Apple and Microsoft are two of the largest and most well-known technology brands on the planet. Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X dominate the desktop operating system market. Both of these companies can claim responsibility for changing the world of mobile computing. Side-projects of Microsoft such as the Xbox have taken the pole position in the world of console gaming while Apple’s iTunes has become the single largest music seller in the world.
While these companies have each contributed a significant amount to the world of computing, they have both had their share of failures. Interestingly enough. many of these projects were positioned as competitive counterparts to products currently being offered by the other company.
Here are 10 failures of Apple and Microsoft.
The Lisa is arguably one of the most important desktop computers of all time. Not only was it the first consumer PC to feature a graphical user interface, but it also featured several system features that the Macintosh didn’t. One of these was protected memory, which didn’t see the light of day on a Mac until OS X. Microsoft operating systems didn’t use memory protection until Windows XP.
The failure of Apple Lisa can be attributed to its high asking price. At almost $10,000 USD, the Lisa was well beyond the means of most home consumers, and many small businesses. In addition, software available on the Lisa was very limited. For the majority of its run, the Lisa ran just a handful of core applications.
The Lisa did so poorly that Apple eventually allowed Lisa and Macintosh XL (a later model) owners to trade their computers in for a significant discount on a new Mac Plus.
Microsoft has been attempting to define industry standards for many years. At one point, the software giant developed a standardized home computer architecture on which various manufacturers would create their systems. This enabled a predictable hardware environment for software developers to work with, and the potential of a more stable operating environment for the OS. Essentially, Microsoft was attempting to create the kind of hardware standard that Apple was with the Macintosh.
The MSX standard took off in Japan where gaming developers took to the platform. Unfortunately, it didn’t fair so well in the US. The lack of local support for the standard and forward momentum of independent hardware manufactures working within other standards eventually lead to MSX being abandoned.
With every failure comes some success. The MSX platform was the birthplace of several key gaming series including Metal Gear, Bomberman, and Penguin Adventure. Also featured on MSX were Contra, Castlevania, Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy.
Apple Macintosh Portable
The Macintosh Portable was a remarkable computer for its time. It was the first personal computer to be used to send email from space. It also featured a removable trackball that could be shifted to support right or left-handed users.
Unfortunately, the Macintosh Portable suffered from its heavy weight and large footprint. At 16 pounds and well over $6,000, the Macintosh Portable had to compete with a line of much lighter and cheaper laptops coming out of Toshiba. In addition, there was a flaw in the power supply that would cause the Portable to fail to boot if the battery no longer held a charge, even with the AC adapter plugged in.
In short: The Macintosh Portable was not Apple’s proudest achievement.
Few Microsoft products have as much whimsical appeal as Microsoft Bob. Bob was intended to be a supplement to Windows 3.1’s Program Manager, giving a more user-friendly environment for less tech-savvy customers to use in leu of the aging and admittedly unpleasant looking existing interface.
Microsoft Bob appeared as a room filled with objects that relate to various programs. Clicking on one of these objects would open the program. In addition, Microsoft Bob featured an email client and a variety of office applications including a word processor. Sending email using an offered MCI Mail account that cost about $5.00 per month, allowing users to send up to 15 emails during each billing cycle with additional messages running 45 cents.
Microsoft Bob also gave birth to a series of a assistant characters that would live in the world of Microsoft Office for years to come. One of these characters, Clippy, is featured in this list. That should tell you everything you need to know about Microsoft Bob.
The Newton MessagePad was arguably the grandfather of the iPhone as we know it today. The Newton existed in a space between a tablet and a PDA, featured handwriting recognition, and was one of the few Apple products to be sold by other manufacturers including Digital Ocean, Motorola, and Sharp.
Where the Newton failed was that it was arguably ahead of its time. Poor battery life and a high asking price didn’t help the situation.
Microsoft has a history of releasing some really lackluster software during extended periods between releases. Microsoft Windows ME (which should be on this list in all honesty), Vista, and the Microsoft Kin.
The Microsoft Kin was a short-lived billion-dollar project by Microsoft that had the goal in mind of adding functionality and features to the widely-popular Sidekick. Unfortunately, Microsoft was unable to move forward with its plan to use its new Windows Phone 7 OS as it was experiencing ongoing delays. Instead, Microsoft opted to use Windows CE. Unfortunately, critics were loud and clear that the Kin did not live up to expectations. After just six weeks of availability, the Kin was discontinued and has become a permanent part of Microsoft history.
While Windows Mobile 6.5 did accomplish the goal of giving users a more touch-friendly interface, the OS itself was meant to be a go-between and not a major update. This may be one of the primary reasons that the Kin did not fall back on the existing OS. Other versions of Windows Phone were dated and almost certain to meet cold reviews.
Apple USB Mouse
The hockey puck. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to understand why so many people hated this mouse. I’ve unfortunately been forced to use this mouse on the job more than a few times, and it was probably one of the most aggravating part of having to work on a Mac. Thankfully, Apple has since improved its mouse design and enabled more functionality without forcing users to wrap their hands around a puck that was neither comfortable nor particularly functional.
At the end of the workday, I was very happy to come home and use my Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer, which at the time was one of the best optical mouse solutions in the consumer market.
Microsoft Windows Vista
Windows Vista is arguably one of the most critically lambasted projects to ever hit the shelves from Microsoft. While Vista itself did feature a lot of great innovation, it failed to deliver on performance and stability. Chris Pirillo, a noted customer experience advocate stated, “Vista was half-baked. If you remember, they were working on a completely different foundation for years (after XP) and had to scrap it. They started over from “scratch” and had to dramatically shorten the period of time it would take to fully test the OS before rolling it out. Beta. Period. End of story.” He has written and reported on Windows Vista extensively over the years before ultimately pulling the plug on Vista and making the switch to Mac OS X as his primary operating system. He still continues to use Windows XP and Windows 7 on a daily basis, however.
Not many people have heard about the Apple Pippin. You might say it was Apple’s first (and only) attempt at a console gaming system. The Pippin was on the right track in some ways, as it expanded on the idea of being more of a media hub and less of an exclusive gaming device.
Unfortunately for Apple, the idea never took off and the Pippin became a distant memory. Microsoft has since created the most popular console gaming platform in the consumer market today, the Xbox. In its current version, the Xbox is both a gaming console and a fully-functional media center. Microsoft’s own failure in this regard is backing HD-DVD over Blu-ray.
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Clippy may well be one of the biggest failures Microsoft has ever had a hand in. Not only did Clippy exist on one product, but many. Microsoft Office users will remember this whimsical character as being the “helpful” assistant that guides you through the process of creating content.
Clippy, officially named Clippit, was part of a larger effort to provide assistance to Microsoft Office users. These animated assistants were originally created for Microsoft Bob, another notable failure listed in this article. While the assistance these characters provided may have been welcome to some users, the concept behind them became a pain point among users that just wanted to use the program, even though turning them off was just a matter of toggling an option in the menu.
Clippy, and the whole assistant family, was finally laid to rest with Microsoft Office 2007.