06.12.10 10:48 PM ET
Apple's 10 Biggest Flops
Ever wonder what Apple was like before the Macintosh? Watch this '80s-tastic promo video for the Apple Lisa and you’ll get a sense. While the Lisa was the first computer with a mouse and graphical user interface, its $9,000 price tag (that’s around $20,000 in 2010 money) didn’t exactly translate to success. Please note: The faux-Tangerine Dream soundtrack was not included with the computer.
Steve Jobs, in this video announcing the G4 Cube, calls the 8” x 8” computer “quite possibly the most beautiful product [Apple had] ever designed.” Fat lot of good that did: The overpriced, under-powered machine was discontinued the very next year after lackluster sales, despite winning several design awards.
Nowadays, the thought of all-powerful, do-no-wrong Apple Computer entering the videogame market would likely have Nintendo and Sony shaking in their boots. But not so much in 1996, when a then-foundering Apple introduced the “multimedia” hardware platform, the Pippin. The lackluster promo video accompanying the product was just the beginning—the actual machine had almost no software, and was quickly lost amid a saturated videogame platform market.
The are many reasons the “Macintosh Portable”—Apple’s first foray into the laptop business—failed, but chief among them may be that the computer, weighing in at 16 pounds, stretched the definition of “portable” just a little too far for most consumers. Even so, the device was well-received by critics, as this clip from late-'80s tech show Computer Chronicles demonstrates—listen in around the three-minute mark for the sound of the laptop crashing.
It seems unfair to call the Newton a failure, given that it was in many ways just ahead of its time. But there’s not a lot else to call the PDA, touted here in this very early-'90s ad, featuring a wryly affected voiceover and a meandering bassline. Though the Newton survived for six years despite poor sales, its department was the first to get the ax when Steve Jobs returned as a conquering hero in 1997.
Apple Puck Mouse
Steve Jobs is no stranger to hyperbole. And, given that his company has revolutionized the computer, cellphone, and music industries, we have to admit that a lot of the time, it’s warranted. Not so much here, where Jobs calls the “hockey puck” mouse—the shape of which was terribly designed in both an ergonomic and a practical sense—“the most wonderful mouse you’ve ever used.” Sorry, Steve.
What better way to sell a new operating system than with an ad featuring a richly appointed professor wandering around his office conversing with his computer—personified by a bow-tied talking head on his screen? Well—it might help if the OS actually exists, which “Knowledge Navigator” definitely didn’t.
G3 “Flower Power” iMac
As hideous as the original colors of the iMac may have been—“Bondi Blue” was not, and never will be, the new black—Apple took it to a whole new level with their “Flower Power” edition. Released alongside the similarly ugly “Blue Dalmatian,” the “Flower Power” iMac was like a terrible acid flashback in computer form. Its ads were no better.
20th Anniversary Mac
“It’s about the joy of holding and handling and using things that are very well made,” coos this commercial for the 20th Anniversary Mac. “Very well made,” sure, but is there any joy in owning a $7,000 computer that looks like a coffee pot? No? Most consumers didn’t think so, either.
When Apple launched Ping, its music-oriented social network, the company described the service as “Facebook and Twitter meets iTunes.” Sounds like a winning combination, right? Unfortunately, it seems users preferred that the three entities remain separate. Apple announced that it is shutting down Ping in favor of partnerships with Facebook and Twitter. It’s a quick end to the social network that had more than 1 million users within 48 hours of its launch in September 2010. Ping allowed users to follow artists, share samples of songs with friends, and show off their iTunes purchases. But many lost interest when they discovered Ping’s highly commercial nature. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at the service’s demise earlier this month when he explained that Apple customers do not “put a lot of energy” into Ping.