11 tech product flops and service fails in 2013

Some of 2013's most anticipated products and services may have drummed up support in the months prior to launch. But on opening day, it was nothing but stress and hassle.
By Zack Whittaker, Contributor
1 of 11 Electronic Arts (via CNET

SimCity servers stalled; launch was a complete disaster

There's nothing like cranking out a new game to play for the first time, especially if you've been waiting months — years, in some cases — for its release. Unfortunately for millions of SimCity fans, they were forced to wait a little bit longer, and then some.

Because SimCity was cloud-run and server-based, a platform shift away from previous games, the sheer number of users overwhelmed the back-end systems. Gamers weren't even able to log in half the time, and those that were part of the select and lucky few could barely do anything when in game-play mode. In some cases, large amounts of their created cities were lost, according to user reports

Users lambasted the game's maker for requiring an Internet connection to play as a result of the connection catastrophes. And when the city-making game landed on the Mac, many weren't surprised when they themselves suffered a similar stuttery state of affairs.

2 of 11 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Samsung sparked sexism storm at Galaxy S4 show

"Tone-deaf and shockingly sexist," former CNET executive editor Molly Wood described Samsung's launch of its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone in March. It was by all accounts an hour-long parade of stereotypes and awkward references that felt like the Korean giant was surreptitiously slapping us all gently on the backside while telling us not to "worry our pretty little heads" about the whole thing.

Somewhere in there, a phone was announced. It was hard to spot, truthfully. Critics and supporters alike panned the event, and Samsung was forced to issue an apology. Twice, in fact. Because only days later, the phone maker's South African subsidiary paraded scantly-clad women on stage under the notion that's what half the world's population (and Samsung's demographic audience) are interested in seeing.

Image via CNET

3 of 11 MySpace/YouTube

MySpace relaunch aimed to start afresh... by deleting everything

Once the darling child of the modern Internet, Myspace began tumbling down from the popularity pedestal under the News Corp. days. Things looked up in late 2012 when the site relaunched for what seemed to be the bajillionth time in an effort to catch up with the better-established social networks that overtook the social pioneer during its heyday.

Once the "beta" phase began to wane, the company saw most of its troubles as the site relaunched once again in June with a splashy new design that put musicians and artists at the forefront of the new service. Except, the decisions to shut down the games platform, and to delete almost every shred of existing content from 'classic' Myspace without consultation led to thousands of furious users. It even led to threats of legal action to get, in some cases, years worth of posts back.

4 of 11 CNET

Facebook Home had promise, but nobody wanted to move in

Countless rumors over the course of more than two years pointed to Facebook eventually building its own phone. Despite the social networking giant's insistence that it won't, the lid was lifted on what it had been working on: Facebook on a phone, a dedicated phone. So it was a Facebook phone (sort of).

Launching with the HTC First, Facebook Home was a part-loader, part-skin that was the company's big push into the mobile world. But it flopped, badly. Home barely took off, and HTC's flagship social phone barely resonated with buyers. Following AT&T's decision to drop the price from $99 to 99 cents, it was written off as an unmitigated disaster. One of the core reasons to the lack of interest was that users could already get Facebook on their phone, and didn't have to fork out close-to one hundred big-ones for it.

5 of 11 CBSNews.com

Healthcare.gov wasn't even close to being fit for use on its first day

Dubbed "Obamacare," the Affordable Care Act would go on to help millions of Americans find cheaper health insurance among other benefits. In spite of the political controversy that went with the bill, it eventually passed and rubber-stamped into law by President Obama. But the website, designed as a gateway for Americans seeking new and better healthcare, became a controversy in its own right shortly after it launched in October. 

To put it bluntly: it just didn't work. In the first few days, just a few hundred Americans were able to secure insurance using the site. Months later, only a few thousand have been able to use the site, which has been dogged with problems, erroneous data-sharing issues, privacy and security problems, and significant amounts of downtime. 

The White House eventually called in the big guns: Google, Oracle, and Red Hat to help fix the troubled site. Registration was extended into 2014 as a result of the issues. 

6 of 11 CNET

Surface, Windows RT launched but burned up in orbit

Anything "Windows" this year has been at the top of the contentious list. Microsoft may not be the Windows-making giant it once was — instead transforming into a devices and services company. But a good selection of its flagship devices struggled to get off the ground

Windows RT, the low-power ARM-based operating system, has barely taken off and forced Microsoft to take a $900 million inventory writedown on its Surface RT tablet in its fiscal fourth quarter earnings in July. The wider Surface picture isn't great either. Even the company itself said the fact it had three versions of Windows is confusing. Many still don't even know what the difference is between Windows 8 and Windows RT.

