The 20 Biggest Tech Failures of 2010

As we wrap up 2010, it's a good time to look back at some of the most notable tech failures of the year..

  • Microsoft Kin

    We saved the biggest failure for last. [[xref:|Microsoft's Kin|Microsoft Kin]] phone had the [[xref:|perfect setup|Why Microsoft's Kin Phones Were Destined to Fail]] for a colossal flop, [[xref:|from heaps of hype|The Curious Thing About Microsoft Kin]] (the Verizon-Microsoft collaboration was once rumored to be an iPhone-killer) to a splashy marketing campaign aimed at cool teens and twentysomethings. But the product itself had the [[xref:|limitations of a feature phone|Microsoft Introduces 'social Phone,' Kin]] —no video sharing, GPS, or apps—despite smartphone data pricing. The [[xref:|Kin|Microsoft Kin Gets a Price Cut…Already]] was [[xref:|discontinued|Microsoft Discontinues Kin]] after just [[xref:|six weeks|Microsoft Kin: A (Not So) Fond Farewell]], though it recently [[xref:|made a comeback|Leaks Expose Rebirth of Microsoft Kin Not-So-Smartphone]] with stripped-down features and cheaper subscription plans. We suspect that Microsoft and Verizon are just dumping old inventory.
  • As we wrap up 2010, it's a good time to look back. This was a [[xref:|good year|Best Tech Products 2010: Full List, 1-100]] for consumer technology, introducing everything from [[xref:|advanced smartphones|Apple 32GB iPhone 4]] to [[xref:|cheap e-readers|Kindle 3 Ships This Week: Are You Getting One?]] to [[xref:|bold new set-top boxes|Boxee Box Debuts in a Packed Internet-Connected Set-Top Box Field]]. And let's not forget the [[xref:|rise of the tablet|iPad, Fastest-Selling Electronic Device…Ever]] with the [[xref:|introduction|Apple's iPad: The First Reviews Are In]] of the [[xref:|Apple iPad|Apple iPad]].

    But you can't really appreciate the highs without remembering the lows, right? And this year was filled with botched experiments and bad ideas. Here's a look at 2010's biggest bloopers and failures in tech.

  • Google Buzz

    Google's [[xref:|foray|Google Apologizes for Buzz Privacy Issues]] into the social networking/microblogging sphere backfired when people found themselves reconnected with ex-lovers and old coworkers due to an "automatic follow" algorithm. Gmail users [[xref:|weren't too keen|Google Hit with Lawsuit Over Google Buzz]] on having their most-contacted lists aired to the public, and the Buzz fiasco ultimately ended in a [[xref:|class-action settlement|Google Settles Buzz Lawsuit With No Payout to Gmail Users]]. The service was a tough sell to begin with, providing no Facebook integration and no way to push status updates to other social networks.
  • Apple Ping

    Google wasn't the only company to introduce a botched social network this year. The biggest flaw of Apple's Ping— [[xref:|and there are many|Five Reasons I Won't Be Using Ping]] —is the fact that it's accessible only through iTunes or an iOS app. Want to commit social network suicide? Pull an Apple and [[xref:|shut yourself off|In Sign of Ping Flop, Apple Pleads for Users]] from the rest of the Web.
  • Google Wave

    Wave technically debuted in 2009, but the messaging and collaboration tool [[xref:|finally went public in May|Google Wave Opens Up, Finally]]. By then, the initial excitement over Wave had subsided, mostly because people didn't know [[xref:|what it was|What is Google Wave?]] or [[xref:|what to do with it|Google Wave: What It Is And How It Works]]. Google [[xref:|killed the project|Google Axes Wave]] less than three months later.
  • Net Neutrality

