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iFail: Apple's Biggest Losers

The End of Apple?


Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) has been on an extraordinary winning streak for most of the past decade. Ever since Apple introduced the first generation iPod in 2001, the company has not only dominated the technology market, but they’ve also set the market’s pace and direction. Earlier this week, it was announced that Apple had its best financial quarter ever. Much of this is due to the success of its existing products like the Mac personal computers (Apple sold 3.4 million of these in the past three months). However, the other secret to its success was the mysterious tablet, a device Apple previewed on Wednesday at a press conference.

The tablet was meant to be the company’s crowning glory, but criticisms of the new device are already piling up, meaning it may very well end up landing on Apple’s long list of failures. Here are some of the most notable mistakes the company has made over the years.

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The Lisa Computer


This computer has become infamous among techies, mostly for its back story. Steve Jobs named the Lisa Computer after the daughter he had out of wedlock. Interestingly, he never acknowledged Lisa during her younger years, but was willing to name a device after her. I suppose that’s love?

There is also a lesson here for the tablet. According to Engadget, the computer itself was well-designed, but the problem was the price. “It was a groundbreaking computer, far more advanced computer than the original Macintosh. However, with an initial price tag of about $10,000 (that's almost $20K in today's dollars), the Lisa was doomed from the start.”

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Macintosh Portable


It’s a far cry from the sleek laptops the company currently churns out. This was Apple’s first attempt at producing a portable computer and it is not pretty. The computer was introduced in 1989 and taken off the shelves in 1991. As Engadget notes, it’s important to view this machine in the context of the time. The Macintosh Portable “may not have been quite as bulky as early suitcase-sized Compaqs and Osbornes, but by the time it came out, those hulking behemoths had already been replaced by boxes closer in appearance to modern laptops. Into this market, Apple launched a 16-pound, non-backlit monster.”

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The Pippin


Once upon a time, Apple decided to make a video game system. It was so bad that the entire world seems to have blocked it out of their memory. According to Wired, the system was called the Pippin and was introduced in 1996. It was designed as a cheap machine that could “play games and serve as a network computer.” But the system was poorly planned. Wired reports that the Pippin was doomed due to a “lack of software, misbranding and the fact that the market was already dominated by systems like the Nintendo 64, Sega and the Sony PlayStation.”

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Made in China


Not all of Apple’s mistakes are product-related. The company has made its fair share of questionable business decisions. Case in point: China. Google may be taking flak for its dealings with China, but Apple has come under fire in the past for a different problem. According to OSNews, Apple made a bad PR mistake when they decided to outsource their manufacturing duties to Chinese facilities.

This came to a head when the press found out one worker at this facility had committed suicide because of bad working conditions. While it’s true that we expect many big businesses to rely on cheap labor, the Silicon Valley sect likes to present themselves as better than that. Unfortunately, now people know that Apple is not.

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The Message Pad


The Message Pad, also known as the Newton, came out in the early ‘90s as PDA devices were becoming more popular. This device was released in the dark period of time when Steve Jobs was exiled from the company. (More info on that in the next slide.) As Wired notes, sales of this product were dismal and one of the first things Steve Jobs did when he returned to the company was to purge the company of anything having to do with the Newton.

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Getting Rid of Steve Jobs


Steve jobs was recently ranked the best CEO of the decade by Fortune. However, in 1985, Apple made the unfortunate mistake of firing Jobs, thus bringing the company into a major slump. According to reports, Jobs was considered too “reckless” to be in charge of a company. Common sense at the time said that Jobs was better suited for starting companies, rather than leading them. Interestingly, Apple was initially praised for getting rid of Jobs, and their sales flourished. But by the end of the 1980s, Apple products had stopped selling and the company seemed to be losing its vision. Eventually, the company corrected its mistake by bringing Jobs back as CEO, but there is a downside to this too, which we mention next.

It is also worth noting here that Steve Jobs had a big failure of his own during this time period. Jobs started a new company and introduced his new project, called the NeXT Computer, which The Independent appropriately described as “an expensive black cube.” The computer was a big flop and only sold 50,000 copies in four years. Eventually, the company switched to selling software instead.

