Technology can be complex but it is made to make our lives simpler. It can overwhelm the young, confuse the old and surprise the mankind. Over the period of time, the marvels of technology have made impossible things possible. So, let us look at some of the failed products of modern day technology:
1. Modular Smartphone
Smartphone- I don’t need to tell you about one, you are probably reading this on one right now. Smartphone has grown from a want to a necessity of youth. It is often compared to computers in terms of growth. The same craze among masses to own one and its sudden boom in sales to the sad saturation and stale state. Let me make you aware of a new evolution in Modular Smartphone.
Project ARA ( First in the list of failed products )
It started back in late 2014. Google I/O 2014 showed us Project ARA. It was developed by one of Google’s Team. A phone made of swappable components. Imagine adding extra ram to our old Smartphone or upgrading its camera and processor. The idea was all could be done just by these components which can be added to these smartphones and removed also by swapping.Basically, a Smartphone made out of hardware modules.
Here is a link to a video which might help you visualize who it looked-
(They looked like Lego phones)
Well these components or modules could not be added to existing Smartphones. They required you to upgrade to the project ARA phones which were compatible with the swappable components.
Sadly, in 2016, we became aware of news about this project being pulled off by Google. While there is no simple explanation to this move but according to me it further would have lead to saturation the of market. Today people buy computers once in a while and upgrade but the same is not with Smartphone’s. Also, the complexity of this project is too high to make it exist in real life.
But the story of modular phones didn’t end there, LG and Lenovo (now owns Motorola) further made their visions into reality with help of LG G5 and Lenovo’s Moto Z.
LG G5 ( second in the list of failed products )
While for the most part, LG G5 hardware had basic issues and its vision of modularity only extended till a battery, audio DAC and Camera grip. The price point was set high and people were not sure of the phone’s durability. So, they gave it a pass. Fewer durability results in failed products.
Well that same year, Moto Z was launched with better software and better hardware. It had overall better implementation of the modular phone with the modifications being a loud speaker by JBL, a battery pack, a projector and a Camera lens by Hasselblad (a popular company for its camera’s).
While, it certainly won critics acclaim for innovation of year it found limited success in market due its high price point and lack of compatibility to existing Smartphones. Lack of compatibility is also one of the significant factor which results in failed products.
Motorola and Lenovo are developing new modifications for its existing flagship range and a new flagship is round around the corner.
2. Windows Continuum
What I am about to explain is unbelievable so, bear with me. Windows continuum is essentially turning your Windows phone into a Computer. To do so you must have latest windows mobile software and a dock that connects your phone to a monitor and you get your own desktop. With Bluetooth, keyboard and mouse paired to the setup you could have a pocket PC in the Palm of our hand. Further one could use windows mobile as an interface to interact with the desktop.
At least, this was the vision that Microsoft had, a single unified windows software across its range of devices.
It encouraged developers to develop applications using native tools of Microsoft tools where a single app would scale and perform differently across a tablet, phone and a computer all running windows 10 of course!
Seems interesting?have a look at Microsoft’s vision:-
While it seemed the most wanted and greatest technology that would truly revolutionise the mobile market and rejuvenate the computer sales. Unfortunately and fortunately, it didn’t succeed.
Why it failed?
It failed because while the vision for this was quite innovative but the execution was terrible. Windows phone has a history of poor software app quality and no developers support. Microsoft is known for resetting its mobile platform now and then and starting with new software. Thus leaving behind a set of confused loyalists of its own platform. Windows mobile (Windows 10 for phones) was the 3rd reboot to its mobile OS platform. The software was unfinished and not at all user-friendly (poor user friendliness, factor that results in failed products). Now, many believe Windows Phone aka windows mobile is dead and Microsoft doesn’t care to reboot it again with a new vision.
Well, software aside hardware was also a complexity factor no one in right mindset travels with a keyboard mouse and monitor. Traditional Laptops made a lot of sense. Even if the monitor was provided at places the whole idea of this could have worked if the resulting OS would have been able to handle the task. By task, I mean heavy task, productivity apps, multitasking that any laptop could handle easily. The OS was good for streaming few videos and browsing the internet (light usage) with again unfinished and poor software.
Why should it have succeeded?
It would have been great, if Microsoft had handled the windows phone OS better with rich user experience and apps, then this technology would have been truly groundbreaking. I couldn’t help but think 5 years down the line power processors of smartphones would do more than they do now. Leading to much resistant OS than we got now.
The brilliant thought of having a PC in the palm of the hand is truly innovative. I applaud Microsoft for taking the risk with this idea. Well, Microsoft wasn’t the only one which tried this crazy idea. Recently, Samsung with its latest galaxy S8 introduced the same idea with brand name as “DeX”. Now, Samsung as crazy as their ideas are (Edge screens, iris scanning) but this didn’t define a well purpose as it was a same replica of Microsoft’s continuum. Predictably enough, Samsung’s DeX (a dock) has a work around to work with Microsoft windows mobile.
Maybe, a time will come when someone do this Phone-PC idea flawlessly enough to make it mainstream.
3. Laptop-Tablet Hybrid
Laptops and tablets have been at war from past few years. Tablets being preferred by light users for making entries in their excel sheet, writing on the word and editing PDF’s. They have a rich Eco-system, great portability and a perfect size for most of its users. Laptops, on the other hand, have got thinner too. They can do a WHOLE lot than the tablets and I mean a whole lot. Right from video editing to Photoshop to Heavy processing, Laptops have the horsepower to do it all. Laptops aren’t a perfect size for few but its ultrabook series is helping it on that front.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro
Microsoft had this unique idea to make a device that can do best of both worlds. Microsoft did so with a Surface series line up a laptop-tablet hybrid. It has brilliant software that could make it switch from laptop to tablet just by a toggle. It has the touchscreen and a detachable keyboard with trackpad. Surface book without the keyboard was a tablet and with the keyboard a laptop. The best part being the software toggled and adapting itself to the change. It also has a kickstand to have a great support as it was a thin portable piece of hardware. Besides, kickstand also helped in tablet mode to binge through media. Also, a great stylus known as surface pen provided various utility services.
A Video that showcases the surface pro series:-
Following Microsoft, Lenovo bought its Yoga series to attain the same idea followed by major hardware manufacturers like Dell, Acer, ASUS, HP among others. While the software is great, the hardware to attain compactness created complexity as the detachable keyboard meant weak hardware. Further, positioning the laptop in various angles made the hardware flex and overall not good for a little bit of rough use. (Fragility, another reason for failed products).
While this technology attained the mainstream attention it never got mainstream adaptation. The price of this concept hardware was high. High prices are usually the major factor of most of the failed products in the market. The cheap hybrids exist but are essentially tablets thrown together with a keyboard case with very less processing power. Recently, Microsoft unveiled the successor to its laptop series of Surface book and also the Hybrid series of Surface Pro. Although, the market didn’t seem overwhelmed at Microsoft’s idea of incorporating Laptop and tablet together.
While there may be many technologies with brilliant ideas that are failed but they are merely a prototype, a concept or under development. These technologies exist in the market with a new vision. A vision to bring a change and change never comes easy. I would like to say that maybe these technologies are ahead of their time.
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