    Chalk up the decline of net neutrality to a few key events. First, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the FCC [[xref:|did not have the authority|Court Rules Against FCC's Comcast Net Neutrality Decision]] to stop Internet service providers from throttling peer-to-peer file sharing. Then, Google and Verizon proposed their own net neutrality framework that [[xref:|abandoned wireless regulation|Google-Verizon Net Neutrality Pact: 5 Red Flags]] and [[xref:|caused a major backlash among tech watchers|Google-Verizon Net Neutrality Critics Pile On]]. The FCC talked of [[xref:|reclassifying broadband|FCC's Broadband Reclassification: What's Next?]] to gain more regulatory power, but is now [[xref:|considering softer rules|considering softer rules]] to appease both sides.
  • Facebook Privacy

    Facebook continues to grow, but privacy snafus dinged the site's reputation among tech-savvy users this year, culminating in [[xref:|an overhaul of user privacy controls|Facebook's Zuckerberg Answers Critics With New Privacy Controls]]. The gaffes are too numerous to mention in this blurb, so [[xref:|here's a summary|Facebook Privacy Failure: Latest in Long Line of Blunders]].
  • McAfee's False Positive

    A [[xref:|bad software update from McAfee|McAfee Antivirus Update Halts Corporate PCs]] put computer viruses to shame in April, when it shut down thousands of corporate Windows XP computers around the country. The problem? McAfee's software flagged a critical system file as malicious and dumped it into quarantine. Whoops!
  • Palm Pre and WebOS

    If you thought Palm's Pre would get a second wind on AT&T and Verizon this year, you'd be wrong. Gartner [[xref:|didn't even give the Pre's WebOS its own category|Mobile Phone Sales Explode: Five Findings]] when summing up smartphone market share. And if you thought WebOS would make a big comeback [[xref:|under HP|HP to Buy Palm for $1.2 Billion]], well, that hasn't happened yet—unless you [[xref:|count touchscreen printers|The HP Tablet Is Here … In a Printer]].
  • The HP Slate

    Even before Apple released the iPad, HP was [[xref:|positioning itself as a main competitor|HP Promises Everything the iPad Isn't with Slate]]. The HP Slate was supposed to have everything the iPad didn't—Adobe Flash, front and rear cameras, USB input, removable storage—but plans changed when [[xref:|HP acquired Palm|HP to Buy Palm for $1.2 Billion]]. Suddenly, the Slate went dark, eventually emerging as a business tablet with limited appeal. It was so limited, in fact, that [[xref: |HP expected to sell only 5000 units| HP's Slate Debuts: Who's Buying it?]], but "exceeded expectations" with 9000 orders.
  • Android Tablets

    2010 was supposed to be the year of tablets, but instead [[xref:|only one|Apple iPad with Wi-Fi 32GB]] dominated the market. Sure, Samsung's Galaxy Tab is [[xref: |a decent enough rival|Samsung Galaxy Tab (T-Mobile)]] to Apple's iPad, but most manufacturers decided to wait until next year, when Google will release [[xref:|Honeycomb|Google Demos Motorola Tablet Running Android 3.0]], a tablet-oriented version of Android. Other Android tablets, such as [[xref:|ICD's Ultra|ICD Ultra]] (pictured), simply vanished from public consciousness.
  • Google Nexus One

    Tech watchers had high hopes for [[xref:|Google's own Android smartphone|Nexus One]], whose contract-free online-sales model was supposed to stick it to wireless carriers. Just one snag: Google relies on those wireless providers to make Android a success in the first place. When [[xref:|Sprint and Verizon lost interest|Why Sprint And Verizon Nixed the Nexus One]] in carrying the Nexus One, so did Google, and [[xref:|the revolution died|Google's Nexus One: How the Revolution Died]].
  • The JooJoo

    If the JooJoo, [[xref:|nee CrunchPad|The CrunchPad is now the JooJoo]], hadn't come from the mind of TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, it probably would have received less attention. But buzz can't save a poor product, and the buggy, slow JooJoo [[xref:|never stood a chance|JooJoo Tablet PC Is Doomed]], especially when it landed around the same time as the iPad.
  • Plastic Logic Que

