Top 10 Apple Flops

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Top 10 Apple Flops

 

 

5. Puck mouse: Anyone who rushed to the stores in 1998 to purchase a Bondi Blue G3 iMac was at the very forefront of a revolution that brought the personal computer from the floor to the desktop, and changed the way we stored files, surfed the Internet, listened to music, pointed and clicked. The iMac was the first computer to ship without a floppy drive and was ahead of the USB curve, shipping a matching USB keyboard and odd-looking mouse in every package. Apple lore has it that the mouse was designed by Jobs himself, who wanted a pointing device that would fit comfortably in his hand while he sat on top of his desk, and he promised the puck-shaped clicker would be “the coolest ... most wonderful mouse you’ve ever used.” Most users, however, used different adjectives to describe the mouse, most of which cannot be printed here.

 

 

4. Copland: The worst case of vaporware in Apple’s history officially kicked off in March 1994 alongside the original Power Mac, the first Cupertino computer to use a PowerPC processor. Intended as a dramatic rethinking of the System 7, Copland was originally slated to ship in beta form in late 1995, and as a full release in mid-1996, then fall, then January 1997, and finally, “sometime.” Pieces of Copland would eventually find their way into System 7.6 and OS 8, but Apple failed to deliver the operating system’s revolutionary features in any cohesive package; instead, NeXT and its fledgling OS was acquired from Steve Jobs, and the rest is Cocoa history. In the end, Copland was just too far ahead of its time --- so far, in fact, that many of its ambitions have become some of OS X’s greatest innovations.

 

 

3. Newton: While Copland’s failures were, for the most part, hidden deep inside Apple’s laboratories, Newton was the rare Apple product that crumbled under the weight of public scrutiny. Announced in May 1992 with great fanfare, the world’s first PDA hit the ground running, but had slowed to a crawl by the time it finally landed in stores some 15 months after its auspicious unveiling --- and it didn’t help that the handheld’s handwriting recognition immediately became the butt of jokes by Gary Trudeau and Matt Groening. Of course, Newton got better with subsequent revisions, but the world around it never quite caught up to its genius, and various models sat on shelves for several years before the project was ultimately killed in February 1998 by, you guessed it, Steve Jobs.

 

 

2. Macintosh Office: Hot on the heels of its wildly successful 1984 Super Bowl commercial for the Macintosh, Apple tapped Ridley Scott’s brother, Tony, to direct a follow-up TV spot to air during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XX. Titled “Lemmings,” the 60-second ad depicted a mindless line of blindfolded businessmen walking toward (and off) a cliff in rhythm to an erie rendition of “Heigh-Ho.” Somehow, this was supposed to sell viewers on the idea of The Macintosh Office as a solution to their day-to-day business needs. Needless to say, the ad generated more disgust than interest, and Apple learned a valuable lesson: Don’t kill PC users in your ads. Plus, Macintosh Office struggled to impress without a bona fide file server, which didn’t arrive until 1987.

 

 

1. PowerPC: In 1994, everything changed for Apple. Despite Newton’s initial stumble, the company was still enjoying tremendous success as an industry leader and innovator, running neck and neck with Microsoft ahead of the blockbuster release of Windows 95. But instead of turning a corner, a decision to team with rival IBM and Motorola to create a new computing platform set the company back 10 years and eroded virtually every bit of success it had built over the previous 18 years. PowerPC was quickly eclipsed by Intel’s Pentium offerings (despite the latter’s weaker performance) and Apple’s Mac platform gradually lost market share, despite Jobs’ undying efforts to prove the megahertz myth. Apple finally abandoned the rebel chip in 2005 after the G5 stumbled out of the gate, and by late 2006, all new Macs were shipping with Intel processors.

 

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Re: the Mac mini,

"For one, Apple refused to include a keyboard or a mouse"

Sigh, that was the point. You could get a keyboard or a mouse with it...anyone you wanted from Apple or 3rd party. I notice you didn't also say that Apple didn't include a monitor, a mouse pad, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, a desk, a chair...

The Mac mini was introduced as the Mac with by far the lowest margin ever for Apple. The whole point of this product wasn't to sell as many as possible, but rather to sell as many as possible to those who would not otherwise buy a higher margin Mac. This is why Apple never spent much money marketing this product.

