Apple, it seems, is all about the hits. The iPod, the iPhone and the MacBook are all phenomenally successful, both as designs and as commercial wins. These highlights, though, lead us to expect a lot of the company, and serve to make the misses stick out all the more. Apple has some embarrassing techno-skeletons in its beautiful white iCloset. Here are five.
The Hockey Puck Mouse
For a company that built itself on the first commercial, mouse equipped-computer, it’s odd that Apple has never made a good mouse. Even the current Mighty Mouse isn’t so mighty, pretending as it does to have just one button while actually sporting two, and inexplicably copying the Thinkpad’s red nipple instead of using a scroll wheel.
But the prize for Worst Mouse Ever goes the the “hockey puck”, which shipped with the original iMacs in 1998. Not only was it ugly, it was hard to hold due to size and shape, and frustrated users with a too-short cord. Rarely for Apple, style not only triumphed over substance, it utterly buried it.
The iPod Hi-Fi
Apple’s $350 speaker lasted just 18 months before it was taken out back, shot and sprinkled with lime. It was an odd product from Apple, which normally leaves these kinds of accessories to a healthy third-party market. The Bose-designed box had stereo speakers and an iPod dock on the top, and the high price tag and poor performance meant market failure.
Just like the lack of a good mouse, the dearth of decent headphones from Apple is another paradox. The sound quality may be comparable to or even better than the bundled ‘buds from other manufacturers, but they’ll break, and the $30 Apple wants for a new pair is better spent almost anywhere else.
I have gotten through a lot of them, and the longest any set lasted was a few months. This includes the latest, remote and microphone-toting model, which managed about six weeks before dying.
Long before Apple put a terrible camera in the iPhone, it put a terrible camera into a camera: The 0.3 megapixel (640×480) Apple QuickTake. The camera had no way to focus, and zooming was done by walking closer to your subject. Neither could you blast away like we do with the digicams of today: The QuickTake 100, built by Kodak, could fit just eight pictures into its 1MB memory.
The problem was that the market was immature, and the QuickTake was one of the first consumer digicams on the market. Compare this to the successful strategy of Apple since the iPod: Wait until the market has been established, then make a simpler, better product than anyone else.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Then Apple decided that iTunes should be the conduit for the iPhone, and kept piling on bloated features. What had started as a pared-down, single-minded and simple application started to sync with Outlook, gained the useless cover flow view and, on the Mac at least, appeared to have a monopoly on the spinning beach-ball of death.
Worse, the iTunes Store, a fantastically user-friendly music store, gained weight in the form of the awful, hard to navigate App Store.
Of course, these days we have a new, simple and fast music app. It’s called Spotify. Apple, though, has shafted itself. The problem with selling a revolutionary device which is an iPod, a cellphone and an internet device, all in one, is that the software to support it needs to be similarly multi-tasking.
Anything we missed? While these failures are big, we have restricted them to the modern-day Apple, and ignored the Jobs-less wilderness years of beige-boxes and overpriced printers. Feel free to add more in the comments.