Your Votes Tallied: The Biggest Tech Flop of All Time

Our readers have spoken. Additional comments ranged from 'Where's Y2k?' to 'I can't believe you nominated Dreamcast!' to 'What constitutes a flop, anyway?'

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Microsoft Windows Vista and Zune

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The biggest write-in candidate for our tech flops list was the newly released Windows Vista operating system. Microsoft's Zune was also a popular pick.

While the story is still unfolding, and it will take 2-3 years in total, the all-time flop in terms of man hours and dollars invested vs. market impact and long-term damage to the vendor is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, Vista OS by Microsoft. -- J. Holmes

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Microsoft Zune: Another "iPod killer" so hampered by DRM the cons far outweighed the pros, making it DOA. Toss in the nightmare of installation (.dll hot fixes?) and this is the equivalent of gadget poison. It was as if Microsoft asked the music industry what they wanted to see in a music player instead of the people who would actually shell out money for it.

-- Roenick92

These readers may be right in the long run, but to our way of thinking, it's too soon to call either of these products a flop.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

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DRM is destroying the music industry and the video industry. It has led to early obsolescence of many HDTV sets, the demise of component connections, the corruption of fair use concepts, and extended the life of man-in-the-middle companies far beyond where the legitimate lifespan would have had them continue. DRM. It's what settles to the bottom of a septic tank. -- Anonymous

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The biggest flop. So far, it's really done NOTHING to stop illegal downloading but has caused numerous headaches for legal users who have lost hundreds of dollars in both media and equipment usage thanks to DRM. Meanwhile, companies spend hundreds of millions on new DRM schemes, often pissing off consumers only to have their endeavors defeated by techniques as simple as felt tip markers. Yes, DRM gets my #1 flop award.

-- The Saj

Again, we feel it's a bit too early to sign the death certificate on DRM, though its prognosis isn't good.

Laserdisc (a.k.a. Video Disc)

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During the late '70's and early '80s, I worked for the Magnavox Company, which was bought by Philips Corp. Philips produced a video laserdisc player whose media was a round platter-shaped disc that was a little larger diameter than an LP vinyl record. It had a great NTSC picture and was used in several interactive games and interactive corporate training devices, including an adult literacy program called PALS (Principles of the Alphabet Learning System, if I recall correctly) marketed by IBM. When combined with a touch screen and speech synthesis and speech recognition, it made a powerful training product.

As far as consumer entertainment for which I feel it was originally designed, it never caught on, though. I suppose its demise was due to the introduction of the DVD system which used a much smaller media and was at least as good quality. -- Jack Harrell

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Actually, I think had the pricing scheme been a little more reasonable, laserdiscs would have caught on. They were out long, long before DVD was even on the drawing board, but feature films were priced in the $90 range. As I recall, players were in the range of $800-$1000. Tack on a couple of movies and watch consumer acceptance go down the tubes.

-- Anonymous

Sony MiniDisc

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Many readers wrote in to smack down the Sony MiniDisc format. Interestingly, we had this on our initial list of candidates but decided it hadn't been as overhyped as the other technologies and products on the list. Our readers remember differently, however.

MiniDisc was supposed to eliminate CDs in a matter of 1 to 2 years. To this day I have never known anyone who actually owned a MiniDisc or a MiniDisc player, but for a while it was one of the most hyped technologies around. -- Jake

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I actually owned a MiniDisc recorder for some time. I bought it in Hong Kong while on vacation in 1998. The sound quality was very good, but no records were available, the data format was proprietary, no connection to PCs was possible, copying was prohibited anyway, media and the recorder itself were super-expensive.

After some weeks, the player stopped working due to a firmware problem. I was told I could turn it in only in HK, which was a bit too far away for me... So, YES, the MiniDisc system is one of the biggest flops. Made by SONY, of course.

-- Anonymous

One of our favorite reader comments took Sony to task not just for the MiniDisc but for several technology missteps:

I think Sony was given short shrift here, and should in fact be given a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for flop-tech in recognition of all the proprietary technology they've tried to ram down our throats in the last 15 to 20 years. Who has a MiniDisc player? Who's using that dumb-ass "MP3 with DRM" knock-off music format that came with their digital Walkman? And the DRM spyware on their CDs? Oh, and the Memory Stick was just what the world needed, right? Let's not even talk about Betamax, because that was way back when Sony still had a decent reputation... -- Matthew Simpson

Segway scooters

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How can the Segway not be in this list? Don't you remember the hype about how this mystery invention was the way of the future and would revolutionize this world? The gushing endorsements of our technology "visionaries" before the unveiling?

And now? Well, they might be really cool (can't say for sure having not ridden one -- who has?), but the razor scooter probably had more of an effect on society. What I remember thinking was most remarkable about this whole thing was how long it took some people to get off the bandwagon once it was unveiled.

-- Anonymous Joe
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