Biggest tech losers of the last decade
Years 2000 to 2010 introduced a wealth of game-changing technology to our lives. But along with it came some true disasters. This is far from surprising since most small businesses don’t make it past the year mark and those that do are dead in five years. In the past decade, a lot of businesses and ideas bit the dust, including the Frightful Five of Tech; Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.
Here are a few of the products to reflect on in the 10 years of tech products failures.
Facebook has had a lot of screw-ups, the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal in the US topping the list. But in terms of products, the list is frightfully long. There is the Trending Section - a way to get people talking about the news. It met its demise in 2018 after accusations that its human editors were ignoring conservative news sources. Then Facebook Home, a user interface for Android phones that put Facebook front and center instead of just creating an actual phone. Unfortunately, it was also a huge security risk. Let’s not forget Facebook Places, another standalone app, trying to outdo Foursquare. The power of the check-in eventually migrated over to regular Facebook posts. There was also “Facebook Gifts”, “Notify”, “Facebook Email” and the time Facebook tried to take on Groupon. The list is just too long.
After the arrival of iPhone, smartphone market leader BlackBerry dismissed the idea of touchscreen phones, claiming that enterprise users would always want keyboards. When enterprise users started buying iPhones, BlackBerry tried straddling touchscreens and keyboards with the Storm, a bizarre touchscreen phone which had a “clickable” screen that simulated the physical response of a keyboard.
Yet that odd mechanism frequently failed and Verizon reportedly replaced most of the 1 million Storms which it sold in 2008, resulting in nearly $500 (Sh50,702) million in losses. BlackBerry’s market share continued plunging afterwards and it finally stopped making its own phones last year.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Remember this one? The Galaxy Note 7 was an exquisite phone until it started exploding. Pants pockets were scorched, people awoke to smoking smartphones on their night stands and airplane passengers were spooked by malfunctioning phone tablets (phablets). Samsung issued a recall, but eventually threw in the towel completely and blamed faulty batteries. This resulted in a $2.3 (Sh233) billion write-down during Samsung’s third quarter and plenty of lost revenue during the holiday season. But while the Note 7 will go down as a huge disaster, the botched rollout didn’t kill the Note brand; the Note 8, 9 and 10 have since arrived without incident.
This is less of a tech flop and more a case of tragic mismanagement by the company that acquired it. Vine was an instant hit when launched in 2012, limiting shared videos to only six seconds long and forcing creators to be extraordinarily creative. Twitter bought it and couldn’t figure out how to make money off the service, so it shut down in 2016. Vine’s co-founder said he’d launch a sort of Vine 2.0 by 2017, but financial and legal hurdles killed that before it was even born. Maybe his latest project, Byte (Vine 3.0 maybe?), will eventually become available, but with TikTok taking over short-form video, might as well give up now.
HP launched the Touchpad in July 2011 as a potential competitor to Apple’s iPad. But just a month later, HP announced that it would discontinue all devices running webOS, including the Touchpad, to pivot away from the competitive mobile market.
The remaining Touchpad inventory was subsequently liquidated for $99 (Sh10,039) per unit, making it one of the shortest-lived tablets in history.