Solar powered torches, the Sinclair C5, the Amstrad E-m@iler, the Apple Newton’¦ all of these things were business disasters in their time and as technology advances, protection against consumer apathy and reviewers scolding a product is not guaranteed. In this digital age of freely shared ideas, businesses still make rash mistakes born out of a critical lack of understanding of the market, an unwillingness to listen to consumers and sometimes out of desperation.
It seems to some on the tech world that the company now known as BlackBerry, formerly known as RIM, has lurched from one technological or business disaster to the next. Once a serious contender in the smartphone market, they steadily lost ground to Android. 2013 saw the release of the Z10 model ‘ something they hoped would revive their fortunes. It launched with a whimper and the marketing looked as though BlackBerry was still attempting to challenge Apple when the battle was already lost. The company reported a $965m loss in the second quarter. Job losses followed.
2. iPhone 5C
The budget model of the iPhone 5 had already drastically reduced production by the end of the year which is odd because Apple were claiming that it was a success (production reduced by 35% and production on the 5S was increased). Critics labelled it ‘cheap’, a poor cousin to ‘ not just the iPhone 5 and the 5S ‘ but to most of its intended competitors in the budget smartphone market. Critics also grumbled about the 5S, claiming that despite a high price it is practically identical to the iPhone 5
The US government created website used to list the wide range of healthcare insurance packages went into meltdown on the day it launched. Users report persistent bugs, incompatibility issues with Chrome and the constant need to keep clicking pages until they come up. Sometimes pages take minutes to load. By the end of the year it seemed the technical issues had still not been resolved. Its value to businesses and consumers was negligible and losing value every day while the bugs are still a stumbling block making it an expensive mess
4. YouTube Googled
The slow takeover of major services by Google has been greeted with small murmurs of protest over the years but when the web giant finally linked one’s Google ID with YouTube commenting did an international backlash begin. Web users cited a lack of privacy ‘ they did not want their real names appearing on a video sharing site, especially as they had become so used to having a separate handle. The move prompted a petition that garnered over 200,000 signatures. Not only that, but the separate YouTube accounts were abolished ‘ you now need a Google account to comment
5. Free Flights with United Airlines
A massive computer glitch on the website of airline carrier UA led to thousands of tickets being booked with low or zero charges allocated to the customer ‘ except for the 9/11 security fee. Travellers were confused but soon word got around and people hastily booked their flights in order to take advantage of the glitch. UA honoured the free tickets anyway but never released just how much money they had lost because of the error.
6. Java Zero-Day Hack
The world’s biggest hack occurred in 2013. Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter all had their internal networks compromised and it was the result of hackers uploading malware to a popular iPhone development site. When developers logged into the site, their machines were infected with the malware and the accounts accessed through a Java Zero-Day Exploit. Only the internal systems were hacked, there was never any evidence that the information in customers’ accounts was ever under threat. US based customers of the services were advised to disable Java while the system was corrected
7. Windows 8
Every version of Windows has had its critics and some are not spoken of in polite conversation any more. Windows 8 which was released in 2013 faced arguably the biggest backlash against any OS. A key feature of the software was the highly popular and useful START button. For some reason, Microsoft chose to remove this and a whole load of other features that users had expected to see. It had become too ‘tablet’ in its appearance and die-hard desktop and laptop users were unimpressed. The backlash was so large that Microsoft released a patch 8.1 that restored some of the key missing features
8. Samsung Smart Watch
Businesses often get wind of a new product by rivals and attempt to throw out their own version at the same time or preferably before the launch of said rival product. This is what happened to Samsung when they heard about Apple’s prospective new release. Ahead of release, critics criticised its ugly nature and stated that it didn’t look or feel like a complete product ‘ rushed out purely with a deadline in line. One million people still bought it and the reviews were overwhelmingly negative. Rivals took their time and stock of the errors Samsung had made
9. The Slow Death of Yahoo! Continues
2013 was the toughest year for the former web search giant. A new CEO immediately set about restructuring the business and banned all employees from telecommuting, stating that they should now all work out of local offices. This angered many of the staff. Also in the year, Yahoo! rolled out 30 new logo designs in the course of a month. Another redesign of the Yahoo! email system crashed in a matter of days. Users were overwhelmingly unhappy at previously-enjoyed functions. They also reported a catalogue of glitches
10. New York Times fake Review
It isn’t very often a tech company successfully calls out a reviewer and it isn’t very often that the criticisms are justified but when electric car manufacturer Tesla saw a review of their prized car in the NYT, they felt compelled to act. The reviewer claimed that the Model 5 car ran out of juice long before he reached his destination. The tech team at Tesla checked the records and noticed that the reviewer had not fully charged the battery ‘ deliberately rigging the test. The CEO later wrote an article criticising the reviewer ‘when the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he changed the facts’.
In times of boom and in times of bust, businesses make critically devastating decisions about the course of their busy so a period of recession and recovery ‘ which 2013 was all about ‘ is not the only time we might see such terrible technology blunders. What stories might 2014 have in store as people seek to take advantage of the better economic climate?