– These five technologies that ended up being commercial flops
Presented as revolutionary, many gadgets have failed financially. A look back at five major technical failures of the past few decades.
After two interrupted editions, the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2023 looks to reconnect with the big pre-Covid editions. The hope is that this 55the Edition gives a boost to a sector that has been badly abused since the end of the pandemic. In fact, the tech giants experienced a difficult time last year, which was characterized in particular by major setbacks on the stock markets and several waves of layoffs. This week alone, the giant Amazon announced that it would lay off 18,000 employees.
In Las Vegas, the heavyweights of the sector (Meta, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, LG, Sony, Lenovo, Samsung, etc.) hope to count on the arrival of thousands of journalists and amateurs to restore a certain passion for their sector. Because it’s fifty-five years since the American event unveiled the main trends for Western technology. We owe him most of the greatest successes of the last five decades, but also some great failures. A quick look back at some famous cases that ended in major commercial flops.
Instant and constant access to the Internet! All of this through a simple lens. On paper, the famous Google Glass showed promise. First introduced in 2012, the connected glasses will be the stars of the show in Las Vegas two years later when they first go on sale. At this point, tempers flared. The optimists are already talking of 10 million annual sales from 2018.
However, the enthusiasm of the first few days quickly gave way to a harsh return to reality. Low autonomy, lack of applications, unfriendly object or too high price… The list of shortcomings is getting longer. The drop of water is at the level of privacy protection, since the glasses could be used to photograph or film anything.
A year later, after its launch, Google decides not to bury its project but to completely redesign it. Since then, glasses have largely given way to virtual reality headsets, a market that is struggling to take off, even despite the pandemic. Last year 9.6 million items were sold (down 12% compared to the previous year).
For the video game industry, cloud gaming promised by Google was the holy grail. Thanks to its system called Stadia, it was possible to play on any medium (console or computer) and do it without any limitations except that of connecting a controller to the device of your choice. But for the American giant, the sauce never lasted due to the lack of games available on its platform.
Three years after Stadia launched, in September 2022, the service will be permanently retired. Fortunately, the failure suffered by Google did not bury the concept. Other giants such as Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft continue to bet on the potential of cloud gaming and still expect this technology to revolutionize the entire video game industry. Recently, Logitech partnered with Tencent Games to create a portable console that works with cloud services.
3D or curved screens
In the highly competitive field of television screens, manufacturers have constantly innovated in recent years to improve and launch new models. Some ended in memorable commercial flops. Not counting the brief history of curved screens, the biggest mistake for this industry is being associated with 3D.
After the first avatar, manufacturers are trying to recreate the 3D experience of the 2009 James Cameron film for the living room. During the CES 2010 edition in Las Vegas, the new models are the big stars of the moment. But when sales of 3D screens pick up slightly at first, the enthusiasm quickly wears off.
In the absence of 3D content and restrictions such as wearing glasses, the market is collapsing. According to the GFK statistics institute, sales of 3D screens in France fell from 1.3 million in 2014 to just 800,000 a year later. Starting in 2017, manufacturers all decided to stop developing this type of TV.
On January 6, 2008, on the eve of the opening of CES, Warner Bros announced that it would no longer release its films in HD-DVD format. “We believe that distributing our films exclusively on Blu-ray will increase the potential for mainstream success,” said CEO Barry Meyer.
This decision spelled the death knell for Toshiba’s technology in favor of Sony’s Blu-ray discs. Because the other production houses eventually all Warner Bros. 2008 marked the end of a covert war between two technologies meant to serve as a serious alternative to classic DVD, a war that began five years earlier when Toshiba first announced its support for the latest generation introduced.
Note that as with DVDs, Blu-ray manufacturers quickly became disillusioned. You can’t resist the rise of video streaming either. With Netflix, HBO Max, and every other online platform out there, it’s highly likely that one or the other will eventually disappear entirely.
Last year, BlackBerry announced in early January that it would discontinue all support for its services. Without updating, the latest devices are doomed to become obsolete and unusable. A page is turned for the defenders of the last hour of the famous push-button telephone. It marks the end of an entrepreneurial adventure that, despite everything, left a lasting mark on mobile telephony.
A decade earlier, BlackBerry, along with Nokia and Korean brands Samsung and LG, dominated the world of mobile telephony. It is then the fourth largest seller of laptops in the world. But unbeknownst to him at the time, his fate had been sealed three years earlier when Steve Jobs introduced his first iPhone. Stamped with a bitten apple, the device really messed up the deal and destroyed a brand that never knew how to properly question itself.
Olivier Wurlod has been a business journalist for more than ten years.More information
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