Although Apple has been viewed as a company that can do no wrong, in reality, the late Steve Jobs oversaw the development of products that were massive failures. With every great success like the iPod or iPad there’s equally as big a failure. Steve Jobs and Apple are masters at marketing said products and making the company seem infallible, but a look at their failed experiments demonstrates that the company had a difficult road to success. Here are some of the most forgettable products developed by Apple, only to be shelved or discontinued.
10 – Apple Lisa
Apple Lisa, one of Steve Jobs’ earliest projects, was developed from 1983-1986 and was reportedly named after his daughter who was born the year the project started. It also served as an acronym for “Local Integrated Software Architecture” and served as the company’s first foray into a graphical user interface. Lisa was targeted to businesses, but was rejected leaving only NASA as its customer base with most businesses choosing IBM’s PCs.
Most consumers were scared off by the ridiculous price tag of $10,000. The project was such an embarrassment that, rumor has it, that the company buried the excess inventory in a landfill in Logan, Utah.
9 – Apple III
One of Apple’s failures that can be placed at the feet of Steve Jobs and the marketing department is the Apple III. It also served as the company’s first attempt to break into the business market, culminating in the company’s financial status being in jeopardy. According to Steve Wozniak, the Apple III was the first Apple computer that was not designed by him. Development started in 1978, under the leadership of Dr. Wendell Sander, and had immediate problems. The motherboard got hot too fast, and was also very buggy.
Part of the problem was Steve Jobs’ direction in the Apple III’s construction. Jobs demanded that the cooling fan to be removed because they were “too noisy and inelegant.” With the many problems to the Apple III, they attempted to reintroduce the product with a new ad campaign but it failed spectacularly.
8 – ROKR
The partnership between Apple and Motorola was meant to allow Apple to enter the phone market place. Jobs and Co. had successfully introduced the iPod and were positioning to create a phone that could play and hold up to 100 songs from iTunes. A bad omen for the phone occurred when Jobs was presenting the phone and could not switch from taking a call to playing music, as advertised. Oops.
That turned out to be only a small problem when it came to the phone’s launch. The phone did not have the data capability to download songs without using iTunes as an intermediary because it only had 1 GB of usable memory. With the ROKR’s flop and the failure of the collaboration evident to all, Motorola CEO Ed Zander remarked, “screw the nano”, as Apple launched a new product that would further deteriorate the company’s relationship.
7 – Apple Macintosh Portable
Launched in the September of 1989, the Portable did not do its name much justice as it weighed more than 16 pounds, rendering it pretty darned stationary. The machine cost a staggering $6,500 upon launch, which is an awful lot for a computer that doesn’t really work. Another problem with the Macintosh Portable was its failure to boot up (turn on) because of its battery system.
One of the reasons for the problems was the original power supply had a very low output. The legacy for the Macintosh Portable is highlighted in the 2006 edition of PC World which rated the Portable as the seventeenth worst tech product of all time.
6 – Apple Bandai Pippin
Who knew that Apple attempted to develop its own gaming system? The Bandai Pippen launched in 1995 and represents the failed attempt of the tech giant to enter the market place dominated by Nintendo, Sega, and Microsoft. With other consoles like N64 already on the market, the Pippin was largely ignored by consumers.
Like many other failed Apple Products, the Pippin was way overpriced at 600 dollars and failed to meet its modest sales estimates. The Pippin claimed to offer an online play experience, but its 14.4kbp speed made it nearly impossible for users to enjoy that experience. Final figures show that the Pippin sold only 40,000 units and was quickly discontinued.
5 – 20th Anniversary Mac
With April 1, 1996 marking the 20th anniversary of the creation of Apple Inc. by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, the company sought to create a computer that celebrated the occasion. Once again, Apple hoped to create a high priced product and hoped to market it as a luxury item to CEOs and the like. The final product cost $8,000 dollars and was one of the first desktops to use an LCD screen.
Even with a limited release of 12,000 units, the Mac failed to sell and eventually had its price lowered to $2,000. Soon after, the 20th Anniversary Mac was discontinued; a poor end to what started as a great celebration of Apple. At this point, Apple would probably prefer you look back and note that this epic disaster coincided with April Fool’s Day, and was really just an elaborate joke. It certainly performed like one.
4 – MobileMe
The failure of MobileMe’s launch was so colossal that Steve Jobs met with the entire MobileMe team in the campus auditorium and fired the manager of the project on the spot. After the fact, engineers of the project have stated that Jobs was himself the cause of the product’s failure. MobileMe was meant to enable the remote access and management of email, contacts, calendar, photos, and files.
Its launch was met with problems, but Erin Caton – the Engineering Project Manager on the MobileMe project has stated that these problems were expressed but Jobs had created a culture where employees could not voice their concerns. Caton states that the engineering team told executives that they were not confident about the launch date. Soon enough MobileMe was no more, eventually being replaced by the iCloud system.
3 – Macintosh TV
Another integration effort that would end in failure was the Macintosh TV. Further evidence that specialization is so important with products, the Mac TV was Apple’s first attempt at computer-television combination. Most notably, it was the first Macintosh to be made in black and came with a custom black keyboard and mouse.
It was introduced in 1993, but was discontinued just a year later. The major flaw of the product was its inability to show television feeds in a desktop window. Estimates are that only 10,000 units were sold of the 14 inch mutation of a Sony Trinitron television and an Apple Performa 520.
2 – iTunes Ping
One of the most discrete failures on our list is iTunes Ping, a music based social networking program that was incorporated into the iTunes Desktop player. Introduced in September of 2010, iTunes Ping was promoted as a “social network for music.” With the growth of the likes of Facebook, Apple attempted to convert its nearly 160 million iTunes users onto Ping. The result was barely two million subscribers of Ping and the quick label of its failure.
And while the initial idea had the seeds of services like Spotify, Apple failed to develop Ping properly with it serving as more of just another avenue to buy tracks from iTunes. Ping lacked the peer to peer socializing aspect that made other social networking platforms so popular. Tim Cook eventually discontinued the service, but has double down on Apple’s development within the music space with the launch of Apple Music over the last year.
1 – eWorld
Topping our list is one of Apple’s most ambitious projects that quickly faded into oblivion. Most of our readers will have not have heard of eWorld – a project that sought to link Mac owners into an online community. It was launched on June 20, 1994 and was dead only two years later. eWorld offered an isolated online world for Mac owners with a proprietary browser and email system that pulled news headlines from outside sources. At its height, eWorld had 115,000 subscribers compared with AOL’s 3.5 million. The goal of eWorld was to become a leading ISP. However, Apple’s model failed with its hefty price tag of $8.95 for two hours of off-peak access. Web browsing support was not even added until 1995.
Apple would lose out to AOL which would become the dominant ISP over the course of the decade, but even AOL failed to adapt, and was ultimately doomed with its dial-up system. It’s fair to say the eWorld’s quick failure, saved the company greater heart break in the future if it had caught on.