Hewlett-Packard plans to exit the smartphone business, a year after it paid about $1.2 billion to acquire Palm and its Web OS to run it. HP's TouchPad, announced only in June, earned dismal reviews and sold poorly.
Considering the Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, the world's biggest computer maker, has made far bigger acquisitions before, including purchasing Compaq Computer and Electronic Data Systems, plus scores of others, it ranks as a minor blunder.
Still, gave credit to new CEO Leo Apotheker, in office for only 11 months, for cutting HP's losses. He had nothing to do with the Palm acquisition.
But the TouchPad calls to mind some other great tech blunders.
Remember the Newton and the Zoom? They were respective products from Apple and Tandy, now renamed RadioShack, in the mobile PC market. Apple's Newton was also able to handle handwriting with a stylus. Trouble is, it worked so badly that Garry Trudeau ended up satirizing it in Doonesbury nearly 20 years ago.
And what of the IBM PCjr? This month, IBM celebrated the 30th anniversary of its entry into the PC business. About a year later, it debuted the IBM PCjr, a smaller version with a Chiclet keyboard that had fewer keys than a normal PC. Its software wasn't compatible with industry standard PCs. And it failed to be shipped for the holidays, in an era when consumers bought products from Atari and Commodore.
Texas Instruments tried the TI 99/4A PC. Also from the IBM PCjr era, Texas Instruments built up a 35 percent market share selling this PC to consumers, but it couldn't compete against cheaper models from Atari and Commodore, either. There was very limited software. The Dallas-based chipmaker reported losses exceeding $500 million on the machines before they were discontinued.
TeleCompaq anticipated the iPhone, badly. Compaq, the IBM-compatible PC rival to IBM, came out with a system called TeleCompaq, which merged a heavy portable PC with a telephone. The product anticipated the iPhone and iPad by about 20 years. Compaq, a good marketer, cut its losses early and discontinued it. Later, the entire company was bought by HP.
IBM in the telephone business. Back in the day, IBM thought it could merge computer systems for enterprises with telephony, so it acquired one of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley, ROLM, for about $1.5 billion. IBM tried to sell telephone sets and PBX systems to offices but couldn't keep up with more experienced players in the sector, such as Northern Telecom and Lucent Technologies, recently spun off from AT&T.
IBM later sold the business to Siemens, the German telecommunications giant, which later discontinued the ROLM name. One of the company's founders, Kenneth Oshman, died on Aug. 6.