Thursday, October 25, 2012
A product design failure can mean many different things. Products can fail not so much because they are poorly made, but because they were released at the wrong time, or misread their target market. Of course, there have been a lot of bizarre and strangely conceived product designs that probably deserve attention in their own way. However, the product designs that were innovative, or at least tried to be, but ultimately failed are useful to remember as side notes to design history:
in 2001 as the vehicle that would revolutionise human transportation, the Segway did not achieve this
goal. The Personal Transporter, a two wheeled motor vehicle where users stand
on a narrow platform, was a good example of design, but one that failed to
catch on with consumers. Too expensive, and eventually banned from pavements
due to safety issues, battery power outs also led to users tumbling from them.
Most units were recalled in 2003, and by that time the Segway had become a
national joke. Still occasionally sighted, the recent Segway related death of a
British billionaire who purchased the company did little to revive its
Intended to be Microsoft’s answer to the iPod, the Windows only music player received multiple problems. Efforts to generate a portable music player that could compete with the iPod were hampered by poor functionality, and the line was discontinued in 2011. Microsoft developed the Zune with Toshiba, and released an initial model in 2006. However, the Zune struggled to cope with freezes, as well as restrictions on digital content. Simply unable to offer anything better than the iPod in terms of design or functionality.
An early attempt by Apple to launch a personal digital assistant and tablet, the Newton was developed from 1987 but never got off the ground. in a significant way. Although efficient, the Newton was still too large for carrying around, and suffered from platform compatibility issues. Some of its most fatal flaws included its lack of speed, and problems with synchronising data.
Another arguably superior product that lost out due to timing, Sony’s Betamax videotapes offered better image quality than JVC’s videotape format. However, Sony failed to properly market Betamax against VHS, with a lower cost for the latter making it easier as a recordable technology. Sony’s BetaCam technology has, however, outlived Betamax to become an industry standard.
When launched in 1992, the minidisc promised an alternative to CD players through compact, re-recordable discs that could later play MP3s. Its innovative design also included a tough outer casing for discs, which prevented damage. However, a high price and a lack of music industry support never allowed the minidisc format and player to take off, and by the early 2000s it was buried by the launch of the iPod. Although minidisc players and discs are still found in some countries, they have more or less been discontinued for some years by Sony and other companies.