8 Of The Most Epic Fails In Tech History: Microsoft, Google, Apple – They Have All Done It!

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Learn from mistakes before you praise for achievements – a very old saying fits best here. We are all bound to make mistakes, and every great innovation has a history of failure. The Internet is flooded with hundreds of sources talking about the success, achievements and daily growth of technology companies. Still, today we bring you the list of the 8 most epic fails in tech history. And you would be surprised to learn that all tech giants are part of this list.

1.  Microsoft’s Blue Screen of Death

During Microsoft’s launch of Windows 98, Bill Gates and Chris Capossela tried to demonstrate the operating system’s ability to recognize peripherals like scanners.  The screen, which was projected for the large crowd, immediately flashed the stop error, bringing about a collective gasp of ‘Oh!’.  All Gates could do was shrug and say, “That must be why we’re not shipping Windows 98 yet.”  The presentation would ultimately become an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.

2.  Microsoft Surface Freezes During Unveiling

Steven Sinofsky wasn’t so smooth in this keynote address.  While showing off the Surface’s internet capabilities, the screen stayed frozen on the Bing search page.  The audience didn’t seem to catch on at first, until Sinofsky clearly began to turn the display toward himself.  Not only did the product not work–and not only did the Windows president make it obvious that he was hiding a malfunction, but he also kept talking about the Surface’s features, rather than stalling for more time.  When he finally gave in and reached for a second model, Sinofsky said, ‘Excuse me, just a second’ and nervously ran to the back of the stage.  It was akin to Milli Vanilli getting caught lip-syncing.


3.  Swatch’s “Internet Time”

If a company, big or small, told you they were going to change the way we tell time, you’d probably reply, “Uh huh, and tell us again how you’re going to be the first company to connect us socially with our friends.”  If that same company said, “I wasn’t kidding.  In fact, we’re going to divide the day up into units called ‘.beats’ you’d say, “Okay, that’s just stupid, and you’re obviously just trying to be trendy.”  Well, Swatch actually thought this was possible in 1998, which actually sounds about right, since the late-90s were crawling with stupid ideas. While the internet time was said to use easier math than our conventional (and useful) method, most of us would probably prefer to have 60 minutes in an hour, instead of 41.666 .beats.  What were they thinking?

4.  Google Wave

Even giants aren’t infallible.  Google Wave was introduced as the next generation of e-mail.  It is true that e-mail was invented in the 1960s, and hasn’t been changed much since.  Much like Google Docs, Wave was meant to streamline the experience of online discussion. Instead of communicating back and forth and worrying about who was cc’d on a message, Wave allowed users to treat the conversation as one living document. A newcomer could join the experience and see all prior messages, including attachments and media. Unfortunately, this system was not without a learning curve.  It was chock-full of terminology, such as ‘wavelet’, ‘blip’, ‘gadget’, and ‘robot’.

No one seemed to have time for this kind of commitment to one app, so Wave became yet another statistic in Google’s long line of failed experiments.  It seems that when your company has a surefire product (the most widely used search engine ever), you have a lot of time and resources to play around with random ideas.

5.  iTunes Ping

There’s a reason why veterans of the tech industry will cringe when they hear the words ‘social network’.  It’s just been done.  A lot. It’s a little bit like space, or porn.  Name something, and there’s probably some pornography related to it (according to rule 34), or it has been done in space. Do you have an idea involving sharks? Well, how about sharks in space? Pirates? Turn on Cinemax and feast your eyes! Apple stumbled into this error when it introduced iTunes Ping, a platform for sharing and critiquing music with friends.

6.  AOL

How AOL (now Aol) still exists as a corporation remains a mystery. Only Aol could merge with TimeWarner and still mess up.  Only Aol, a company that became a household name by showering homeowners with free software, could become a ghost ten years later. Many of the services that made the web pioneer famous came free of charge (e.g., AIM, e-mail), and the internet itself was once synonymous with its dial-up phone signal. Apparently, there is a whole host of nefarious and downright dumb practices that led us here. When AOL wasn’t copying its competitors or haphazardly changing its branding, it was offering some of the worst customer service known to man. That includes dead men, since at least one of them was still charged for AOL services. Above all else, instant messaging and the whole “You’ve got mail!” craze didn’t survive Facebook chat and mobile apps. This company went the way of Meg Ryan’s career.

7.  Minidiscs

The failure of minidiscs is actually a bit sad, since they showed some promise.  They used rewritable mp3 files, were much sturdier than CDs, didn’t skip, and fit much better in your backpack. The best part of minidiscs, however, was their appearance. Nothing was more nostalgically ‘90s than a minidisc or a minidisc player, specifically the Sony Walkman. The shape and form were sleek and smooth, even by today’s standards, and had small buttons and parts that echoed science fiction movies. But unlike Neo in The Matrix, society transitioned from complicated workstations to simplistic, minimalist designs.  The minidisc was small, but not as efficient as the hard drive inside of the iPod. How many minidiscs do you need to hold 1800 songs?

8.  Microsoft Zune

One could say that the Zune was doomed from the start.  Many of us can count on one hand (or less) the number of people we know who bought this mp3 player. The design was decent, but the iPod had already saturated the market by the time of its release. The Zune is an iconic milestone in Microsoft’s long-time effort to copy Apple’s ideas during the 2000s, and was only recently discontinued.

About The Author: The post is written by Jerry Rappaport on behalf of Fueled – New York-based leading iPhone application developers and masters of mobile design.


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