Top 10 Apple Flops

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Top 10 Apple Flops

For a niche company that’s endured a pretty steady stream of criticism for more than three decades, Apple's track record is surprisingly strong. Even before the iPod transformed from an overpriced toy into the must-have gadget of the decade, Apple turned as many heads with its misses as its hits, crafting well conceived and constructed products that were sometimes overpriced, often overhyped and usually just plain ahead of their time. But, of course, nobody’s perfect:

 

 

10. Mac mini: You’d think the PowerMac G4 Cube would be high on anyone’s list of Apple’s flops, and it most certainly would have made this one --- if not for its successor. When ThinkSecret revealed Apple’s plans to unveil a slim, $499 Mac at the Mac Expo in 2005, the tech world was buzzing. Never had a Mac been priced so affordably, and not since the ill-fated Cube had a headless-ish computer from Cupertino fit so comfortable on a desktop. It seemed that Apple had learned from its mistakes, but once the budget Mac landed, Steve never got it quite right. For one, Apple refused to include a keyboard or a mouse; for another, it was never marketed properly and languished for months between updates. Mac mini should have leveraged the success of the iPod and made deep inroads into Microsoft’s market share, but Apple continues to saddle the mini with underperforming parts and processors as it waits for the ax to fall.

 

 

9. iPod Hi-Fi: The worst product to come out of the most disappointing Apple event in 10 years was an expensive, underperforming, heavyweight sound system that quickly became lost in a crowded field of similar offerings. Clocking in at nearly 17 pounds, iPod Hi-Fi was little more than a pretty shelf unit with a precarious iPod dock. It was discontinued last September after just 18 months on the market.

 

 

8. Pippin: In 1996, Apple stumbled into the video game market with a console platform that suffered from poor marketing, clunky equipment and lack of support. Contrary to belief, Apple didn’t actually make the hardware for the doomed Pippen @World (it’s official name); it merely licensed the technology and the software (based on Mac OS 7) to Bandai (and in Europe, Katz Media Productions), which did little to set the device apart from its cheaper, more powerful competitors. With a $599 price tag, 66MHz processor, 14.4k modem and modest library, Pippen was easy prey for Sega, PlayStation and Nintendo, and bowed out of the game after selling just 40,000 units.

 

 

7. QuickTake: At the Tokyo Mac Expo in 1994, Apple (in conjunction with Kodak) launched its first digital camera, weighing about a pound and running on three AA batteries. Shutterbugs were able to snap up to 32 pictures at a time before they needed to connect the camera to a Mac (or a PC using the following year’s model) via a serial cable. It was hailed for its simplicity and design, but at $749 could not compete with similarly priced offerings from the likes of Canon, Kodak and Nokia. It stayed on shelves for three years and two revisions (the latter being made by Fuji), but floundered and was eventually killed by Steve Jobs in 1997.

 

 

6. eWorld: Back when Safari was just a glimpse in Jobs’ eye, Apple developed an “online town square” called eWorld, which comprised “an electronic neighborhood of buildings, each representing a specific area of interest.” With a welcoming interface and focus on community, eWorld was an ambitious project that attempted to add some ingenuity and vibrance into competing services from America Online and Prodigy, but was ultimately doomed by poor marketing and pricing. eWorld couldn’t keep up with AOL’s growth and closed its doors on March 31, 1996, less than two years after opening its eDoors.

 

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NSX

hey i used a cube too it's awesome, the drawback at the time was apple's greed. if it were at mini prices it would have been a monsterous hit.

the mini is no flop but it is going the same way the cube is up in price.

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Walker Quine

PowerPC is not a flop, we are talking about a chip line that somehow (beyond my reasoning) managed to beat intel and other competitors in performance for nearly its entire life span.

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Kendall Tawes

As a Mac user in the early 90's I can tell you that the PowerPC chip wasn't just losing ground in the early half of this decade but also had an abysmal release. This was certainly not a fault of the hardware itself which even would run OS 9 well but it was a fault in the software it was to run.

Unfortunately System 7 ran wonderfully on 680x0 cpus but it was quite slow on the PowerPC. This was mostly due to Apple's poor planning. They were banking everything on completing Copland shortly so very little optimisation was done to System 7 and to mac apps in general. At the time it all seemed rushed to market and was too buggy and slow. This was mostly due to emulation which ran slower than a Mac Plus or 512 most of the time, and compatibility issues plagued the system. I barely could make use out of the PowerPC models for more than a whole year until OS 7.5 and 7.6 came out as the platform finally matured but by then the damage was done and many people were switching to Windows IBM clones since they were so much cheaper. Mind you some people knew that Windows was buggy but they figured since PowerPC and System 7 were so mismatched for each other why not get the cheaper hardware. Plus all of the platform shift stuff was scary sounding to people who were very new to computers at the time. Microsoft did a great job milking it for all it was worth with all the made for Windows 3.1, 95 games and software stickers out there making people even more confused and scared off from Mac OS or anything else than before.

Interestingly enough even OS 9 relied on some 680x0 code until it's eventual demise making OS X the first fully PowerPC optimised operating system only to be running another architecture a few short years later.

Using that logic PowerPC was a flop even if it really wasn't the hardware's fault at least at first.

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John Croshan

Power PC was a flop for the Mac. Towards the end of its lifespan, Intel caught up and passed it. Motorola could never figure out how to push the G5 past 3GHz, nor could they figure out how to lower the heat it generated (the main reason why the Power Mac/Mac Pro chassis is so huge is because the Power PC needed elaborate cooling schemes). Plus, Motorola lagged WAY behind Intel when it came to R&D.

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Jeff CDO

Mac Mini a flop??? I found it the perfect affordable introduction to the Mac world for my Mom who doesn't use computers that much.

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ultimateluigi987

I agree, if you already had the equipment, it was the cheapest option. But, the puck mouse was good and comfortable...

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Lindemann

I agree with the above commenter that the definition of "flop" in this column varies from entry to entry. That said, the puck mouse was beyond awful. So was eWorld. And why isn't the mac mini more compelling?

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cybs

What a load of opinion. Eworld was great. mac mini is great, puck mouse is fine. speaker system works fine. Not every product gets mass appeal. Does that make it a flop? What is a flop? Seems we ar eapplying a variety of criteria to determine what a flop is.

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Anonymous

seriously, the puck was the worst mouse ever created. It was the ergonmic equivalent of the iron maiden torture device. How many young designers ended up with claw hand because of that thing?

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MacAddict4Life

I didn't completely agree with a few of these, particularly the mini (people bought them, unlike some of the other things on the list) and Copeland (if it never came out, it didn't flop)... But the presence of the PowerPC is ridiculous! It was a phenomenal chip line and a great success for YEARS before the problems that lead to the Intel transition.

Also, where's the original Apple TV? There are a lot more mini's in the wild than Apple TVs in my experience... which one's the flop?

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