Don't believe the hype: The 21 biggest IT flops

Overhyped 'Next Big Things' of the technology business

Iridium

It was an undeniably brilliant idea to launch 66 satellites and link them with mesh technology for routing calls to and from any point in the world. And when it started in 1998, Iridium entranced the technology world. "Iridium's core identity is defined by its transcendence of national borders, a structure that is particularly post-Cold War," Wired magazine gushed in its October 1998 cover story. "Iridium may well serve as a first model of the 21st-century corporation."

But Iridium's technology cost an immense amount of money to deploy, and most users were resistant to paying dollars per minute of call time and carrying around a phone larger than a brick. Less than a year later, Wired News backtracked, saying, "After losing nearly US$1 billion in two disastrous quarters, the engineering marvel is in danger of becoming the Ford Edsel of the sky."

In 2000, the company was taken over by Iridium Satellite, which recently said that it wants to launch new satellites and hopes to attract partners to provide services beyond basic voice calling, such as a next-generation global positioning system. Time will tell if its current incarnation is more successful than its first.

Microsoft Bob

Bob was a graphical user interface built on top of Windows 3.1. The idea was to make Windows palatable to nontechnical users. But Bob, released in 1995, was far more stupid than its users, most of whom saw the interface as an insult to their intelligence.

Bob's cartoon-like interface was meant to resemble an office or living room. You were walked through tasks by silly-looking cartoon characters (something Microsoft persisted in doing with its Windows Help system long after Bob perished).

Perhaps worst of all, Bob's logo included a yellow smiley face for the "o" in the name. Bob eventually faded away, and even Microsoft executives agreed it had been a miserable failure.

The Net PC

The Net PC was yet another small, overpromoted computing device aimed at home users.

Like the thin clients used in corporate IT, Net PCs consisted of a screen, keyboard and pointing device with little built-in intelligence. They were designed to be placed unobtrusively throughout the home, providing a simple user interface for Web and e-mail access.

The best-known Net PC was the iOpener by Netpliance, which ran ads during the 2000 Super Bowl, along with a host of other hype-happy technology start-ups that no longer exist. 3Com got into the act with its Audrey, and Oracle's Larry Ellison launched a company, New Internet Computer, to develop and sell the devices.

The problem: Net PCs were introduced just as the price of more intelligent desktop PCs was plummeting. Why buy an extremely limited device when you could get a full-featured computer for around US$300? After a couple of years of hype, Net PCs faded away.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Haskin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?