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Making Steve Jobs the King


Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that re-hiring Jobs as the CEO of Apple was a bad business move. But according to OSNews, the company has made a huge error by “making Jobs indispensable.” The tech site argues that Apple has tied its fate so strongly to Jobs that its fortunes sink anytime there’s a rumor that he will leave the company. And, at the moment, there is no one who is a clear successor. This could prove to be Apple’s undoing one day.

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Power Mac G4 Cube


This item ends up near the top of everyone’s list of disappointing Apple products, and for good reason. This was one example of Apple producing something much prettier than it was practical. As Forbes notes, the G4 was meant to redefine the way computers looked, but it was too alien to ever catch on. Plus, the computer started at $1,800, far too expensive for most customers, and the machine was impossible to upgrade. It’s good to be bold, Apple, but sometimes you go too far.

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Apple Quicktake


Anyone out there who has an iPhone knows that cameras are not exactly Apple’s specialty. It’s one of the few faults of the otherwise perfect device, which makes it all the more crazy to learn that Apple once tried to produce a standalone digital camera, called the Quicktake. It was an astounding flop. As Forbes explains, “The $750 camera had no focus, and it could only store eight of its 0.3 megapixel images. Add the fact that it was only Mac-compatible, and its obscurity becomes self-explanatory.”

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The Rokr


Before there was the iPhone, there was the Rokr, which Apple released with Motorola in 2005. Some have speculated that Apple actually self-sabotaged the phone’s launch by putting it out just before they released the iPod Nano, which quickly overshadowed it. And according to PC Magazine, the launch event itself was poorly orchestrated. “The ROKR started out late, with the launch so poorly managed that a bunch of press were shipped to Miami to see a phone that was yanked from the podium days before it was supposed to appear.”

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Apple TV


In 2007, Apple introduced a device that was supposed to bring the Internet to your TV screen. The only problem is that the options are very limited. When it was introduced, users could only access videos from YouTube and iTunes and requires that you have an HDTV. More recently, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet recently explained the lackluster sales of this product as the result of a disconnect between Apple and its customers. “I’ve talked to a number of people who have expressed an interest in getting an Apple TV but most seem put off because they don’t really understand what it is and how they set it up,” he wrote. Kingsley-Hughes argues that the Apple TV may actually have been released too soon, and could fare better sometime in the future.

Check out MainStreet’s collection of tech flops from the past decade.

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App Rejects


The Appstore has been one of Apple’s greatest successes, and we certainly have no intention of arguing with that here. But Apple does have a rigorous selection process, and every once in a while, the company shows some odd judgment picking Apps. For example, they approved an App called I Am Rich, which essentially functions as an elite status symbol on your phone. The app costs $999.99 and all that it does is display an image of a red gem. By comparison, they rejected an app called I Am Poor, which parodied the I Am Rich app by displaying a picture of Ramen on the screen. Where’s your sense of humor, Apple? Check here to see MainStreet’s list of the 15 Worst iPhone Apps.

Photo Credit: Apple.com

The Tablet?


The tablet is essentially a pocket computer that looks like a larger iPhone, but can handle more multimedia. Like all important things, Apple’s new gadget goes by many names. For years, it was simply referred to as the Tablet, then it was dubbed the iSlate, and finally, it was released as the iPad (though Apple has yet to get the trademark rights.) The device itself is more than 20 years in the making. In fact, Wired recently published pictures of the product’s prototype from 1983.

For all that effort (not to mention the rumors just before its release that Steve Jobs had claimed the tablet is “the most important thing I’ve ever done”), the device has some obvious flaws. There's no camera, no ability to multitask and, particularly frustrating to iPhone owners out there, the iPad continues to rely on AT&T's shoddy service. Some argued that the iPad would dominate the e-reader market, stomping on existing frontrunners like the Kindle, yet unlike these other devices, the iPad is backlit, meaning that reading on this screen is the same as reading on your computer and will likely strain your eyes.

And then, of course, there's the name. Oh, the name. No sooner had Steve Jobs uttered the word "iPad" than did people online make the connection that it sounded like a feminine product. Since then, the device has gone by a different name on some social networks: the iTampon. None of this bodes well, but it would be foolish to write off the iPad as a failure just yet. Apple may just have to try harder to make a sweet second generation model next year.

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