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2012 in Review: Tech Turkeys of the Year

And now, for your reading pleasure, the very worst from the tech world in 2012.
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Topic: Hardware
1 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Tech Turkeys of 2012

Thanksgiving of 2012 is just around the corner, and you know what that means... holiday gift lists and end of year news re-cap articles!

But before we get there, I think it would be best to talk about Turkeys. Not Thanksgiving Turkeys, the juicy, delicious kind with savory gravy that everyone loves. I'm talking about TECH TURKEYS, the worst products and services that have graced the pages of ZDNet over the past year.

So without further ado, the TECH TURKEYS of 2012.

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2 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Nexus Q

Among the various announcments at Google IO 2012 was this... thing. Dubbed the Nexus Q, it was a $299 streaming media device which ran Android that was supposed to compete with the Apple TV and Roku's steraming media player.

Rather than being a standalone device, the Nexus Q required an Android smartphone or tablet to control it. Compared with Apple and Roku's sub-$100 devices, it was also overpriced.

Google eventually decided that this product was so bad, that it decided not to launch it onto the public after the first round of reviews. Now that's a turkey.

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3 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Apple iOS6 Maps

The release of the iOS6 operating system brought forth a number of changes, the most significant of which was Apple Maps, which replaced Google Maps in previous versions of the operating system. Among other competitive improvements, 3D map views of detailed cityscapes was supposed to be one of the features that distinguished it from Google's offering.

It was expected Apple's Maps was going to be on par with Google's offering in every other respect. But when the iOS6 update was released and the iPhone 5 came to market, it was quickly found out that directions and GPS points of interest were wildly innacurate, and the 3D renderings showed buildings and major landmarks in a distorted form that looked like something out of Salvador Dali's "Persistence of Memory". 

In what is now referred to as the "Map Flap" Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology over the software, stating:

"At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers"

When your CEO has to apologize for a botched product release, it's a Tech Turkey.

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4 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Electronic Wallets

This year, both Google and Apple embraced the concept of Electronic Wallets in an attempt to try to use technology to solve a problem that didn't really need solving: Money and Credit cards.

In theory, Near-Field Computing and Electronic wallets are nifty ideas -- instead of pulling out your wallet and cash or credit cards to pay for something, you pull out your smartphone or other mobile device, and the vendor/merchant uses a scanner (barcode or NFC) to deduct payments from your credit card or loyalty program of choice.

So far, Google Wallet, which has been out for almost a year has been a dud, as has been Apple's Passbook which was recently introduced in iOS6. Few apps have been optimized to take advantage of these new payment systems and NFC infrastructure at the majority of brick and mortar merchants is severely lacking. Apple's iPhone 5 completely lacks NFC hardware, so it had to use barcodes instead.

While there is some hope on the horizon for NFC payments on Android phones with the recently announced ISIS alliance between wireless carriers, the new electronic wallet app is only useable in Salt Lake City and Austin so far, in limited locations.

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5 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Apple Mac Pro (2012)

Apple came out with a whole bunch of great products in 2012, but the "revised" Macintosh Pro was not one of them. Pressured into a new release of the high-end graphical workstation after 18 months without any improvements, the 2012 version of the Mac Pro was underwhelming, to say the least.

Retaining the big, bulky PC tower design of its 2010 version, as well as nearly identical parts, the "new" version of the Mac Pro still started at $2499 and included a minor speed boost on the 6-core Xeon CPUs and had SSD drive options. With no graphics processor improvements or even the ability to interface with Apple's Thunderbolt Display, the Mac Pro is a dinosaur among highly evolved Apple desktops such as the current generation iMacs.

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6 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

SONY PS Vita

The PS Vita, heralded by SONY as the true successor to their PSP (Playstation Portable) was supposed to be the most important video game product release of the year. The release of the new handheld gaming device was particularly critical for the beleaguered Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer, which has been encountering a whole bevy of financial problems in recent times.

The PS Vita launched in late 2011 in Japan with only 25 titles, and while initial sales were brisk to the tune of several hundred thousand units, it quickly tapered off, and even the previous generation and less expensive product, the PSP, which has a much larger game library began to outsell it globally by February of 2012.

