The worst tech flops and service fails of all time

What do Google's Notebook, Apple's Ping and Microsoft's Zune have in common? Failure to launch, closure, and poor sales -- and they are all part of the worst tech flops and service fails.
1 of 17 Josh Miller/CNET

Facebook Phone

The ill-fated HTC First, also known as the Facebook Phone, was doomed before launch. The Android skin, dedicated to Facebook Home, did not prove popular — especially as it is far from an exclusive piece of software — and despite a $99 price tag, failed to garner much interest. The death knell was struck when the exclusive carrier, AT&T, began offering the handset for 99 cents in what it called at the time a "temporary sale."


2 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

America Online, AOL

At its peak, America Online (AOL) accounted for over 30 million subscribers, garnered through internet newbies and heavy marketing which left us drowning in free AOL discs every time we opened a tech magazine. However, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) was well-known for dial-up problems, slow and stuttering software and questionable billing. It may have improved of late after rebranding as a content provider, but the stigma remains. 


3 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Eyetop Wearable DVD player, 2004

Google wasn't the first company to experiment with wearable technology by a long shot, and despite criticism of the Google Glass headset's look, it's a vast improvement on the Eyetop Wearable DVD player. The product consisted of heavy-duty shades equipped with a 320 x 240 pixel LCD screen embedded in the right eyepiece, and the LCD was meant to simulate as a 14-inch screen. Sadly, the product was an utter flop and users complained of motion sickness.

If you wanted to use the glasses, you also needed to carry the DVD player and battery pack in a shoulder sling.

Via: Uxpin

4 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Microsoft Vista

While Microsoft's Windows operating system remains a popular choice, the 2007 Windows Vista system offered little more than XP did in terms of security features, and was not compatible with many older PCs, preventing consumers who were likely to otherwise upgrade from doing so. In addition, from my own experience, I found it ran more slowly than its predecessor Windows XP. It failed to really take off, and so many users either stuck to Windows XP or jumped straight to Windows 7. 

5 of 17 Wikimedia Commons


Only two years after video cassettes became mainstream and VCRs were still the recording and viewing medium of choice, Laserdisc appeared on the scene. These high-capacity storage discs, a predecessor to compact discs, were huge and easily broken. However, the main reason for Laserdisc's failure to take off was the high price for the discs and their players. 

6 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET


HD DVD or Blu-ray — Toshiba or Sony? Both content disc types were released at roughly the same time in 2006, but Blu-ray emerged as the top dog. The reason why is most commonly cited as Sony's persistence in getting movie studios to release high-definition movie editions in Blu-ray, and when Warner Brothers adopted Blu-ray exclusively, the battle was won. It is believed that Toshiba's support of the HD DVD product lost the firm over $1 billion in investment.  



7 of 17 Microsoft

Microsoft Zune

Launched in 2006, the Microsoft Zune was a 30GB music player that retailed for $249.99. Built to compete with Apple's iPod, the portable music player suffered poor sales and failed to make a dent in the market. It's a pity, considering the music player was a robust and decent gadget. 

8 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Twitter Music

In less than a year, Twitter's standalone music app failed to take off and ended up being killed off. Discovered by CNET in 2013, the #Music discovery app failed to drum up any true user interest thanks to rivals such as Pandora, YouTube and Spotify. 


9 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Facebook Deals

Four months after testing a Groupon and LivingSocial rival dubbed Facebook Deals, the social networking giant quietly killed off the service. Facebook Deals was intended to be a way for users to find local bargains and promotions through social media, but after a small pilot program in cities including San Francisco, Austin and Atlanta and the appointment of a sales team that arranged deals with local merchants, the idea was scrapped. 

10 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Google's Dodgeball hit in the face with FourSquare

In 2005, Google acquired location-specific social networking site startup Dodgeball. The social network could have held promise, but the site was not utilized for two years — as the firm's co-founder, Dennis Crowley, departed in frustration and went on to develop the popular Foursquare. 

Via: VentureBeat

11 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Google Notebook

In 2009, Google Notebook, which enabled people to combine clipped URLs from the web and notes into documents they could share and publish, was closed down and documents merged with Google Docs. Despite the popularity of the latter, the closure was a "spring clean" of sorts which resulted in Google shuttering many services.

Via: Google

12 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

QR codes

QR codes, also known as "Quick Response" codes, can be scanned using your mobile device's camera to reveal the URL of a webpage. They have popped up all over the place, from billboards to packaging, but haven't truly taken off due to the time needed to pull out a device and scan, only to be sent to an address you could have otherwise visited having just been given it visually. They can contain more information than standard barcodes, but in advertising — especially when many mobile device users do not know their function — perhaps QR codes are destined to remain a flop. 

13 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Original Microsoft Xbox 360

I still remember receiving the classic original Xbox. Sadly, my delight was short-lived, due to the rapid appearance of the Red Ring of Death.

The Red Ring of Death, three red flashing lights that rendered the console little more than a brick, was experienced not only by myself but by what is estimated to be a vast percentage of the original console's users. The problem was bad enough that Microsoft extended warranty on the Xbox to three years, and the Redmond giant took an earnings charge of over $1 billion fixing the problem. 


14 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Windows Me

Windows Me, considered by many techies to be nothing more than a buggy disaster, was a 2000 operating system released by Microsoft. The system was unreliable, there were installation problems and compatibility issues with other software. As PC World called it, this was the true "Millennium bug."

Via: PC World

15 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET


Google is certainly a top player in the technology realm, and is known for innovative projects including Google Glass, autonomous cars and the use of balloons to expand wifi access. However, the California-based firm's entry into social networking was not such a success. The would-be Facebook and Twitter rival failed to secure user interest, and although many now subscribe to a profile, it is far from the level of popularity Facebook enjoys. 


16 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET


Ping, Apple's attempt to connect up the iTunes store with a social network, got off to a good start — but failed to retain users after the network became inundated with spam, fake accounts and dodgy links. The iPad and iPhone maker eventually shuttered the service and instead released iTunes with an option for Facebook integration. 

17 of 17 Charlie Osborne/ZDNET

Windows Phone

The Windows Phone operating system, a rival OS to Google's Android and Apple's iOS, has barely made a dent in securing market share. There are a number of reasons why the system has proved to be a sales flop, from a congested smartphone space and stronger rivals to a ghost town of an app ecosystem. 

The pace is slowly picking up — from 1 percent of the market to 2 percent — but adoption rates are likely far from what Microsoft would have wished. 

Via: ZDNet


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