2011 tech industry graveyard
WebOS, Cisco Flip camera, Google Labs and the rest: Our list of IT companies, technologies and ideas killed off or headed for the end of life.
Fortunately for the tech industry, there's a lot more living than dying, with 2011 seeing the birth of everything from Apple's iPad 2 to the Google+ social network. But inevitably, 2011 has also seen its share of dead, killed, murdered, offed, obliterated companies, technologies and ideas as well. Here's your chance to pay last respects, and who knows, maybe a few of these will sprout back to life. (Review previous graveyards here for 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.)
webOS and HP TouchPad
WebOS could not have been riding much higher than in April of 2010, when HP announced plans to buy struggling webOS owner Palm for $1.2 billion and use the operating system to unify future devices including smartphones, tablets and notebooks. But things fell apart in August of 2011 when HP said it would discontinue making webOS devices and look to spin off its PC business. The software did get one last gasp when HP marked down its webOS-based TouchPad tablet to $99 and sparked a brief frenzy over the suddenly cheap device.
Cisco Flip video camera
RIP Flip. Cisco, looking to refocus and bolster its financials, has begun revamping its consumer business and one of the first casualties is the Flip video camera that became part of Cisco's product portfolio when it bought out Pure Digital in 2009. Cisco's consumer business was off 15% in the company's fiscal second quarter, and Flip sales were half of what Cisco expected.
Google Labs, Health, Video
And you thought Google only brought things to life non-stop? Nope, this year Google has axed plenty of things too, reflecting a refined focus by new CEO Larry Page. The company surprised the industry in July by announcing it would close down Google Labs, an energetic incubator of new tools made available for users to test out with the caveat that they might not work or last. Offerings such as Google Reader and Google Maps emerged from the Labs. Google also pared Google Health from its portfolio in June, and killed off Google Video during the spring. After Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion it was only a matter of time until the company erased Google Video, a video sharing service launched at the start of 2005. Google did say its Google Video technology would live on as a video search offering that would fetch more than just YouTube creations.
Microsoft Zune devices
Microsoft, confirming one of the technology industry's worst kept secrets, said in October it was killing off its Zune music player about five years after its debut as a potential iPod killer. While Zune hardware earned some positive reviews, market share didn't follow. Apple's iPod continued to dominate and Zune scratched out only a puny share (the last numbers we saw were less than 1% in 2010). Zune software will live on across Microsoft's Windows Phone, Xbox and other product lines. Zune players made their debut in 2006, the same year that songs with appropriate titles such as "Hurt", "Be Without You" and "Save a Life" topped the charts.
Activision Guitar Hero
It seems like it was only yesterday (well, January 2009) that Activision was crowing about Guitar Hero III being a billion dollar baby, the highest grossing video game ever to that point. But in February of this year Activision announced it was pulling the plug on Guitar Hero, which debuted in 2005. "We simply cannot make these games profitable given the current market," said the publisher in an earnings call. But if we know anything about rock n' roll, there will be a comeback tour not too far down the road and you better get your earplugs ready. In fact, over the summer Activision Blizzard's CEO hinted that a bigger, better Guitar Hero might even be in the works.
All-you-can-eat data plans
Sprint now remains the sole main holdout among carriers offering all-you-can-eat 4G wireless data plans, and even Sprint has had to start jacking up prices to invest in network capacity to support such plans. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have all committed to tiered-data plans for their wireless services (and wired as well for AT&T) . The good news for most people, though, is that typical users don't come anywhere close to hitting the data cap anyway.
This Linux-based mobile operating system was announced in early 2010 by Intel and Nokia, in part to address a lack of Windows mobile software for Atom processors. The project was run by The Linux Foundation. But less than two years after its start, MeeGo itself is being merged with LiMo to form a new open source mobility technology dubbed Tizen, that will address the emergence of HTML5-based apps. "We believe the future belongs to HTML5-based applications, outside of a relatively small percentage of apps, and we are firmly convinced that our investment needs to shift toward HTML5," wrote Intel's Imad Sousou in September on the Meego website.
Cisco's hosted e-mail service
We know what you're thinking: Cisco had a hosted e-mail product? It's true. But proving that the cloud isn't a sure thing, Cisco offed its cloud-based Cisco Mail service just 13 months after introducing it. Cisco folded the service after investing $250 million in it because customers have come to "view their e-mail as a mature and commoditized tool," apparently making it less juicy for Cisco as well. Not that Cisco has any shortage of other products to sell beyond its traditional routers and switches.
