Sunday, June 16, 2024

The 10 Best Tech Products that Never Shipped

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If you want to change the world with your gadget, or Web service, you’ve got to have a killer idea. You’ve got to have the vision thing. You have to build hype.

But most of all, you’ve got to ship the dang thing.

So many companies in this industry have got it all except the last one. They create new technology, build an amazing prototype or simulation video and impress everyone with their vision and foresight. Then, nothing.

It’s time for a reckoning. Here are the top 10 major tech products everybody got excited about, but which never materialized.

1. Scrybe

Scrybe is a revolutionary social calendar, to-do list and “ThoughtPad” that was going to kill Google Calendar, render Microsoft Outlook obsolete, and make everybody forget Remember the Milk.

The startup posted dazzling demos on YouTube, and won rave reviews from everybody. InfoWorld said “there’s enough here to make me give up my Microsoft Outlook Calendar and abandon Google Calendar.” WIRED called it “a date book on Web 2.0 steroids.”

Nice! So…where is it?

The Web site is still up. They still claim it’s in “closed beta” (and has been since 2006). The last company blog post update was almost two years ago.

If the people who developed Scrybe are serious, they should open the beta, then ship. If they’re not serious, they should stop stringing fans along and post an announcement on their web site that the product will never exist.

2. iPhone Tethering

Apple announced, and AT&T “confirmed,” that the ability to connect your laptop to your iPhone for Internet access would definitely become available sometime in 2009. (Full disclosure: My wife works for AT&T.)

So where is it? A great many people (including yours truly) avoided pursuing other solutions for laptop mobile broadband connectivity because Apple and AT&T promised us iPhone tethering.

It’s time to stop jerking us around. Either announce when it will become available or tell us that it will never be available.

3. Palm Foleo II

Everybody remembers the Palm Foleo as an ill-fated disaster. The company came out with what we now call a smartbook (a netbook that runs a cell phone operating system), but one that would work exclusively with Palm devices.

But the product seemed under-featured and over-priced. As you may recall, CEO Ed Colligan scraped the Foleo in a famous blog post in September, 2007.

What you may not recall is that he promised to resurrect the Foleo idea later. Colligan wrote: “When we do Foleo II it will be based on our new platform, and we think it will deliver on the promise of this new category. We’re not going to speculate now on timing for a next Foleo, we just know we need to get our core platform and smartphones done first.”

Dude, you got your “core platform and smartphones done” long ago. Where’s Foleo II?

What’s ironic is that Foleo II actually sounds like it could be a really competitive product. Since there may never be tethering on the iPhone, and since smartbooks are going to be really hot this year, a Foleo II might be the best reason ever for people to choose, say, a Palm Pre.

The Apple iPad will charge a monthly fee for mobile broadband access — $30 for unlimited data. With a larger screen device that uses the phone’s main account, a $300 Foleo would pay for itself in ten months. So where is it?

4. Microsoft Surface for Consumers

More than two years ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said his company was “looking to create” a consumer version of its Microsoft Surface table PC.

Now, two years later, all we’re getting from Microsoft is more demos, prototypes and promises. Where’s the beta program? Where’s the developer program?

5. Microsoft Courier

One “leaked” CGI-and-Photoshopped “demo” and everybody started putting the Microsoft Courier project in the same league as the Apple iPad. The difference is that Apple makes mobile computers, and has shown us the actual device and hinted at a ship date.

The Courier demos were faked, even though everyone talked about the CGI as “video,” and the computer-generated still images as “photographs.”

It’s not even a question of “where is it”? How about: Where is the usage model? Where is the market for pen-based consumer devices? Where is the leaked photograph of a non-working prototype?

Answer: The same place the Courier is. Nowhere.

6. JooJoo

The tablet formerly known as the CrunchPad was born out of a “process” of miscommunication, bad alliances, bad faith, broken promises and lawsuits.

They started taking money for JooJoo tablets in December. Later, the company — I think there’s a company behind this — promised to ship by late February. But when late February came round, the ship date was rescheduled for late March.

Uh, huh. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Next Page: More tech gear that never shipped

7. A spam filter from Microsoft that “solves” spam

At the 2004 World Economic Forum, Microsoft Chairman (and then CEO) Bill Gates promised that “two years from now, spam will be solved” by Microsoft.

Well, it’s been six years. Is spam solved yet?

8. WiMax

In 2007, Intel proclaimed 2008 as “The Year of WiMax.” Pundits have predicted ever since that WiMax would transform not only the use of mobile devices, but even home and business networking.

What, you’re not using WiMax yet? Now pundits are predicting 2010 will be “The Year of WiMax.” Again.

9. OpenSocial

Back in the Fall of 2007, Google announced a breathtaking new initiative called OpenSocial. The plan centered around a small set of programming interfaces that social networks could use to enable users to connect across not only social networks, but even regular Web sites.

The hype at the time saw the Google OpenSocial movement as so powerful and compelling that any major social network that failed to support OpenSocial (*cough* Facebook! *cough*) would be left on the ash heap of history.

Okay, technically Google actually delivered the “product” on schedule. But two and a half years later, how are you enjoying that open, interoperable social Web?

Well, you’re not, because OpenSocial is the social tsunami that never happened.

10. Duke Nukem Forever

Back in the Dark Ages (1996), we all enjoyed a popular PC game called Duke Nukem 3D. It was so fun, the company started work a year later on a sequel called Duke Nukem Forever.

The “Forever” bit is apparently a reference to the development cycle. The company is still working on it, and still plans to ship it. Will it ship this year? Will it ship this decade? Nobody knows.

Silicon Valley and the extended consumer and business technology industries make world-changing products, and culture-shifting online services. But mostly, they manufacture hype — often for products that never see the light of day.

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