However, despite the low margin inflicted status, it's still sold very well. Right now, the model that was introduced over a year and a half ago is #5 on the most popular Computer Desktops category on Amazon. That's of all computers, not just Macs. For the Mac desktops, it's only beaten by one configuration of iMac, and it's consistently higher than the towers.

Given the length of time on market, and the numbers sold...especially to switchers, I'd more expect to see this on the "most successful list" rather than the flop list.

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It seems some people don't wish accepting the fact that Apple products rank more in brand value & less in usable features. Apple's latest iphone does not even support the A2DP bluetooth..It is more hype, more money n less features.Personally, I will prefer the new Nokia N96 smartphone rather than buying the highly overpriced Apple products. The realgeek guys have coined Nokia N96 as the best N series phone after their elaborate reviews on its specifications n features..I think it really deserves to be the # 1.

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Dennis Wiseberg

Re: Mac mini flop.
I'm not sure this article has really been thought through. The whole idea of the mac mini is that it is a bare bones product therefore BYOKM is key to this.
There are plenty of desktops you can purchase with these and with the most up to date processor and expandability but the whole point of the mac mini is the mini part. I bought this because of its size and the media centre aspect. You don't purchase this product to play games etc.
You may want to learn a little more about your subject matter before you write an article.

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Ted Hoofar

I disagree with the PowerPC being on this list. We're still using G4 Powermacs in our office trouble-free since 2000. Our PC's from that time are LONG gone.

The puck mouse was an abomination. Every time you let go it turns so when you grab it again your cursor goes off in another direction. Thank gawd for the iCatch, a mouse-shaped piece of plastic that snapped on the puck and made it usable.

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holdin goff

wow. as a mac user since the original mac 128 and living through every revision since; i must say that the writers of this article should basically just forget anything before 2007 since they apparently haven't a clue.

the newton had ONE problem. it was ahead of its time. i actually wrote screenplays on a newton for years while on the road, then zapped them to whatever mac i had at home. once it learned your handwriting, you were golden. it was with sadness when mine finally died after 5 YEARS of constant use.

i still use a puck mouse because it doesn't put stress on your wrist- you use the thing just with your fingers.

oh, and the quick take? yup. still have it sitting here and it still works with a serial to usb adapter. at the time, it was the most reliable digital camera out there and worked every time, unlike any of the models you pointed out.

that really is the crux, even items that children such as yourself consider "flops" by apple are still by far more reliable, useful and end up being copied by someone else in the future.

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Alfonzo

Disappointed about your lack of proof in your article.

Particularly concerning the mac mini.

Almost every educational institute has one.
Most HTPC consumers have something it.
Most development houses have at least one.
Ranked in the top ten in most online shops.

Really cannot see how you plucked out mac mini from anywhere at all. If its personal preference based on your 'PC' background then perhaps you should say so.

Attempting to compare the mini to a similar build-your-own pc is like comparing building your own car instead of buying own from the car yard. Sure it's cheaper but would you?

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Geoff

There have been some HARD Apple flops, and the list nailed a few of those ... but the mini and PowerPC? I must disagree.

The mini is still prime fodder for switchers who already have a keyboard, mouse, and monitor sitting on their desk. My parents and my in-laws both purchased a mini in the past year. It's cheaper than the cube ever was, and the "casual adult switcher" market doesn't care about expandability or, to a lesser extent, upgradability.

PowerPC brought Macs from the dark 1990s to the brink of the their current explosive growth. Sure, when a technology has peaked it is time to move on to greener pastures, like Intel, but for a while a PowerPC Mac running Tiger was the best computer out there.

As for the Hi-Fi, it's a flop from a sales perspective ... but I have one, and I think it is fantastic.

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Dave

I have installed a Mac Mini both at home and at work. At work, it is the small company email server and works fine and takes up very little space in the server closet. At home it makes a great general purpose machine for my wife, at a low enough price point for us to afford a second Mac and retire a PC. No way is the mini a flop.

