3 products that bombed in 2010
In technology, as in life, sometimes things just don't work out.
By Jonathan Blum, TheStreet
Tech heavyweights such as Google (GOOG), imaging companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) or Lexmark (LXK), and even Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg -- Time magazine's Person of the Year, no less -- all brought truly bad products and services for small businesses to market.
We are not taking cheap tech shots here, bashing gadgets that merely failed to dazzle. Oh, no. These are the elite mistakes of the year, strategic blunders that indicate significant company dysfunction.
Google Nexus One
For all of Google's power as a software company, if this year's Google Nexus One roll-out was any indicator, hardware is going to be a struggle. Released in early 2010, the Nexus One -- intended to be the flagship smart phone for the company -- actually revealed all that was off about Google.
The phone was smugly marketed and had no retail channel, as if Google felt the mere mention of its name would bring customers flocking. It did not help that once business users touched this phone, they found a cramped 3.7-inch screen and a roller button control that was, without question, the oddest interface of the year.
Plus, the early version of the Android 2.1 operation system could not support advanced business features such as search or mapping -- heaven forbid you had to call and text at the same time.
Now the company has released an upgraded model, the Nexus S. I am testing one, and it's obvious some lessons have been learned. But as anybody studying the almost-as-lame Google TV will tell you, making actual electronics remains a major hurdle for Google.
It sounded too good to be true -- and it was. Direct-from-Web printers were supposed to connect to the Internet directly without the need for a PC so that apps, company collateral and even content could be rendered on the fly. But after about half a year of practical use, it is clear the desktop printing industry has missed its mark.
First off, the apps I tested were of limited value. Most of the direct-to-printer functions still needed some sort of updating by a PC anyway. And woe betide anyone who actually subscribed to a Web content service.
Yes, USAToday or ABCNews rolling off the printer is nice. But you are essentially paying, at minimum, 5 cents a page -- sometimes far more -- to print up what amounts to a blog. Besides, burning through 30 pages of paper a day works out to about double what home delivery of an old-school newspaper costs. If this is the future of desktop publishing for the small business, all I can say is: You're kidding, right?
With Facebook Messages, Mark Zuckerberg & Co. came up with a service that is singularly inappropriate not only for business users but for all users. Rolled out in the fall, Messages let Facebookers -email, SMS, chat and use the rest of Facebook's communications tools from one screen.
The intent was to spare users the "struggle" of going from e-mail inbox to chat box to Facebook wall. And initially the tool seemed clever enough for small groups to stay in touch. But over time it became clear that the concept is seriously flawed. Because, think about it, who actually wants to do that? Most friends like to be dealt with as friends -- one at a time. Nobody wants to be part of some weird mini-direct mail campaign that gloms together notes, texts and wall posts.
If you want to taste the arrogance looming in this hot young company, subscribe to Facebook Messages and get in direct touch with the mistakes Facebook is on track to make.
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