Novell Vibe Cloud
Novell announced in July it would shut down its Web-hosted Vibe Cloud enterprise social collaboration suite, which bombed with customers although the market is hot for competing products. Novell's plan is to progressively integrate Vibe Cloud's features and functionality into its on-premise cousin Vibe On Prem over a period of 12 to 18 months (the consolidated offering is simply called Novell Vibe). Novell, acquired by The Attachmate Group in April, is in the midst of reinventing itself. Again.
Netflix, the insanely popular DVD and online streaming movie delivery company, found out that even it can do wrong. Namely, it infuriated customers by announcing plans in September to split off its DVD mailing business into a separate entity called Qwikster, while making video streaming the focus of Netflix. But less than a month after announcing the plan, Netflix bowed to customer pressure and dumped the Quikster idea. CEO Reed Hastings wrote on his blog in October: "It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs. This means no change: one website, one account, one password... in other words, no Qwikster."
Google in March flipped a remote "kill switch" to nix malware-infected apps called DroidDream downloaded by users of Android mobile devices. Google had discovered more than 50 apps on its Android Market infected by DroidDream. Google said it's "adding a number of measures to help prevent malicious applications using similar exploits from being distributed through Android Market."
Yahoo Buzz, a social story sharing and ranking service introduced in 2008, became a casualty of Yahoo's effort to hone its focus and turn around its business fortunes. Yahoo's other moves to turn around its financials were even more severe: lots of layoffs.
OK, Microsoft's IE6 browser isn't officially dead and will probably hang around pretty much forever on someone's Windows XP machine, but don't blame Microsoft for prolonging the browser's life. Microsoft launched a site in March featuring a countdown clock showing what percentage of the world is still using the software. The site reads: "10 years ago a browser was born. Its name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we're in 2011, in an era of modern web standards, it's time to say goodbye." Shortly after introducing the countdown site, Microsoft made available IE9.
Original T-Mobile Sidekick
T-Mobile announced in February that the Danger Service (a Microsoft subsidiary) used by T-Mobile Sidekick smartphone users would no longer be available as of the end of May. T-Mobile first started selling black and white Sidekicks in 2002, making the cloud-based devices among the first smartphones. Of late, though, Sidekicks didn't make much news, other than when the network suffered a major outage in the fall of 2009 and threatened the loss of data for many customers. But in March, T-Mobile reintroduced the Sidekick as the Sidekick 4G, which will run on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, feature a full pop-out QWERTY keyboard and use Google Android.
HP in January said it would stop actively selling Neoview about four years after bringing the company's core business intelligence offering to market. "Our customers are demanding options for addressing an emerging set of requirements around the explosive growth of data, new types of information, new classes of analytics and new delivery models," HP said in a statement, not immediately saying what would become of existing customers. HP did say it would work with partners, such as Microsoft, to address customer needs in this area.
Home energy monitoring services
Microsoft and Google separately announced in June that they would pull the plugs on their respective home energy offerings. Google went first, saying it would shut down its PowerMeter offering in mid-September: "Our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would have liked, so we are retiring the service," Google said in a blog post. Microsoft followed a week later, zapping its Holm energy monitoring service, citing low adoption rates during the beta testing process. The company wrote in a blog post at the time: "Microsoft will continue to focus on developing products, solutions and partnership that span a wide spectrum of industries, such as power generation, distribution grids, buildings and [transportation] systems."
Flock Web browser
The Flock Web browser garnered buzz – and at least $30 million in venture funding – in recent years, fueled by enthusiasm over the technology's ability to blend social networking and browsing. But the browser proved unable to survive as a standalone business, so was bought out by online gaming company Zynga, and then was shut down in April. The Flock website encouraged users to shift over to Firefox or Chrome, both of which it was based on at one pointer or another.
The cloud storage services company was formed in 2008 and raised $32 million-plus in funding, only to shut its doors in 2011. The company had also raised high hopes, even making Network World's 2009 list of hot startups to watch. However, the cloud storage services market has remained a murky one, with larger players such as Iron Mountain and EMC also pulling back on their offerings. Cirtas did indicate in April, when its shutdown took place, that it could be open to a re-launch in the future. But for now, the company's website has disappeared and signs aren't good.