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BusterUSAF

Shenanigans! The PowerPC chip architecture is nothing short of brilliant. Given anywhere near the R&D time/money that was pumped into x86, you would be singing a different tune. "Hello...CISC? RISC drank your milkshake!"

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mcp841

I'm sorry...what can be wrong with a Mac that is less than$1,000?? I have owned one(intel mac mini 2006) for almost 2 years and it runs better than any PC that I have owned. Keep it going apple! I will buy another if I need too but this one is running like a champ!! Thank you apple!!

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Longtime Reader-User

Here's a real flop for you:

MacAddict Magazine becomes MacLife Magazine.

Sorry. It was too easy.

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gilles

Before the hockey puck mouse, I spent many dollars on ergonomic mice. The puck liberated my hand. It was impossible to grab it with the same intensity as a conventionally shaped mouse. I loved the puck.

gilles

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Kevin Jenkins

And the winner is... the Macintosh Portable!

Here is an excellent overview I found of Apple’s first attempt at a “Mac laptop“ straight from Wikipedia:

The Macintosh Portable was Apple Computer's first attempt at making a portable Macintosh personal computer that held the power of a desktop Macintosh.

Hardware

Released in 1989, it was received with excitement from most critics but with very poor sales to consumers. Seemingly no expense was spared in the construction of the machine. It featured a black and white active-matrix LCD screen in a hinged cover that covered the keyboard when the machine was not in use. The mouse function was handled by a built-in trackball that could be removed and located on either side of the keyboard. It used expensive SRAM in an effort to maximize battery life.

The machine was architecturally similar to a fast Macintosh SE, using the 68HC000, a low-power version of the Motorola 68000, running at 16 megahertz. The Portable came with 1 MiB of RAM soldered on the motherboard and was expandable to 9 MiB using the single RAM expansion slot. Weighing in at 15.8 pounds (7.2 kilograms), due in large part to the sealed lead-acid batteries used, the machine was widely considered more of a "luggable" than a portable, and compared to the PowerBook 100 series introduced a few years later, lacked the ergonomic layout that set the trend for all future laptops. On the plus side, it had a full travel keyboard, and battery life was up to 10 hours. The Mac Portable had a standard 1.44 MB floppy disk drive, an optional internal hard disk (a low-power 3.5" drive from Conner was used) or second internal floppy drive, and also offered the first optional internal modem in a Macintosh. In addition it also offered a full complement of standard-sized desktop peripheral ports. The modular, 'snap together' physical design of the Portable made it easy to upgrade, customize and repair in the field. Memory, modem and special-purpose circuit boards could be inserted in seconds without special tools, simply by opening the large panel that covered the back of the computer. Users could even move the trackball from the right to the left of the keyboard to accommodate left-handed users, or replace it with the optional numeric keypad.

Criticism

Unlike later portable computers from Apple and other manufacturers, the battery is charged in series with the supply of power to the computer. The computer cannot run on AC power if the battery can no longer hold a charge, and the computer will therefore not boot if its battery is defective. As these batteries are all over 15 years old, it is very rare to find an original battery that will hold charge, and therefore allow the computer to start. It is possible to repack the battery with new cells, or use alternative 6 V batteries[1].

One of the drawbacks of the Portable was poor readability in low light situations. So in February 1991, Apple introduced a backlit Macintosh Portable (model M5126). Along with the new screen, Apple changed the SRAM memory to pseudo-SRAM and lowered the price. The backlight feature was a welcomed improvement, but it came with a sacrifice: battery life was cut in half. The Portable was discontinued in October of the same year.

Legacy

Despite the machine's disappointing sales, it was a brave attempt at making a workable portable computer, at a time when it didn't seem obvious what form such a personal computer should take. The Portable was limited by the available battery technology of the day, including its heavy and large Lead-acid batteries, but it was a revolution for mobile workers in Mac-based environments. Prior to the Portable, the only 'mobile' options for Mac users were small desktop Macs (like the Mac SE) carried from location to location in large padded shoulder bags, or third-party computers like the Outbound Laptop, a Mac-compatible that, for copyright reasons, required the user to supply Mac ROMs (which usually meant having to buy a new or used Macintosh such as a Macintosh Plus as well, making it far more expensive than an equivalent Windows laptop).