Although the unit has impressive technical specs and has garnered good reviews, the product lacks significant developer support and is an expensive product for a $249-$250 device that only plays games, and is already outstripped in terms of speed, graphics and overall game titles by the iPad, iPad Mini, iPod Touch as well as numerous other Android devices.

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7 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS, was announced at the CTIA conference in Hong Kong in October of 2011. Sales of the first widely-avaliable ICS handset, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus began in November 2011 in Europe and North America. 

As an attempt to unify the tablet and smartphone versions of the Android OS, Google had ambitious plans to get it on as many handsets as possible, in order to reduce the amount of platform fragmentation that has been plaguing the mobile OS ecosystem since its launch in 2007.

As of November 2012, one year after its release, ICS accounts for about 25 percent of all OSes installed on Android phones. But it pales in comparison to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which occupies over 53 percent of the installed base and is four generations behind the current build of Android, Jelly Bean 4.2.

OEMs have struggled to update Gingerbread-based dual-core handsets and tablets to ICS, taking as much as a year to do so, and some, such as Google's Motorola Mobility division have even had to abandon their efforts due to the technical complexities involved.

As if this wasn't bad enough Jelly Bean, version 4.2, has been on the market since late summer and is already in the crosshairs of OEMs looking to release new handsets and tablets. Like version 3.0 "Honeycomb" before it, ICS it seems was a yet another transitional operating system release with a limited lifespan.

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8 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Motorola Mobility

Motorola Mobility failed on so many levels in 2012 that it's hard to quantify the extent of their incompetence.

Not only have they consistently failed to innovate after being acquired by Google, the company released a number of Android handsets of questionable quality, stability and performance, that have been mired by shovelware and awful user interface overlays.

The company has also reneged on its promises to upgrade an entire generation of dual-core handsets released in late 2011 to Ice Cream Sandwich, effectively leaving many of its existing customers in the lurch.

Motorola, what the hell happened to you?

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9 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Verizon Galaxy Nexus

In October of 2011, during the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich at CTIA, many of us were happy to hear about the release of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the United States on Verizon.

Here, was the state of the art in Android handsets, a pure "Google Experience" device running on the latest Android 4.0 OS, and running on what was arguably North America's best 4G wireless network.

Those of us who bought the device and were expecting rapid updates to Google's latest Android goodness and patch releases soon discovered that while this device was branded as a "Nexus" the complications of having it introduced on Verizon meant that it contained proprietary CDMA/LTE code the Global GSM/HSPA version did not have, and thus lagged far behind its European and Asian counterpart in terms of support.

To add insult to injury, contract negotiations with Verizon precluded the inclusion of Google Wallet on the North American version. Verizon Galaxy Nexus customers waited months for basic bugfixes after the European version, and got its "Jelly Bean" update 2 months after the GSM version as well.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus was plagued with an inferior wireless transciever to the GSM edition, resulting in bad reception and data connectivity issues.

In terms of delivering on Google's promises for an "Experience" device, the Galaxy Nexus was a fail.

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10 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Nokia Lumia 900

The Nokia Lumia 900, which was released with tremendous fanfare by the Finnish handset manufacturer as their flagship Windows Phone 7 product was effectively abandoned seven months after its North American launch in favor of newer Windows Phone 8-based devices.

Sales of the Lumia 900 since announcing the replacement phones have been abyssmal, and the company is facing severe financial problems which could impact the future of the company as a result, among other contributng factors.

Existing Lumia 900 customers got a software upgrade to Windows Phone 7.8 which has some minor improvements which includes a Windows Phone 8 UI "facelift", but the phone is now "Osborned" given that the 820 and 920 models have been released as its replacement.

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11 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Research in Motion

What's there to say about RIM that hasn't already been said?

The entire company essentially imploded in 2012. This included a management shakeup that resulted in the ouster of both of its Co-CEOs, what essentially amounts to zero growth in sales of ther BlackBerry 7 handsets and a channel full of unsold inventory, running the company under a huge operating loss and missing all of Wall Street's revenue estimates, and engaging in what could eventually amount to be thousands of layoffs for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company.

Look up the word "Beleaguered" on any tech news site, and the words "Research in Motion" are almost certainly going to accompany it. That's how dire the situation is with the company now.

