Each new gadget release generates its own hype. Matthew Herbst reviews the gadgets that were meant to change the world, but never quite lived up to their billing
In September 2011, Sony announced it was ending production of the MiniDisc. The audio storage device struggled to establish itself outside Japan, despite some interesting technical features. MiniDiscs were rewritable and tracks could be split or combined with ease either on the player or a PC. The music industry failed to embrace the technology, but the compact and convenient nature of the format appealed to many DJs. Sales never managed to surpass those of the Walkman and the final demise of the MiniDisc was effectively sealed with the arrival of the first portable MP3 player in 1997. Today, prices remain high and you’ll have to fork out anything upwards of RO96 at amazon.com for a mint condition player.
Do Not N-Gage
Released in 2003, the N-Gage is one of Nokia’s more memorable failures in mobile tech history. The intention was to combine a phone and a gaming system, but the execution was rather poor. The design was odd and uncomfortable for use as a mobile (you had to hold the unit vertically on its side when calling), while its gaming graphics looked amateur at best. Due to technological limitations, the library of games remained tiny when compared to its heavyweight rival, Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance. Despite its failures, Nokia did manage to flog three million units before discontinuing it in 2005. To put this in perspective, though, the Game Boy Advance, sold 81.51 million during the same period. Second-hand devices can be picked up for as little as RO12.11 at ebay.com
Battle of the Discs
Both HD DVDs and Blu-ray were released around the same time in 2006 and despite experiencing mixed success, Blu-ray just about emerged on top. Sony was backing Blu-ray, while Toshiba put its money behind HD DVD and as soon as Sony secured Warner Brothers to release high-definition movies exclusively in Blu-ray format, the battle was clearly won. Blu-ray players are still available, costing slightly more than their DVD counterparts and offer better quality on the whole, as well as a few extra features such as catch-up and smart TV apps. Rumour has it that Toshiba’s support of the HD DVD product lost the firm more than RO384,799,987.08.
Sega’s Dreamcast was released in 1999, not far ahead of its rivals, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Suffering at the hands of Sony’s and Microsoft’s vastly superior marketing strength, Sega introduced heavy price cuts, but even they couldn’t save the doomed console. The Dreamcast was discontinued in early 2001 and Sega has not ventured back into the console market since, instead focusing on software. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can pick up a second-hand console for RO23.10 on amazon.com
I remember my neighbours having a Betamax player and they would often try to convince our family that it was far better than VHS. The worst part was that we could never swap movies as their tapes didn’t fit in our VHS player and vice versa. It was believed that Betamax would usher in a new era of home cinema in the late 1970s by offering greater quality, but the format was ultimately financially undercut by its rival, who could offer vastly cheaper prices to consumers. Needless to say, our neighbours soon ditched their Beta player and converted to VHS.
Palm Today, Gone Tomorrow
Who remembers the Palm Pilot? Despite numerous rebrandings and several takeovers intended to revitalise the first PDA to be marketed worldwide, it was announced in 2008 that the company would no longer be developing any new handheld devices, condemning the PDA to the annals of tech history. First launched in the mid-1990s, the Palm Pilot struggled with the advent and rise of the smartphone. And with the continued growth and success of smartphones, it’s fair to say that a comeback looks unlikely for Palm.
EDITOR’S PICK: Bad Apple
Years before iphones and ipads arrived on the scene, Apple produced the much lesser known Newton Messagepad. Launched in 1993, the Messagepad marked apple’s foray into the personal digital assistant (PDA) market, a project that cost a total of RO38,479,998.71. However, the huge investment was never really rewarded with strong sales and the project was cut in 1998. The concept was revisted in a much better fashion with stronger soft and hardware when the iPhone emerged. Second-hand messagepads can be found for upwards of RO57 on sites like amazon.com and ebay.com
APP OF THE WEEK: Tidal Wave of Failure
Just two months ago, Tidal made its big media push with the core message that while other music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora Radio pay pennies to artists, Tidal offers musicians a much better deal. Backed by the industry’s power couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Tidal enjoyed a brief stint at the top in the US iPhone download chart, after which it slumped to a dismal 700th position. Needless to say, Tidal’s CEO was replaced as swiftly as a breaking wave and the service certainly has its work cut out if it hopes to keep up with the likes of the hugely successful Spotify.