    [[xref:|Announced|CES: Plastic Logic's Que E-Reader Revealed]], [[xref:|delayed|Plastic Logic Delays Release of Que E-Reader]], and [[xref:|killed|Plastic Logic Kills Que E-Book Reader]] in the span of eight months, Plastic Logic's Que was just another casualty in the [[xref:|e-reader price war|Kindle's E-Reader Price War: Who'll Blink First?]]. As lovely as an 8.5-by-11-inch E-Ink display sounds, the $649 starting price tag pretty much guaranteed that the Que would be dead on arrival. Plastic Logic says it's still working on a next-generation model.
  • Gray Powell and Brian Hogan

    Calling Apple engineer Gray Powell a failure for losing the iPhone 4 prototype in a bar is a little too harsh—after all, it was his birthday—so we'll split the award and give him just half. The other half goes to Brian Hogan, the guy who picked up the phone and sold it to Gizmodo for $5000. Hogan failed to cover his tracks, and now "regrets" his "mistake in not doing more to return the phone," [[xref:|says his lawyer|iPhone Finder Regrets His ‘Mistake’]]. The fact that a lawyer is saying this should tell you just how far that case has gone.
  • iPhone 4 Antenna

    Whether you think the [[xref:|iPhone 4's antenna debacle|Apple's iPhone 4G Debacle: A Timeline]] was [[xref:|overblown|Apple's Free iPhone 4 Cases Come with Pinch of Scorn]] or totally justified, the egg on Apple's face was undeniable. It just shows how much people expect of the iPhone, and how a frenzy can erupt when a product doesn't work quite right.

    Image: [[xref:|IntoMobile|IntoMobile]]
  • White iPhone 4

    Vaporware isn't usually Apple's thing, but the white iPhone 4 went up in smoke after months of broken promises. First it was [[xref:|pushed to July|Don't Cry for Me, Fashionista: White iPhone 4 Delayed]]. Then "[[xref:|later this year|White iPhone Delayed Again]]." And now it's supposedly slated for [[xref:|spring 2011|White IPhone 4 Available Now, If You Live in the Future]], which raises one question: [[xref:|Doesn't it make more sense|Is the White iPhone 4 Vaporware?]] for Apple to focus on a pale iPhone 5?
  • BlackBerry Torch

    The BlackBerry Torch, with its "evolutionary triple axle," [[xref:|isn't a bad phone|RIM BlackBerry Torch]] —but it's definitely [[xref:|not the home run that Research In Motion needs|Blackberry Torch 9800: Try Again, RIM]] to get its groove back, as smartphone buyers increasingly anticipate getting iPhones and Androids instead of BlackBerrys.

    After [[xref:|dropping Jeeves|Ask Jeeves to Unveil Improvements, New Brand]] in 2006, was never quite the same. The company redesigned its search product [[xref:|several times|Yet Another New]] over the past few years, and in November finally decided to [[xref:|throw in the Gives Up on Search: Site Refocuses on Q&A Service]] and outsource searches to a third party. will now focus solely on its question-and-answer service—at least until it gets the redesign bug again.
  • Blockbuster

    Blockbuster's bankruptcy filing [[xref:|was no surprise|Blockbuster Goes Bust - Surprise!]] to users of video rental 2.0—namely, Netflix, Redbox, Hulu, and various set-top boxes and cable on-demand services. Although the company does offer Blockbuster On-Demand and mail-in rentals, this might be a case of "too little, too late," because there's no strategy to make its services any better than what's already available. Blockbuster's rival, Hollywood Video, went bankrupt and closed its doors in February.

    (Image: [[xref:|Gadgetsteria|Gadgetsteria]])
  • MySpace

    MySpace's new design takes the focus off social networking and emphasizes media discovery. [[xref:|We think it's a mess|Yep, I’m Too Old for the New MySpace]], but it's also a concession: Facebook won the social war. And if you can't beat 'em, [[xref:|join 'em|Myspace's Facebook 'Mashup' — Why Bother?]].
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