Apple’s tablet: No time for a flop
With Wednesday’s expected unveiling of the Apple tablet, the tech world is bracing for a device that could revolutionize everything from mobile computing to the newspaper industry. But what if the tablet doesn’t live up to expectations?
While Apple is known for its golden touch, the company has had its share of flops. The five products below represent some of Apple’s biggest disappointments; but they also provide important lessons that can be found in its smash hits.
Newton: First released in 1993, the Newton represented one of the first attempts at a mass-market, touchscreen-based handheld computer. But the brick-sized Message Pad family of devices that ran the Newton operating system were too big and, at $700-plus, too pricey. And the mixed results of the initial version of the handwriting recognition made Newtons an easy target for criticism.
While some cite the Newton as a progenitor to the iPhone and the expected tablet, it’s notable that the Newton was developed while Apple CEO Steve Jobs was in exile. Within two years of Jobs’ return in 1996, the Newton was cast overboard.
Lisa: Before there were Macs or Windows PCs, there was Apple’s Lisa, one of the first commercially available PCs to feature a graphical user interface. Introduced in 1983, the PC featured a 5Mhz Motorola 68000 CPU, 1MB of RAM and two 5.25 inch floppy drives. At $10,000, the Lisa was expensive even for business customers (Wikipedia cites NASA as one of the biggest customers) and its performance was deemed somewhat sluggish, according to some accounts. The release of the less expensive Macintosh PCs in 1994 1984 made it hard to justify purchasing a Lisa, and Apple killed the product in 1986.
Pippin: Unlike the Newton and the Lisa, the Pippin was a relatively small-scale flop – mostly because it never really got off the ground. The console was based on Mac hardware but was designed to connect to a TV for playing video games and surfing the Web. Apple designed the Pippin – named after a relative of the McIntosh apple – to be marketed by other companies. But Japan’s Bandai was the only major company to jump on the bandwagon, releasing a U.S. product in 1996. According to some Apple-focused websites, Bandai sold a meagre 42,000 units before discontinued the product in 1998.
Rokr: Marrying cellphones and music is a no-brainer today, but Apple’s first stab at the combination hit a flat note. Two years before iPhone’s 2007 introduction, the Motorola Rokr was released, representing the first cell phone to boast direct integration of Apple’s iTunes music capabilities. But the handset was more of a jazzed-up candybar-style phone than a full-featured smartphone and the device could only hold 100 songs.
Apple TV: The Apple TV was formally unveiled at the same 2007 Macworld event as the iPhone, but the former never enjoyed the instant buzz that greeted the iPhone. The $229 sleek, white console lets consumers stream movies and music directly to their TVs and even rent movies online from iTunes. Apple doesn’t release any financial details about the Apple TV, but analysts say the device’s sales have been lackluster. Some industry observers think there’s still hope that the Apple TV could eventually play a bigger role at Apple down the line as improvements and new features make it more compelling.
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