Yesterday I put up the Nintendo Wii and the Apple iPhone up as the biggest hits of 2007. Today while glancing through my inbox I come across this request:
"So, you like the Wii, but what, in your opinion, were the products that sucked the most for 2007?"
OK, you asked for it! But rather than look at what sucked (which is rather subjective) I'm going to concentrate of products that have disappointed me over 2007. So, here is the Hardware 2.0 list of the most disappointing products of 2007 - the products that weren't released; they escaped!
There are a lot of products to choose from and the challenge here is to work the mental sieve vigorously and catch what falls out of the bottom.
Here in no particular order, are products that could have made it to the top of the disappointing list:
AMD desktop processors
I'm not sure what's wrong with AMD these days. The company seems to be spending too much time pushing wild ideas (which usually come with an insane price tag and even insaner power requirements) like the Quad FX platform and engaging in a public slanging match with Intel and too little time working on new, innovative products.
For the entirety of 2007 I've held the belief that AMD would come out with something worth buying, but that hope is now gone. I'm not sure what's going on at AMD but progress seems to have slowed down drastically and I'm wondering whether my last Athlon 64 X2 processor will have eroded to dust before I buy another AMD branded processor.
As a past AMD fan, it's sad that they make it onto this list because as AMD becomes weaker, there's a real danger that Intel will stagnate, and that wouldn't be good for anyone.
nVIDIA graphics card drivers
I'm a pretty big fan of nVIDIA graphics cards, but getting them to work reliably, especially when pushing them hard or when gaming, is getting to be too much like hard work. I'm not going to pretend for one moment that ATi's stuff is all perfect, because they're not, but they're far more reliable than any nVIDIA has.
Hopefully things will change next year.
Hauppauge is another company that has good products let down by poor drivers, especially under Vista. Again, I'm in a position of being a long-time fan and have several Hauppauge products in numerous systems, but driver issues are making me want to melt down the cards into scrap.
The problem with Hauppauge hardware seems to be that if Windows (in particular Windows Vista) gets wind of the hardware before you install the drivers, it's game over and the driver installation will fail every time with a cryptic message. You then have to go through the laborious process of shutting down the system, removing the card, restart the system, removing every last 1 and 0 relating to the card using a cleaner tool that Hauppauge provide (which is sorely lacking in any real feedback of documentation), shut down, reinstall the card, restart again, hopefully catch Windows in the act of installing the hardware and stop it and then run the Hauppauge drivers. Hopefully, if you've done everything right and the moon and the planets are all in the right position, things will go well. If not, it's back round the loop once again.
Blu-ray and HD DVD
Unless you like the idea of stepping into a war between two rival tech factions, I suggest staying out of the Blu-ray/HD DVD mess until the smoke clears a bit. At present the main "advantage" of both technologies is that they further erode out concepts of fair use.
Sure, if you buy a PS3 or an Xbox 360, you're forced to take sides, but the idea of spending the kind of cash I do on DVDs on HD DVD of Blu-ray discs while this standards war is going on just doesn't make sense.
The most disappointing product of 2007 - AppleTV
But for me, the most disappointing product of 2007 comes from Apple - it's the AppleTV.
The AppleTV struck me as a product that had a lot of potential, but in reality it's little more than a piggy bank that you install in your living room into which you have to feed money on a regular basis. Oh, and you don't get your money back. Sure, you can feed your AppleTV content from different sources, but Apple's deliberately made this difficult. Any process with more than one step is too many for most people. Apple knows this and designed their product to make iTunes the easiest way to get content. And that's the main flaw with AppleTV - Apple's aggressive determination to sell content at every opportunity gets in the way of developing a product that would really shake up the market. It's like owning an iPod but finding out that iTunes isn't able to rip your CDs for you.
AppleTV is an odd product for Apple because it reeks of compromise. Its purpose is to stream content to HD TVs, but iTunes doesn't offer any HD content. It can't connect directly to the iTunes store. It can't play DVDs/Blu-ray/HD DVD. It's not a DVR. There are no games for it. You can't load your iPod from it. It can't live without having a connection to a PC/Mac running iTunes. It restricts you to two video formats (H.264 and MPEG 4). To cap all that, data transfer rates are slow. Oh, but it can do YouTube, so if you want to watch a kitten eating a melon, you can.
AppleTV could have been a lot more. It isn't. That's a shame.
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