If any company would take the top "Turkey" position on this list in 2012 it would have to be RIM. But hope is on the horizon.

While the company has missed its initial target to release its next-generation, QNX-bassed BlackBerry 10 handsets in 4Q 2012, we should be seeing them early next year, short of another crisis brewing that we aren't aware of yet.

If the user experience is as good as the demos have shown, and the apps are there, then the company could very well experience a turnaround.

But RIM's got a very steep hill to climb when the market has already 3 other compelling mobile platforms which have significant developer attention as well as consumer and enterprise mindshare.

12 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Advanced Micro Devices

While there are other companies that made the list for being Tech Turkeys, such as Research In Motion and Nokia, both of which are also in dire financial straits, AMD distinguishes itself for its pure lack of innovation in the semiconductor space.

Once able to outclass Intel on price and performance on PC desktops and on servers, the company has been reduced to an also-ran that has mismanaged its technology acquisitions (such as ATI) and has been unable to adapt to the changing Post-PC era.

The financially desperate chip manufacturer has recently had to slash prices on its desktop chips in order to move a glut of microprocessor inventory, close down its Open Source development laboratory in Germany as well as axe approximately 400 staff in its Austin, TX headquarters. 

While the company recently announced new 16-core x86-compatible Opteron 6300 server processors (which are still not expected to compete with Intel's current generation of Nehalem server chips on performance) and has also announced plans to produce low-power server chips based on the new ARM50 architecture, it isn't expected to deliver on this promise for at least two years, assuming the company is still an going concern by that timeframe.

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13 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox is currently the #2 web browser. That position is now threatened by Google's Chrome, which is expected to overtake it in market share by the end of the year.

In 2012, Mozilla Firefox was mired with various critical bugs over iterative releases that caused the software to act sluggish.

Once hailed as a high-performance, bloatware-free browser alternative to Internet Explorer, it became the very thing it tried not to emulate, and even Microsoft proved that it could out-fox Firefox in terms of performance and memory utilization with IE 9 and also IE 10, which was released with Windows 8 and has been backported to Windows 7, with a pre-release due at the end of November.

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14 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

GNOME 3.4

Under development for several years as the replacement for GNOME 2.x on Linux-based desktop OSes, GNOME 3.X has slowly exited "experimental" mode and has finally become the default UI on Redhat's Fedora distribution, which replaced the very much long in the tooth GNOME 2.4 with GNOME 3.2 in Fedora 16.

Fedora 17, which was released in May of 2012, includes a further refined version, version 3.4.

While GNOME 3.x includes a number of software enhancements over its predecessor, Linus Torvalds, the inventor and maintainer of the Linux kernel has hailed the 3.4 software release as a "total UX failure" and "one step forward, one step back" 

Look, if the chief penguin himself slaps you down, you know it's time to go back to the drawing board, GNOME-ies.

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15 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Facebook for Android

Facebook. You know you gotta have it on your smartphone and tablets.

Well, maybe not. Facebook for Android is probably one of the most consistently unstable and poorest performing apps on the Google mobile platorm. 

How bad is it? It's so bad that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has confiscated iPhones from all of his key developers and has forced them to use Android devices so that they can do a complete re-write based on native code like the iOS version currently enjoys, rather than the HTML5 it is written in now.

Unlike its iOS counterpart, Facebook for Android lacks tablet optimization so it looks like a blown-up smartphone app, even on the highest resolution tablet screens.

And did I mention it was slow and buggy? Oh my God, so slow.

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16 of 16 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Twitter

Twitter has been on a tear lately by re-vamping all of its native apps on the various mobile platforms.

The company has also read the riot act to 3rd-party application developers, which have now been told their userbases can never exceed a certain amount of API calls and 100,000 users total, effectively making the migration path toward's Twitter's own clients inevitable.

This would not be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that Twitter's own clients, well.. suck compared to the stuff that has been created by 3rd-parties.

Not only do Twitter's mobile clients lack significant features the other clients for mobile platforms have, and lack the polish and refinement that exists in 3rd-party software, but in the case of the iPad version, it's actually a horrendous waste of space if you use the software in landscape mode.

Dear Twitter: Your clients for mobile platforms are a whale of a fail.

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