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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.