6 Worst Tech Blunders of 2013
There were plenty of tech advancements this year that might have made you want to rush out and do an office-wide upgrade.
But there were lots of others that only resulted in companies with egg on their faces. In some cases, we don't know what the true fall-out will be yet--the technology either died suddenly or is still going through a slow death. But one thing is clear: you can learn plenty about marketing and innovation from these flops.
We may never know quite what went wrong with BlackBerry, the smartphone. Something definitely went wrong with BlackBerry, the company. At an event in late January, the company formerly known as RIM announced the Z10 model, which turned out to be a smart business device. It locked away business files and messages nicely in a secure container. The BlackBerry Messenger app for Android could have created some momentum, but the company botched the launch. Oh, and they botched just about everything else, too. A sure sign you don't know your own brand: this commercial looks like the Z10 wants to take on the iPhone. Bad move.
2. Apple iPhone 5C
Despite recent reports that this budget iPhone in multiple colors is starting to catch on with consumers, I'm not so sure. One report says Apple has cut production of the 5C model by 35 percent. Why the decline? Try holding one in your hand. It feels a bit cheap and goofy compared to the solid iPhone 5S, which, in my opinion, is one of the best gadgets of the year. The 5C lacks a fingerprint sensor. Another problem: take a close look at the specs. The processor in the 5C is the exact same chip as the one in the older iPhone 5. But the biggest issue is how the 5C degrades the Apple brand. It's just not a brilliant phone. It's a so-so consumer phone.
3. Windows 8 touch interface
Microsoft released Windows 8 in late 2012, but it didn't really make a splash in business until this year. Actually, it was more like a thud. Despite impressive sales numbers as expected (just about every new laptop these days has it pre-installed), there's still quite a bit of confusion about the touch interface known as Metro. PC support company Soluto released a report this year that said almost half of Windows 8 tablet users don't even bother using Metro apps. On laptops with a touchscreen, 60 percent don't bother with Metro more than once per day, which is a sure sign of failure. There are too few touch apps anyway--plus, once you do add some, they get lost in the Metro UI clutter.
4. Google Reader
In July, Google decided to pull the plug on Google Reader, a tool for browsing Web articles. Granted, many of us use Twitter now because it's a much better way to find curated links and catch up on real-time news. But there was something a bit disconcerting about Google abandoning the Reader app. Many smaller "reader app" companies like Prismatic jumped on the opportunity to capture market share. Yet, after all these months, I still haven't found an app that worked like Reader for searching articles. Most importantly for me, it revealed for the first time that Google might actually kill an app I depend on daily. "Free as in beer" became "free as in expendable" to me.
5. Facebook Home
Remember Facebook Home? Yeah, I don't either. It showed up like a blip and then disappeared. The app was supposed to be the first thing you see on a smartphone like the HTC One. You can glance to see photos and status updates. But here's why it was such a fail. Those "at a glance" notifications are not too helpful when you just need to see a text, check the weather, see who just called you, or get other micro updates throughout the day--aka, what you get with the brilliant notifications on a phone like the Motorola Moto X.
Can any list of tech blunders for the year not include HealthCare.gov? Regardless of any personal opinion about national healthcare, the site has some serious technical problems. I know this from my own experience. When you click on options or try to go to the next screen, you sometimes have to wait several minutes or click several times. In browsers like Google Chrome, the whole site will crash. Worst of all, the problems are still happening. We can forgive early snafus, but the long-term technical problems are inexcusable.