The first truly portable Macintosh was the PowerBook, but the Mac Portable was a significant step on the way, even if only to show what form such a machine shouldn't have. The Portable did not disappear completely with the release of the PowerBooks, however: the PowerBook 100 is in fact a Mac Portable compressed into a small enclosure. Apple sent the portable‘s plans to Sony, who miniaturized the components and manufactured the PowerBook 100 for Apple.

The Macintosh Portable and PowerBook 100 can run Macintosh System 6.0.4 through System 7.5.5.

In May 2006, PC World rated the Macintosh Portable as the 17th worst tech product of all time.

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Dan D.

And I've seen a lot.

Where to start...

The Mac Mini vs. the G4 Cube. The Mac Mini is a HUGE seller in education, especially a lot of higher-ed computer labs. The G4 Cube couldn't even have dreamt of the success the Mini has had.

Pippin - not an Apple product, so how can it be an Apple flop?

Puck mouse - you've got some strange ideas about what constitutes a flop. No, it wasn't universally loved, but that's not what makes a flop or success. All that matters is the numbers. And lets face it, while people didn't buy the iMac for its mouse, they didn't NOT buy it for its mouse either.

Copeland - how can something be a flop without being released?

Newton - products don't last 6 years as flops. Now, it did gradually lose marketshare, but for a while, it was the only game in town, and despite the initial abysmal handwriting recognition (which got far better than any since), they sold quite well until the Palm Pilot came out.

PowerPC - Aside from the fact that the PowerMac was the Apple product (the PowerPC merely the processor that ran it), I think you need to brush up on your history... a lot. For its first 5 years, the PowerPC was the greatest thing since sliced bread. It beat Intel's processors in raw speed and in benchmarks. It wasn't until 1999 that Intel caught up in speed, 2001 when it caught up in performance, and then only because Motorola sat on their hands when it came to delivering faster G4's. The G5 even took back the performance crown for a while, as Netburst started to show its age. The PowerMacs were so good that Apple finally gave in to pressure to license the clones.

Suitable replacements for these non-flops? In computers, the G4 Cube, the Apple III, the Lisa, the Apple IIc+, the 68LC040-based Performas. In software, the very first version of System 7, OS 9.0, Mac OS X 10.0, A/UX, Appleshare IP, OpenDoc, Cyberdog (now THERE's a flop; can't believe you mentioned eWorld and Safari without it). In peripherals: the Apple Color Stylewriter (before they started numbering them).

Miscellaneous: When measuring weight, something "weighs in", not "clocks in". I'll concede the QuickTake 100 was a flop, but I could argue that it's debatable as to the rest of them.

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Dan D.

Almost forgot one: The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh.

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Anonymous

The iPod Hifi is a great product. Charges the iPod, runs on batteries, built in optical and comes with an apple remote. I use it for outside entertaining and it blasts away the neighbors with its deep bass. To say it is a flop because of the weight is silly. You place it and control it from a remote. I would say it is another great product from Apple but just not within their core competency.

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Tim Bitson

This article is lame. Maybe some of these products didn't sell well, that doesn't make them a flop. I have a Mac Mini as my music server connected to a Apple HiFi. Works great! PowerPC was a real workhorse for many years. Quicktake, although expensive was the first digital camera for the average consumer (although it was a bit expensive). None of these were flops... But you what I think flopped? This magazine called MacLife.... Can I have MacAddict back???

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Jeff

This article does not reflect the quality of writing I normally find on MacLife. I find even the premise to be somewhat flawed. Sure, certain Apple products have been more popular than others. What good does it do to highlight the ones that didn't work? It was through these failures that Apple has managed to get to the present, where they sell a solid product that is garnishing attention.

Further, if I wanted to know about any historical product of Apple's, I would look it up on LowEndMac.com. Their writing is more objective than this, and goes into much more detail.

Come on, MacLife–you can do better than this.

