Biggest Tech Flops Of 2012: Top 5 Failures, From The Facebook IPO To Microsoft Surface

 @LisaEadicicco
on December 28 2012 4:13 PM

In an industry as fast paced and evolving as technology, each year represents a step forward. With every 12 months comes advancements in the cell phones we use, the websites we visit, and other aspects of our daily interaction with the digital world. But while 2012 heralded some pretty impressive technological improvements, it also came with some mishaps.

Below is a list of tech’s biggest flops in 2012, from products that never took off to business moves that failed miserably.

Google’s Nexus Q. At its I/O developers’ conference in June, Google touted its Nexus Q device to be a premiere addition to its Nexus-branded line of products. The round Android-based social streaming media player was offered up for pre-order alongside the Nexus 7 in June, but was quickly removed from the Google Play Store.

The company had decided to “postpone the consumer launch of Nexus Q while we work on making it even better.” This could be due to its heavy price tag --- the Nexus Q was priced at a whopping $299, which doesn’t include speakers or cables required for the device.

Microsoft’s Surface for Windows RT. Microsoft took its first step into the tablet market share in 2012, hoping to give competitors Apple and Google a run for their money is the slate space. What they ended up with, however, is a tablet with a somewhat confused operating system that had trouble selling even around the holidays. While the Surface has some noteworthy features that set it apart from others, such as its built-in kickstand and compatibility with Microsoft Office apps, the operating system is its weak point.

When the Surface initially launched, Microsoft failed to accurately clarify the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT. The OS that comes with the Surface, Windows RT, is essentially Microsoft’s mobile operating system catered to its tablet only, and is based on an ARM processor. This means it is not compatible with traditional Windows 8 apps. Earlier this month, analysts predicted that Microsoft would sell fewer than 1 million tablets for this quarter.

Apple Maps. When Apple revealed that it would be creating its own maps application for iOS 6, iPhone and iPad lovers were thrilled. We have to admit, it did sound pretty promising — 3-D Flyover view, turn-by-turn directions, Siri integration, how could it go wrong?

However, when iOS 6 launched in September, users were met with some unpleasant surprises. Apple’s self-branded navigation app launched with significant drawbacks including inaccurately labeled directions, poor search functions and a lack of public transit directions. This prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to do something very rare for the company: issue an apology.

“At Apple, we strive to make world class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers,” Cook wrote in his open letter. “With the launch of Apple Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment.”

About three months after the launch of Apple Maps, Google Maps has returned to Apple’s App Store. It’s free to download, but Apple Maps still acts as the default navigation app for iOS 6 devices.

Facebook IPO. The social media giant went public on May 18, 2012, with the price per share initially set at $38. The company itself was valued at $104 billion, which is a sizeable amount of money considering its revenue for the previous year just topped $3.7 billion. To that end, it wasn’t too surprising when Facebook’s IPO flopped. The company’s initial public offering was expected to be one of the biggest tech highlights of 2012, but on its first day of trading it went absolutely nowhere. The IPO didn’t improve much in the following months, and now the price is set somewhere in the $20 range.

Sean Parker’s Airtime. Sean Parker, former president of Facebook and founder of Napster, boasted about his startup known as Airtime. The app, which was expected to take off, offered random video chatting through Facebook. However, Airtime never quite caught on with users despite the $33 million Parker invested in the company.  Launched in the summer of 2012, Airtime received celebrity endorsements from TV big shots such as Jimmy Fallon and Julia Louis Dreyfus. As of October 2012 it had only attracted 10,000 active users, but Parker refused to acknowledge its shortcomings.

“This is a ridiculously early stage for the company,” he said to the New York Times about two months ago. “It takes six to 12 months to get things up and running.”

We’ll be on the lookout to see if Airtime blows up in the next few months or so. Maybe we’ll be putting it on our list of tech highlights rather than flops come 2013.

Despite these shortcomings, 2012 saw the birth of some of the most advanced smartphones, revolutionized tablets and took social media to the next level. Who knows what’s in store for next year, but we’ll be bringing you up to speed on CES 2013 in Las Vegas next month.

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