The Biggest Technology Flops of the Decade

The past 10 years have seen more than their share of gadgets that went wrong.


Slide Show: The Biggest Tech Flops of the Decade

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Rokr E1. The marriage of music and cellphone seemed natural. So there was much anticipation when Apple, maker of the almighty iPod, was working with Motorola on the first phone with iTunes software. But the software was awkward to use on the phone, storage was limited by cost, and the combination bombed. Motorola also complained that Apple introduced the phone at the same time as the iPod Nano. In addition, maybe Apple had gotten the wireless bug and was thinking of something different. In fact, the company did a wee bit better on its own with the iPhone.

DVD-Audio. It seems nobody with dreams of a high-definition media can get along. While disk makers fought over the successor to DVD video, the same players fought over the successor to audio CDs. In this case, though, neither DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD won; instead, audio disks lost ground to Internet downloads, both legal and illegal. Still, audiophiles swear by the added channels and fidelity of the high-def formats. Players can still be found, and new releases trickle out. Maybe they’ll survive in niche markets, but nobody forecasts them going mainstream.

Ultra-Mobile PC. Imagine a computer as small as a paperback but trying to run Windows and other software that’s designed for today’s huge monitors. Sound like a nightmare? It was to the few manufacturers who bothered to try. The computers were too small to be practical and too large for a pocket. Their nascent market was smothered by bigger, more practical, and cheaper netbooks. Even today’s smartphones, with their limited Web browsing, do a better job than do the UMPCs. Only a few targeted applications in the business world are keeping the little computers on life support.

Vista. After years in development, Vista tried to do offer something that Windows had never managed—a safe, secure computing environment. The software instead was criticized for being bloated, buggy, and unfriendly to old hardware. It even beat out Windows Me, an earlier debacle, but one that could be avoided by most users. Vista, on the other hand, came installed on all new consumer PCs. That helped win the system some market share (and consumer resentment). Businesses had more choice and avoided Vista. Microsoft appears to have redeemed itself with the recent release of Windows 7, which cleans up many of Vista’s problems and adds well-received features.

[Dispelling myths about Windows 7.]