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Anonymous

PowerPC pluses and minuses aside, this article missed a whole lot of earlier Apple flops, like the Network Server 500 and 700 (which didn't even run an Apple operating system, instead running IBM's AIX). The Apple IIsi was a support nightmare, to say nothing of the Apple IIe card for the LC line. Anyone remember the Performa line? Mega-flop. Anyone remember A/UX, Apple's UNIX and the Apple Workgroup Server 95? Basically it was a Quadra 950 with a PDS card. Major flop. Some Apple II flops included the IIc Plus. Most of the Apple II systems were great sellers and many Apple fans were greatly disappointed when Apple finally killed the IIGS along with GS/OS, HyperCard GS and the like. I suppose by that yardstick they were flops as well.

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Anonymous

I owned a performa...I have to say that while it was my first Apple computer, it was probably among the worst computers I've owned. At the time, the only thing that made me think it was alright was the fact that it was different than the PCs of the time. But I caught so much flack from my friends for Apple and the Mac OS at the time. And really, they had a point. They can't really win any arguments on the subject now, and they don't even try. Apple has come a long way since having Steve back. I'm proud of being a Mac user, but I'm more proud of the fact the I don't have to constantly defend them to my PC friends.

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MacAddict4Life

Successful for years but eventually no longer viable is not a flop!

The Cube, perfect example of a flop that I forgot about. Never sold, period. From the 601 until the release of the G3 the PPC was a huge success. If something was a success it wasn't a flop!

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iGaucho

While I agree with everything else on the list, PowerPC and the Mac mini are hardly flops. PowerPC was way ahead of anything Intel or AMD were putting out for years. The G3 and G5 completely smoked them when they were released. Just because IBM and Motorola messed up and didn't get new chips out fast enough is hardly Apple's fault. The Mac mini has been quite successful. Just because it's not a sub-$1000 PowerMac/Mac Pro doesn't make it a failure. It is what it is, a low end system and a cheap entry to the Mac platform. That it doesn't include a keyboard and mouse is another matter saved for a marketing discussion. Lastly, why isn't the Lisa on this list? Everyone knows that it's one of Apple's biggest failures. Or the Apple III?

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Ben

"Lastly, why isn't the Lisa on this list? Everyone knows that it's one of Apple's biggest failures. Or the Apple III?"

Agreed.

Completely and totally.

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FactChecker

This must be the most pointless, underresearched, and ill-considered article ever published by MacLife.
The flipflopping wishy-washy (non-)definition of "flop" left aside, how can you seriously consider the PowerPC a failure? And APPLE's failure, at that? What line of processors was Apple to turn to, after the 68k had reached its limit? It's one thing to base OS X on NextStep, which was already Intel-rooted. When the PowerPC Alliance was formed, Apple had no such option. And the continuing success of PPC-based IBM servers vindicates the fundamental design. That IBM later on had other fish to fry than catering to Apple can hardly be credited as Apple's fault.

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Anonymous

We can go back and forth about how the PowerPC chip helped or hurt the Mac market share. The fact still remains, apple partnered up with two companies who at time seemed to battle one another over the PowerPC and eventually dissolved their alliance. Regardless of the MHz Myth, Intel did a far better job convincing consumers that your computer was worthless unless it had "Intel Inside." I spent the 90's explaining the difference between a 601, 603 and 603e PowerPC chip to friends and which chip was better for which job when in reality, the whole scheme was a jumbled mess. So was the PowerPC alliance a mistake or a flop as this article contends. At this point in time, I almost have to agree.

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Anonymous

I bought and used a Cube based on comments and reviews in basically every Mac magazine as mana from heaven. It was very innovative as were most of these failures. However some of the failures were lack of good engineering and design (like the Cube). However most were due to lousy disoranized marketing. At the corporate level at Apple, they still need to understand what they want to be when they grow up. By the way the mini has excellent potential unlike the Cube. The Cube was a probable good basis for compact design missed by the other companies in the computer industry.

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George

Regarding this comment: "At the corporate level at Apple, they still need to understand what they want to be when they grow up," I submit that Apple wants no less than world domination of entertainment, and that on a corporate level they have pretty clearly figured out how to be real "grown up" media device marketers without going broke trying to emulate the failures of Sony and others. The great variety of "me, too" devices and marketing arrangements has still not even barely begun to catch up with Apple's domination of the video and musical marketplace. (They passed up Wal-Mart, for those of us clearly out of the information loop.)

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