Scientific discoveries and technological innovations have evolved at an ever increasing pace. There are people alive today who have witnessed the progression from “horse and cart” transport to space travel.
This rapid technological progression always carries an associated risk. Sometimes progressive ideas just cannot be made to work as intended, but more frequently, innovative products do not find their intended market acceptance. Technological progression is a game in which return on investment can only be accomplished with a successful product launch and subsequent market acceptance.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest tech fails in recent memory.
The idea of turning people’s mobile phone home screen into a Facebook home page failed, and did so very quickly. It was an Android app, released in 2013, that configured your mobile screen with priority of connecting with Facebook friends. HTC First was the first mobile phone to introduce it, and the idea was dropped within one month.
This smartphone was released in the hope that it would restore Blackberry’s market share so it could better compete with Apple’s iPhone and the ever increasing range of Android phones. It didn’t work, and Blackberry incurred close to a one million dollar loss in what was possibly their final attempt to regain their place in a marketplace now dominated by iOS and Android.
This was an ill-fated attempt by Microsoft to demolish Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. It cost Microsoft a $US900 million write-down in unsold inventory. The design concept was to combinea tablet and a laptop, with a keyboard sold separately. Apparently, the initial market research failed to discover that people were using tablets in addition to and not as a replacement of laptops and desktop PCs.
If Microsoft lost out to Apple in the tablet market, Apple itself has had a rough passage with its Apple Maps product. The goal was to replace the Google Maps app on their iPhones. The product became plagued with poor user reviews, mainly because of its inaccuracy and lack of public transit directions. Apple ended up releasing a Google Maps app for its iPhones.
The Nintendo Wii + Playstation
This was meant to be the follow-on to Nintendo’s highly successful Wii games console. A bulky controller with a built-in screen targeted casual players instead of hard-core game addicts. It backfired, and the market space was quickly filled by the Sony’s Playstation IV and Microsoft’s Xbox One.
The aim with this product was to cut into and share Apple’ iPod market share. Poor design resulted in buggy performance, and its intended ability to share songs with other Zune users turned out to be a flop. The device was withdrawn in 2011.
Failed market acceptance and poor sales, a fate shared by Google’s Notebook and Microsoft’s Zune products. Ping was Apple’s attempt to connect their iTunes store with a social network. An unexpected high volume of spam, fake accounts, and faulty links gave it lousy reviews. It was replaced by an iTunes upgrade that enabled users to integrate iTunes with Facebook.
Can anybody remember this 3G hybrid handset that can be docked into a vehicle mount? Manufactured jointly by Garmin and Asus, it was released in 2009 and subsequently pulled off the market as early as 2010. It featured a built-in GPS navigation system, touch screen, virtual keyboard, and camera that could take geocoded pictures, enabling recipients to trace where the pictures were taken. Different models used operating systems like early versions of Android, Windows Mobile, and Linux. Its demise was caused by smartphones that feature better functionality, such as free GPS.
The mobile phone market is dominated by the Apple iOS and Android operating systems. Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry, in the meantime, languish in their shadow with 2.9% and 0.5%market share respectively. Windows Phone handsets have fewer apps, no price advantage, and technology that is inferior to iOS and Android. The most interesting question right now is what will happen to Nokia handsets, only recently a dominant choice for users? Will Microsoft sell off the Nokia brand, or will it too become a technology casualty?
Technologies with undecided fates
While there’s no denying the failure of the technologies above, there are some tech products on the market which, despite wide-ranging popularity and superior quality, still have clouds hanging over them. The attention and widespread publication of these issues have more to do with a fidgety market than with the products themselves. So, what are some of these products caught halfway between failure and success?
It’s great, it is reasonably popular, and it provides a TV picture quality much superior to older technology. Yet 3D TV has not reached the market penetration expected by manufacturers. The 3D TV sets were initially high in price, and media companies offered a very limited choice of 3D channels. This is gradually changing. The prices of 3D TV sets have come down substantially, and media companies now offer more program choices and flexibility. Is it too late for this technology to reach mass distribution? Will superior Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV replace it?
Xbox and Playstation
Both of these consoles need an Internet connection. Regrettable as it is, online connections are subject to cyber attacks from hackers. They have recently demonstrated their ability to bring both the Sony and the Microsoft game servers to their knees. This, in itself, has nothing to do with product quality and market acceptance; rather it is a consumer issue that affects all Internet based services. We can only hope the successful hackers wanted to make a point about security, and not set out to destroy the online game industry.
Apple iPhone 6
The newly released iPhone 6 is attracting a lot of media attention, with users claiming that the handset bendsif worn in a pocket. Apple vigorously denies the charge and has gone as far as offering an immediate product replacement of any iPhone 6 that has buckled or bent.
The iPhone 6 is clearly a leading, high-tech product with a range of features consumers like. The only point in raising the debate about it bending is to ponder the extent to which such claims can damage its success in the marketplace. Consumers today are well informed, and get fidgety by reading negative peer reviews and comments.