10 overhyped tech products that crashed and burned

The demos blew everyone away. Then reality hit.

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Steve Jobs was the master of the tech demo, with his "one more thing" almost inevitably producing squeals of delight from an audience of supposedly unbiased tech reporters. But not everything that won plaudits on demo day ended up beloved by customers -- Jobs is seen here unveiling iCloud, which has received mixed reviews. Indeed some of the most enthusiastically received demonstrations at trade shows were for products that became some of the tech industry's most notorious flops.


This slideshow "10 overhyped tech products that crashed and burned" originally appeared on ITworld.

Silverlight

At the Mix 07 conference, Microsoft revealed a promising new rich media technology called Silverlight. It stole the show. "It makes Flash/Flex look like an absolute toy," said Michael Arrington, adding "Some of the most interesting new web applications will be built on this platform." Unfortunately, developers and end users resisted, despite Netflix, MLB, and others requiring its use. Microsoft hasn't said much about the platform's future, though Silverlight 5 will be supported until 2021. Some customers aren't waiting. Earlier this year, Netflix announced it was dumping Silverlight in favor of HTML5.

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PowerMac G4 Cube

At MacWorld New York in 2000, Steve Jobs showcased "quite possibly the most beautiful product we've ever designed": an 8" cube with a top-loaded DVD player, slide-out hardware, no cooling fan, and hardware specs matching the much larger PowerMac. The Apple faithful were ecstatic, and the media were charmed -- ITworld reported that the device had "pure sex appeal." A year later, it was on its way out the door. The reasons? Slow sales (despite price cuts), competition from Apple's other Macs, and missing expansion options. Still, its design won it a place in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

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Palm Pre and WebOS

At CES in 2009, Palm took on the iPhone by splashily unveiling the Palm Pre and WebOS. The slick UI included Facebook integration and other features competitors lacked. Reviewers gushed: "It has a gorgeous user interface"; "[it] may be quite a bit more revolutionary than the iPhone." But on launch the Pre was pricey and limited to Sprint. Despite marketing and distribution promises, Verizon went all-out with its Droid line in late 2009.

BlackBerry Storm

The Storm 1, the first BlackBerry without a physical keyboard, was RIM's answer to the iPhone. It had advanced features, like a video camera and GPS, that its rival lacked. But its click-based touchscreen irked fast typers, and the browser disappointed. While there was a sequel that addressed some concerns, the rumored Storm 3 never materialized. "Incomplete products ... are hurting our brand tremendously," an anonymous BlackBerry employee wrote.

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Video games on demand

The vision -- video games on demand -- was brilliant. The demo was incredible. Showing off the gaming technology at the 2009 GDC and other events, CEO Steve Perlman described how a high-quality console gaming experience could be delivered to people's homes -- without consoles, downloads, or discs. The key: Remote servers to handle processing and graphics rendering, high-bandwidth Internet connections, and a television or PC screen in users' homes. Three years later, it was game over, in spectacular fashion. ITworld's Pete Smith outlines how OnLive misjudged core gamers, who already had local hardware and were skeptical of lag and other potential service problems.

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NeXT Cube

"Missing this would be like missing Thomas Edison unveil the phonograph," a photographer told the San Jose Mercury News in October 1988. The event was the unveiling of the NeXT Cube, a typical Steve Jobs media frenzy. The audience ate up the specs, the musical and scientific applications, and believed colleges would pay for it. They didn't blink when Jobs revealed the $10,000+ price, or the fact that the system wasn't even close to being ready. There were only a few early customers for the Cube, and author Randall E. Stross says that one found it to be "the sinkhole from hell." Jobs went on to bigger and better things.

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Windows ME

"So Many Possibilities" is one tagline Microsoft used for Windows Millennium Edition when it was launched in 2000. The emphasis was on digital media, networking, and easy restore options. Users had a different experience -- it was crashy and prone to hardware and app errors. "If you upgraded to Me from an older version of Windows, you might feel that the term Millennium refers to the length of time it will take to fix the glitches," grumbled PC World. Fortunately, users did not have to wait that long, as Windows XP -- regarded as one of Microsoft's better software releases -- arrived in late 2001.

BlackBerry Playbook

It feels bad to kick BlackBerry while it's down, but the PlayBook deserves a special mention. The specs were solid, with a focus on secure messaging for enterprise users. But, as you can see in this video, there were concerns at launch about the lack of native email and calendaring programs, and the tethering requirement. In addition, the proprietary QNX operating system limited the number of available apps out of the gate. The tablet struggled for two years before BlackBerry pulled the plug in June.

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Cisco Cius

Yes, Cisco does have a tablet. Or at least it did. Pronounced "see-us", the Android-based tablet was announced by CEO John Chambers at CiscoLive 2010 and launched the following year. The focus was on collaboration, video conferencing, office connectivity, and security -- attributes that Cisco thought would be big hits among its enterprise customers. The demo looked great, but the price was steep ($750) and executives were already bringing iPads into the office with or without IT's approval. Chambers later said Cisco should've killed off the device sooner than it did: "Once you realize you're not going to reach the volumes you need, you should just stop."

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Apple Lisa

In 1983, Apple had a lot riding on the Lisa: the company needed a solid follow-up to the ubiquitous Apple II. This ad shows Apple's slick positioning of the Lisa as something a hard-working yet tender CEO (recognize the Hollywood star?) would use. The ads didn't save the Lisa, though. It flopped in the marketplace, thanks to high price and a failure to connect with enterprise customers. And Steve Jobs never backed it: his renegade division had been building the Macintosh, which became Apple's next great hope after the Lisa fizzled. The final insult, described in his biography: Jobs calling the Lisa product team "B Players" before laying off many of them.