Osborne effects: Death by pre-announcement

Osborne effects: Death by pre-announcement

Summary: The "Osborne Effect" refers to the unintended consequences of announcing a future product ahead of its availability -- and its impact upon the sales of the current product. Here are the eight worst Osbornes we've ever seen.


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  • Everyone knows the Osborne story: In 1983 Adam Osborne pre-announces the replacement models (which have yet to be built) for the venerable Osborne 1. Sales of the Osborne 1 tanked, and the company goes out of business shortly thereafter.

    Affadavits from former Osborne employees given a number of years later cast some doubts on the mythology, although they do not fully discount the company's rapid demise due to the product pre-announcements.

    They allege that competing products such as the Kaypro shipping at the time had a larger screen and were less expensive than Osborne's next-generation replacement for the Osborne 1 and included bundled software, making them a superior value. Kaypro had already begun to cut into Osborne's sales, and other mismanagement at Osborne may have contributed to the company's downfall.


  • Sega, like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, was once a powerhouse in set-top video game consoles. Two years into the release of their Saturn console, the company started to publicly discuss their next-generation system, the Dreamcast.

    The company had already created a history of distrust with their short-lived Mega CD and 32X, which were considered ill-conceived stopgap systems. Saturn sales crawled to a halt and many planned games for the console were cancelled.

    While the Dreamcast eventually was released, customer loyalty was compromised and the system suffered poor sales, and Sega eventually exited the console business as a result.

  • In May of 2011, Research in Motion announced the availability of their first Blackberry Bold handsets based on OS 7, which included a number of multimedia and social networking improvements.

    All of this was good on paper, except that the company's Co-Chief Executive, Mike Lazaridis was busy telling crowds that the new phones would not be upgradeable to their next-generation QNX OS due the following year, which is now known as BlackBerry 10.

    As a result, this has put an effective freeze on traditional BlackBerry 7 handset sales and market share of RIM products has dropped into single digit percentage levels.

    A major management restructuring of the company has occurred, including the ouster of both Co-Founders and Chief Executives.

    BlackBerry 10 handsets are unlikely to ship until at least October of 2012, and the company has retained JP Morgan and the Royal Bank of Canada to determine go-forward options for the Waterloo, Ontario smartphone vendor, presumably including asset divestiture, severe austerity measures (large rounds of layoffs) and the sale of the entire company.

Topic: Enterprise Software


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Ya know, that picture looks like a KayPro...

    From San Diego back in the day.
    • Clone

      Kaypro was an Osbourne I clone with the addition of text to speech and orange on black display. Osbourne I had white on black display with a really neat text format whereas Kaypro had characters that were much more Courier like.
      • text to speech?

        We had a Kaypro II, I have no recollection of any kind of text to speech.
  • I imagine that is the dilema

    If you announce it ahead of the release, you upset the manufacturer, as people may hold off on purchasing their phone.

    If you announce it when it is released, you upset the people who just purchased the older model under a two year contract.
    John Zern
    • Or..

      You make a light version of WP8 for existing phones so that while they don't get all the features - it *feels* like they're not being abandoned.

      This is what Apple does.
      • Apple - why no mention?

        Apple are classic - in bothpre-announcements and early product dumping (even removing minor OS upgrades even once they had been made available for download).

        Or do Apple just start calling major announcements "beta" - lol.
        Remember siri - who series of pre-announcement ads about how great it would be, and then the word "beta" starts flying - doh.
      • it is called 7.8

        All the new features of 8 except those that are hardware specific to the newest iteration. They just didn't call it 8 crippled or 8 lite or any other they called it what is was 7.8. Since WP7 was built on CE and WP8 on the NT kernal.
      • Callyoumisinformed

        Apple went out of business by announcing a new product early that killed sales of an existing product?!? Glad I was here to hear it first!!!
        Even though it is after the fact, seeing as how Apple is out of business now, can you please provide an example of your second claim, a product Apple "dumped early". This is especially funny since Apple releases new products on a VERY predictable basis, and so, if you buy a new MacBook Pro, for instance, prior to WWDC, when everyone KNOWS a new lineup will be announced, and expect to have top of the line, you have only yourself to blame. This is EXACTLY why sales slow prior to summer. Duh.