7 of 11 CNET

BlackBerry Z10 crashed the company into a financial brick wall

Out with the old, and in with the new. BlackBerry has burned over the past year. But it was a slow, painful, and agonizing decline. It was like watching the slowest-ever car crash. The company has vowed to clean up its act and get back on the horse.

First it was hit by a massive near-$1 billion loss as a result of the flop of its flagship BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, launched in January. And then the firm said it would put itself up for sale — so-called "strategic alternatives" — but that fell through, despite entering an agreement with an investment firm. Chief executive Thorsten Heins as a result resigned (although how far he was pushed remains unknown) and was replaced with former Sybase chief John Chen, who vowed not to "dwell on the past" and to power through financial hardship.

There is hope for BlackBerry now, however. But whether it's a case of plugging the leaks in the sinking ship, or evacuating before it goes under completely, only time will tell.

8 of 11 CNET

Google TV struggles; regenerates as Android TV?

Google had nothing but good intentions when it announced Google TV back in October 2010. With Intel, Sony, and Logitech on board, it had the support of giants working together to bring cheap and interactive Internet-connected television to the wider market.

Three years later, all signs point to a massive rebrand that may play into the consumer market, relaunching as Android TV.

The first major signs of trouble, aside from poor uptake and slow development, arrived in the form of Chromecast, a small USB device that allowed users to stream content from multiple devices to their televisions. It seemed for a while like the younger sibling was trying to outshine the bigger brother. Even though the product was solid and many who used it loved it, Google TV just couldn't take off. It may see its revival in Android TV, however. If that's the case, we can technically bid "adieu" to Google TV for good.

9 of 11 CNET

Twitter Music couldn't find its voice

People go to Twitter to share random inane thoughts, share news, and even topple dictators. And beyond that, pictures and video and other content can be shared. But not so much music, the microblogging company soon found out, as its music discovery service failed to take off after about six months of public availability.

Weeks after sister site CNET first discovered Twitter Music, its doors were flung open to the general public. Anger brewed initially as the service was only available to the social network's elite. But soon after, things began to unravel. Twitter Music founder Kevin Thau left the company, which sent the first smoke signal that the product might have been in trouble. Over time, it still couldn't drum up a significant amount of user interest, with users instead heading to Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes. 

Six months later, Twitter reportedly remains on the fence about taking its music service "round the back of the sheds," if you catch my drift. While the service was designed to generate additional revenue off the back of its still-developing advertising program, the company may have better luck in its television-focused efforts.

10 of 11 CNET

Ubuntu Edge began life as a concept... and stayed a concept

It was certainly a nice idea, and a well-thought out way to drum up cash to support its development. But getting the Ubuntu Edge smartphone into development failed before the device itself even had a chance to succeed or fail in its own right.

The idea was simple: it would serve as a phone in the hand, and a PC when docked with a monitor. The Linux-powered part-smartphone part-desktop could have significantly shaken up the smartphone market had the crowdsourcing effort worked. Bloomberg backed the idea and funded $80,000 into the pot to receive 100 devices and other benefits. Drumming up $2 million in the first eight hours, a massive drop-off in investor support saw the fund grow to just $13 million by the end. The target was $32 million.

Even though the highly anticipated device wasn't able to reache the market, Mark Shuttleworth, chief executive of Ubuntu's parent company Canonical, claimed his vision lives on in the form of the iPhone 5s. He said the Edge smartphone "may have accelerated the idea of convergence," but the latest Apple's smartphone is powerful enough to be "desktop class." 

11 of 11 CNET

iPhone 5c: The 'budget' smartphone that never was

There were leaks-a-plenty in the run-up to Apple's September media event, where the technology giant would announce two smartphones — the premium iPhone 5s, and the cheaper iPhone 5c. But many were still surprised that Apple would deviate from its traditional one-device-at-a-time line-up and market multiple devices to different audiences.

But the company probably should have stuck to its guns. The iPhone 5c was considered the "entry-level" smartphone, but it cost only $100 less than its more powerful, premium counterpart. Chief executive Tim Cook said it was never its intent to be a low-cost device, even though the leaks had pointed to a device aimed at the emerging market. Demand was reportedly low, and as a result Apple kept mum on sales figures, likely not wanting to spook investors.

It's probably the one case of the year where speculation and rumor killed the product before it launched, rather than the company directly screwing up in some way. Expectations were simply way off base to reality, even if the price point was still a little too high.

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