM (#7854106) Homepage Journal
    At first I thought yahoo DSL was on the list and I thought, "Wow, that took some guts to admit!" and then noticed the text "ADVERTISEMENT" above the image.
  • by bpiltz (460092) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @04:19PM (#7854392)
    Perhaps this article is looking at the wrong side of the coin and taking a pestimistic view of innovation and discovery. How many "idiots" failed at flight before the Wright brothers finally did it? Was their forerunners' effort for naught? Even today we might consider the Wright Flyer a flop - good pilots can barely get the thing to fly and nobody rushed to purchase and deploy their model. They didn't serve a meal and a movie onboard, and failed to fly to the next airport! That's primitive and useless by our modern standards. Judging old technology through our modern lens is a folly that fails to recognize the significance of the technology for its day.

    I could go on with early attempts to cirumnavigate the globe, invent the lightbulb, etc. Many failures and cosmic wastes of money prevailed before a breakthrough occured. The buckets of gold handed to you by the Queen to go try something aren't as forthcoming. You have to support yourself with a capitalistic business model. The marketing of the tech product that isn't quite there is an effort (sometimes shady)to recoup R&D money. If you're lucky you get a few spin-offs along the way to pay your bills. If your're not, your business dies and leaves behind a product that "failed". Inevitably another business scoops up the pieces and finishes the job when there is enough money or advancement has solved the technical hurdles.

    What matters, is the idea and the useful knowledge that comes from failing. Today's failure might just be the one useful piece of knowledge that makes tomorrow's success fall into place. In his list I see the forerunners and failures that have made Tablet PC, PDA, current GUI interfaces, DVD, etc. possible. So what if the previous business model and marketing attempts sucked. I am glad for my technophile little self that someone tried to make it happen, so I could enjoy their eventual fruits. Innovation is rarely a function of market penetration and stock price. This guy's column is suitable for the MBA crowd, not the tech crowd.
  • by salesgeek (263995) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @05:32PM (#7854842) Homepage
    Most of the flops being discussed were not flops in the sense of being a bad idea that died a bad death.

    Here's my top 5 list:

    * Attempts at making the IBM compatible PC proprietary. Everyone who has tried has failed, including IBM!

    * Copy Protection. From the damaged sector floppies of the 80s to dongles, to encryption schemes to future DRM. All of it has been an abject failure. Anyone remember Copy IIpc?

    * Proprietary removable media formats with the exception of iomega.

    * Razor blade business model for technology with less than a two year lifespan.

    * Proprietary networking technologies. They work for a year then die. Proprietary means only one company makes it. Thomas-Conrad comes to mind.

  • IBM PCjr (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yeremein (678037) on Thursday January 01, 2004 @08:08PM (#7855908)
    The Junior was my first experience with IBM-compatible computing. I had the Extended BASIC cartridge and had a lot of fun programming the Junior's 16-color graphics (vs. the PC's 4-color CGA) and four-note polyphonic sound (vs. the PC's beeper). I was just ten years old at the time and couldn't care less that they were a dismal flop financially--it was a neat little computer in its day.

    The chiclet keyboard was a bad idea, but it had a purpose: You could insert overlays showing which key does what for a particular application. Even in its day, though, IBM got enough flak about the chiclet board that they sent all PCjr owners a more normal keyboard free of charge.

    I don't think the sidecar alone was the reason for its demise (although not being able to use standard ISA cards certainly contributed to it). The main problem was that it just wasn't compatible enough with the PC, lacking "business" features such as DMA and hard-disk support. And it had a name that was hard to take seriously.

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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