        As for SIRI, Apple has referred to it as beta from day one.
      • 7.8

        The difference between 7.8 and stripped down iOS updates is that the former won't run any software written for Windows Phone 8, while an older iPhone running the current version of iOS (or similarly an older Android phone running the latest Android OS) will run apps that aren't dependent upon the new hardware. Windows Phone 7 doesn't have the same library that Android and iOS have. Telling people who just bought a Nokia Lumia 900 and locked themselves into a 2 year contract less than 3 months ago that their phones are now obsolete and won't get to run anything written for Windows Phone 8 damages an already fragile brand.
      • Siri, beta - guess you missed those "apple sued" stories then

        Guessing some people dont read the press much (or do so selectively).
        "deusexmachina - As for SIRI, Apple has referred to it as beta from day one"

        Apple did NOT state Siri as being beta in initial contracts/material, one of the acknowledged claims of the class action. Apple did change both consumer contracts AND advertisements to correct this though.

        They also had a similar issue with the 4g claim in many countries.
        (Only after being forced by government consumer departments)

        Perhaps a little less one-eyed reading would help?
      • One handed typing

        You're really going to cite Frank Fazio's idiotic class action suit as proof of anything?!? They can alledge anything they want. Doesn't make it true. They also allege that they "became dissatisfied soon after purchase," but never bothered to just return the phone.
        Here's a clue for you. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. The existence of a suit proves nothing about the validity of its claims.
        Likewise the silly suit regarding 4G.
        How much you wanna bet Mr. Fazio's suit gets thrown out? Seriously, how much?
        Funny how you spend so much time railing against a single sentence about SIRI, yet fail to address a single issue raised in the rest of the post.
    • Congratulations!

      Such a pleasant surprise to read a comment from you where you aren't making your usual snide NBM remarks.

      Things will improve further when you figure out how to use a spelling checker.
  • In this case...

    It's not just announcing it early... which is a problem... it's basically announcing that no existing Windows Phone will be able to get an upgrade. That out Osbornes the Osborne Effect.

    Essentially anyone in their right mind is going to pass over the Windows Phone until 8 comes out - which leaves the retailers with a ton of dead stock. They're going to be very cautious about carrying Windows Phone 8 phones now because even if this doesn't happen again - people will remember it and be very cautious about taking that big a risk with a phone that's already a big risk.

    No... Microsoft essentially has to start all over from square one now.
    • Lucky then...

      That the interface has square tiles.

      Maybe there will be a 'Square One' tile on the front end, so that it can show you a movie of what you're missing out on - all those subtle changes no one ever really notices.
    • I definetly have to agree with you on this,

      Werewolf, as I've been thinking very seriously of getting a Windows phone, since my carrier (Us Cellular), doesn't carry Apples' Iphone.

      Even though I'm eligible for an upgrade, I'll probably wait, for the new WP8 to come out, and then I usually wait another month or so for bugs to get fixed. (sigh)

      So the wait is on...

  • sreesiv

    Dear Blogger,

    It doesn't take big thinking to understand that your intention for this Gallery was to thrash Windows Phone 8. So much of your energy is wasted on trying to be astute, but actually it is turning out to be very naive. Sorry!!!
  • No Osborne effect for Windows 8

    Windows Phone 7.5 is an enjoyable smartphone experience, even if the hardware it works on is comparably weak and its feature set is still playing catch up. Windows Phone 8 surely starts to close that gap. People will surely be interested in Windows 8.

    - Sara
  • WP7 vs WP8

    Honestly, this is a tempest in a teapot. WP7 is a thing of beauty and works great. If you have it on some good hardware like the HTC Titan, it rivals anything out there for most practical applications. As with any technology, obsolescence is a part of life. Big deal. When my Windows Phone 7 contract ends with AT&T, I will get a Windows Phone 8. My friends who have Androids love the WP7 interface and speed. My friends who have their iPhones are afraid to look. I just pity their tiny little displays and wonder why they are so close minded. When it is released, WP 7.8 will keep me happy until my contract runs out.
    Woned B. Fooldagan
    • irony

      Wow, way to totally miss the point!
      • ?

        Woned B. Fooldagan