Published May 24, 2013
The worst tech flops of all time
The worst tech flops of all time
There are gadgets that change everything (the iPhone, Bose’s noise-canceling headphones), and then there are devices that are so spectacularly bad that they should be immortalized in their own way. To make our list of all-time gadget flops, the product had to do more than fail to execute. It had to have serious hype behind it—enough to help make that crash and burn all the more satisfying. See the full list at Laptopmag.com
The Segway (2001)
Other than the original iPhone, very few gadgets in history were hyped this much before launch. Dean Kamen's Project Ginger had all sorts of praise heaped upon it by those who previewed the new-age scooter. Here's what Steve Jobs reportedly said about the Segway in a book proposal: “If enough people see the machine you won’t have to convince them to architect cities around it. It’ll just happen.”
Priced at a staggering $5,000, the Segway didn't even come close to living up to its expectations. Sure, it was nifty that the Segway was self-balancing, but that wasn't nearly enough to overcome the sticker shock or the sheer geek factor of this vehicle. The final insult came when President Bush fell of a Segway in 2004. Today, you'll see these scooters ridden by some police officers and postal workers, but that's pretty much it.
ViewSonic Airpanel Smart Display (2003)
Part of Microsoft's ill-conceived Smart Display product line, the Airpanel V110 allowed users to access their PCs wirelessly from up to 150 feet away. It was kind of like a tablet—with a really short leash. For a totally unreasonable $1,000, those gullible enough to buy this device were likely disappointed to learn that the Airpanel turned your computer into a brick for everyone else while you were using it. Add in limited viewing angles and glitchy performance and you have a real stinker.
BlackBerry PlayBook (2011)
If BlackBerry's comeback fails, the PlayBook will be remembered as one of the nails in the coffin. Research in Motion was so busy showing off that it's 10-inch tablet could play high-def videos via its HDMI port that it forgot to include native email and calendar apps. That's right, the PlayBook didn't let you view your messages or appointments unless you had a BlackBerry phone connected to the slate via Bluetooth. Amazingly, RIM called this glaring weakness a security feature. Less than 9 months later, co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille stepped down from their posts.
Cisco Umi (2010)
Before Cisco's consumer division completely imploded, the company staged an elaborate press event in San Francisco to show off the Umi, a device that enabled families to video chat in HD right from their living rooms. There was just one problem. No one wanted to pay a whopping $600 for a one-trick-pony set-top box, never mind the dumb $25 monthly fee. With free services like Skype and FaceTime already available for our phones, tablets and laptops, Umi was destined for the gadget scrap heap.
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Nokia N-Gage (2003)
Once upon a time Nokia believed it could compete in the handheld gaming market, and that delusion manifested itself in the form of the N-Gage. This combination phone and mobile console was so awkward it was funny—assuming you didn't fork over $299 to get one.
For starters, the N-Gage forced users to hold it up their heads sideways to talk, which make people look like they were holding a taco up to their ears. Gamers also needed to remove the back cover and battery to swap games. Nokia would release a mobile mea culpa sequel in the N-Gage 2, but it was too little, too late.
MSN Direct Smart Watches (2004)
Literally and figuratively, MSN Direct Smart Watches were ahead of their time. Made by the likes of Fossil and Swatch, these bulky wrist-worn monstrosities fetched stock quotes, news, sports, and weather via FM radio waves for $9.99 per month. Unfortunately for Microsoft and its partners, smartphones already did the above and much more. The hardware would fade from the market by 2008, but Microsoft only recently shut down the network.
Oakley Thump Sunglasses (2007)
Before there was Google Glass there was Oakley's Thump sunglasses, which combined shades with an MP3 player. Too bad the glasses were ugly and the audio controls were difficult to use. Plus, users were stuck with a measly 256MB of flash memory at a sky-high $495 price tag. Shockingly, a celebrity endorsement from Dog the Bounty Hunter failed to move the needle.
See the full list of the worst 25 tech flops of all time at Laptopmag.com.