8 struggling technologies: Which ones will survive?

In the tech industry, perception matters, expectations matter and momentum matters. Here are some technologies that are struggling in all 3 areas.

Market share numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they don’t tell the whole story either. For example, if you’re battling to hold onto a distant third place in the smartphone OS market that’s not a good thing -- if you’re BlackBerry. But third place isn’t altogether a bad place to be -- if you’re Microsoft. In the tech industry, perception matters, expectations matter and momentum matters. With this in mind, the following technology platforms appear to be struggling – some may ultimately flop and some may end up surviving and thriving.

blackberry z10
BlackBerry: Down for the count or getting up off the mat?

The new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone has garnered positive early reviews, but is it compelling enough to compete against Android and iPhone? It may need to be. According to Kantar, BlackBerry OS fell to fourth place in smartphone sales behind Windows Phone in the U.S. and Great Britain in 2012. A comScore market share report covering eight countries puts BlackBerry at 5.4% to Windows Phone’s 3.2% over a three-month average ending in February. But either way, BlackBerry is in a fight to remain relevant in the smartphone market. One good sign: BlackBerry recently announced that wireless service provider Brightstar would purchase 1 million BlackBerry 10 OS smartphones.

Chromebooks (and Chromeboxes): DOA?
Chromebooks (and Chromeboxes): DOA?

Since the first Chromebook, the Cr-48, was released in December 2010, there have been many press releases announcing Google scoring deals to sell corporate and educational institutions large quantities of Chromebooks. But Google and the OEM makers of Chromebooks (and Chromeboxes) have been cagey about sales figures. On Digitimes recently stated that less than 500,000 Chromebooks have sold so far.

Google TV: The picture remains fuzzy
Google TV: The picture remains fuzzy

Since Google’s smart TV platform was launched in October 2010, neither the company nor makers of televisions or standalone boxes with Google TV running in them have ever revealed sales figures. But a little over a year ago, it was reported that there may have been at that time anywhere from 600,000 to 900,000 Google TV devices in active use. Today, this figure could be near or just over 1 million, based on the estimated downloads of PrimeTime for Google TV, an app released last November that’s essential to the operation of the platform.

Nook: Trying to survive by hook or by crook
Nook: Trying to survive by hook or by crook

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Media division incurred a significant loss over the 2012 holiday season compared to a year ago. So now the bookseller looks to be refocusing business on their retail bookstores, and de-emphasizing selling hardware by seeking to license Nook technology and content to other companies. This new strategy suggests that competition from Amazon’s Kindle lineup of e-readers and tablets, and the plethora of cheap tablets that include Google’s Nexus 7 have been taking their toll on Nook sales.

Surface RT: Feeling the pinch
Surface RT: Feeling the pinch

Since its release in October, Microsoft’s first branded tablet sold a little over 1 million units. Yet the Surface Pro has sold about 400,000 and was released three months later. The Surface RT cannot run software written for the x86 versions of Windows (Surface Pro can), because it uses an ARM processor. So analysts are wondering if there is a strong enough consumer demand for Windows RT. One bad sign: Acer and Samsung have held off launching their own Windows RT devices.

Ultrabooks: Ultra thin, ultra powerful, ultra pricey
Ultrabooks: Ultra thin, ultra powerful, ultra pricey

Intel’s specification for lightweight and thin, yet powerful with long battery life, notebooks has been revised three times since the first generation of Ultrabooks were released in October 2011. Sales have not been significant. One analyst estimated 10.3 million notebooks certified as “Ultrabooks” (which must use Intel processors, and run either Windows 7 or Windows 8) were sold in 2012. A factor likely holding back sales is that ultrabooks remain expensive, starting at $700. Intel hopes for new $600 models to be available later in 2013.

Windows 8 PCs: Vista re-visited?
Windows 8 PCs: Vista re-visited?

There has been much griping over Windows 8, and now it has been blamed for mediocre PC sales. NPD reported that they saw no boost in sales of Windows PCs a month after the release of Windows 8 in October. In fact, they estimated a 21% drop compared to the same period in 2011. This dip could be explained by consumers being happy with their current Windows 7 computers. Still, reluctance by many people toward the Windows 8 UI probably did not help things either.

Windows Phone: Nowhere to go but up
Windows Phone: Nowhere to go but up

Since its release on Oct. 21, 2010, the Windows Phone platform has managed to snag third place away from BlackBerry OS in terms of recent sales. Kantar says Windows Phone accounted for 4.1% of smartphones sold in the U.S., up from 2.7% during the same period a year ago. Critics and users generally like Microsoft’s phone OS. But will enough people buy one to lift its market share out of the single digits?