Did you jump on the Apple bandwagon? Got a nice fancy iPod classic with a battery drain problem? Maybe you have an iPhone which was bricked on the last update. Here’s a few more hyped technology which turned out to be major flops.
Over the years, Bill Gates (among others) has repeatedly predicted that speech recognition will be a major form of input, but it hasn’t happened yet. Part of the problem is that, even with 99% accuracy, there are still a lot of errors to correct. Plus, many of us use computers in public places where speech recognition would be clumsy, embarrassing or downright rude. Still, the technology continues to improve, and it is being used in niche markets such as in medicine. Maybe someday it’ll make it to the rest of us.
The Net PC
The Net PC was yet another small, overpromoted computing device aimed at home users. Like the thin clients used in corporate IT, Net PCs consisted of a screen, keyboard and pointing device with little built-in intelligence. They were designed to be placed unobtrusively throughout the home, providing a simple user interface for Web and e-mail access. The problem: Net PCs were introduced just as the price of more intelligent desktop PCs was plummeting. Why buy an extremely limited device when you could get a full-featured computer for around $300?
E-book readers started being sold about 10 years ago and are still being developed. The most recent entrant into the market is the Sony Reader. But they’re still a flop. The devices themselves just aren’t good enough yet. Some folks find them unwieldy; others say they’re difficult to use. And for many people, there’s just no replacing the old-fashioned, reassuring feel of paper.
In 1993, Apple hyped its Newton PDA as only Apple can, with clever advertising and relentless word-of-mouth campaigns. While the device’s physical size was gargantuan by today’s standards, it was full of features, such as personal information management and add-on storage slots, that remain essential parts of today’s mobile devices.
Presaging our current era of Netflix and downloadable movies, DIVX (not to be confused with DiVX, the video codec) flashed brightly in the late ’90s, then flamed out. The idea, hatched by electronics retailer Circuit City, was interesting — you would rent movies on DIVX discs that you could keep and watch for two days. Then you’d toss or recycle the discs, or pay a continuation fee to keep viewing them.