Sometimes we have very notable advancements in the world of technology. Sometimes things come and we THINK they will be advancements and then it just fizzles away. This is just how things work. So, what do I think are the technology flops of 2007? Read on and find out.
I think Vista is perhaps the most obvious flop of the year. Windows XP long dominated the world of Microsoft Windows. After 6 years of development, one would think Windows Vista would be simply fantastic. It was advertised as the most secure Windows ever. It was rewritten for security and stability. It was supposed to give us the gorgeous design Apple users gloat over.
In reality, what we got was a beefy, bloated operating system with nothing incredibly noteworthy about it that caused instabilities on a multitude of systems. For various reasons, the driver support was not complete when Vista was announced. A slew of third-party applications required core-level changes to even work with Windows Vista. In short, Vista threw the Windows world into a tizzy of incompatibilities, crashes, and expensive hardware and software upgrades.
You could argue that this was just a continuation of the Windows trend. Each successive Windows version, unfortunately, gets bigger and beefier. Instead of concentrating on the core operating system, they load on more side features that could be better dealt with by third party vendors. Each Windows update usually does result in incompatibilities in the beginning and then it winds down as a barrage of updates fixe the problems. So, this is typical Microsoft.
What’s different is that this is the first Windows release to come out in the new Web 2.0, blog-heavy internet. Today, if something sucks, the whole world is going to know about it – FAST. Even if it doesn’t completely suck (and there is some good to Vista), the speed of complaining online has never been faster. So, Vista quickly got shot down and this leads to skepticism in the mind of the consumer. The result is an extension of the Windows XP product lifespan and some casual comparisons between Windows Vista and Windows ME. Ouch.
And to drive this point home even further, my Windows Vista laptop froze and crash while writing this very article. Go figure.
Facebook revolutionized social networking earlier in 2007 when it opened up a development platform for third-party developers. They were on a roll and Facebook was right up there with Apple in terms of sheer geek love.
Then came Beacon. It was supposed to revolutionize internet advertising by bringing the power of social proof to the world of ads. Cool in concept, yes. But, Facebook did not launch this thing very well and it resulted in a digital sh*tstorm of privacy concerns and embarassment for the company.
Facebook ultimately reversed many of the initial efforts to allay privacy concerns and Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of the company, had to issue a public apology in order to placate the allegations of silence.
A lot of people would probably be very surprised to see the Iphone listed here, so let me clarify one thing. In terms of innovation, the Iphone is fantastic. That has driven good sales for Apple and would easily land the Iphone on a list of 2007 successes as well. However, there are some things about the Iphone that I think Apple flopped on big time.
First and foremost, they locked the phone down to AT&T. I’m sure they had some profit-hungry reason for making this deal with AT&T, but it was bad for consumers. AT&T doesn’t have the best network around, and this shows itself in the fact that the Iphone crawls around the internet on the pokey EDGE network rather than the much snappier 3G network. AT&T recently let it be known that a 3G version of the Iphone will be coming out in 2008. This is good, but does nothing for the early adopters who screwed the pooch by buying this thing too early. All this after Apple also screwed early adopters by issuing significant price drops weeks into the launch.
Secondly, the fact that the Iphone was so closed and tightly controlled was, again, bad for consumers. Apple has gone out of it’s way to keep consumers from using their new Iphone how they see fit by actively blocking third party applications on the device. This has given rise to a whole movement online on how to hack the Iphone. Much to the chagrin of Apple, too, it is a movement they cannot control despite the number of firmware updates they release to try to break everything. Some argue that blocking third-party apps is a wise decision for fear of device instability. My response is that if I pay that much for a phone, I should be able to do anything I want with it.
Apple got a lot right when they designed the Iphone. However, they severely handicapped the phone unnecessarily by so tightly controlling it. Its a success and a flop, all in one. And only Apple could muster up the army of forgiving followers necessary to make such a device thrive on the buzz that it has gotten, despite these shortcomings. I guess this is a classic case of style over substance, and in this case style won over the crowd.
Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD
Lastly, I will mention the battle of the DVD formats. The fact that no headway has been made to raise a white flag here has lead to both formats being flops for 2007. Both sides continue to compete intensely, releasing more and more movies in both formats while the two continue to be incompatible.
The worse part is that the major content providers are falling evenly between the two camps. This means that buying a Blu-Ray player means that half the HD content out there is out of your reach. Vice versa for the HD-DVD players. The result has been lackluster migration to high definition DVDs and continued use of standard definition DVDs.
Until something happens here, both camps will remain in the “flop” category and both could end up in the dustbin of failed technology.