12 Most Uncelebrated Flops by Apple
This post concludes my series on Apple in the wake of Steve Job’s recent resignation. The last two posts have focused on the leadership-savvy of Steve Jobs and the brand loyalty building tactics of his company. This post looks at another side of the world’s most valued brand: their flops.
People are quick to re-hash the flops of other tech companies, yet Apple seems immune to this recall. So we’re taking a stroll down memory lane and listing Apple’s 12 Most Uncelebrated Flops.
1. Apple IIc
The IIc was an attempt at producing the first portable computer… if you wanted to carry the suitcase required to lug the 5–7 peripheral devices needed. Oh, and let’s not forget the complete lack of upgradeability and monochrome LCD display.
2. The Apple III
Circa 1981, this pricey computer failed to meet the success of the Apple II due to unreliable hardware components, which handed the IBM PC and its many low-cost clones control over market share.
Launched in 1983, Lisa was the first commercially produced computer with a graphical user interface but cost US$9,995! Apple’s own Macintosh killed it a year later.
4. NeXT Computer
Technically this wasn’t Apple’s flop but that of Steve Jobs after being forced out of Apple in 1998. Steve, continuing to focus on what’s cool vs. what’s sellable, didn’t learn from the Apple III or Lisa and created a computer that was simply too expensive for personal consumption.
5. Puck Mouse
This falls into the ‘stop when you’re ahead’ category. Not content to rest on their laurels when creating the revolutionary 1998 iMac, Apple designers felt the need to produce a tiny, round puck-like mouse that was simply too small and just ergonomically wrong. Yes Steve, sometime function must come before design!
6. The Cube
The Ikea-catalogue worthy small desktop computer was lauded by designers but was a flop in stores because… you guessed it… it featured a significantly higher price than other Macs without any real performance differentiation. The public were not persuaded to fork over extra dough for the cool factor.
7. The iTunes Phone
I had to look this one up to be honest. I had no clue the iPhone wasn’t Apple’s first mobile device. This failed partnership with Motorola didn’t deliver an iPod-esque music device which made the OK-phone part, well, just OK.
8. Macintosh TV
Before Apple TV, there was a Macintosh TV… and let me say: what were you thinking?! A “TV” that couldn’t show a television feed in a desktop window? What was the point?
9. Apple TV (2005)
The 2005 Apple TV was a small box that connected to a TV and to a Mac in the home that allowed people to play music and movies from the computer on the TV. The uncharacteristically complicated device was, again, too expensive and didn’t provide any real improvement on what was already available for music and movie viewing.
10. The Newton
Also knows and the MessagePad, the Newton was a product without an audience. Was it a tablet? Was it a PDA? Not even early adopters could think that far ahead to understand what they would do with it. Steve, sometimes you CAN think too far ahead of your consumers.
11. The Apple Pippin
Apple’s attempt at entering the video game market in 1996 failed so miserably, it might be their biggest embarrassment. Aside from the ridiculous name, the lack of software and an already established market share by Nintendo 64, Sega and the Sony PlayStation meant this was doomed from the start.
12. The TAM
The Twentieth Anniversary Mac was unceremoniously dumped within a year of its launch. This was another example of too much focus on design with no substance. It contained poor quality internal components albeit in a very slick package. Oh, and… wait for it… it was too expensive for the functionality offered.
There’s a lesson to be learned from this history trip. Unlike its competitors, Apple didn’t dwell on failure or waste time trying to save or justify it. What they did do was learn from each.
The Newton failed but eventually led Apple to the iPhone and the iPad. The Apple IIc missed the mark on portability (by a ton or two) yet today the Mac Air is the thinnest, lightest laptop available. The Cube and the TAM were sexy but with no guts; yet today Apple produces the best combination of sleek and power in a computer. The PinPin taught them if they can’t innovate, don’t bother. Someday they may even learn the lesson of mass affordability.
Oddly enough, even Apple’s Flops — and how they’ve learned from them — seem to justify its anointed title of the world’s most valuable brand.
What other lessons can business and leaders learn from Apple?
Featured image courtesy of dougclow licensed via Creative Commons.