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Rotten Apples: 10 Apple Products That Failed

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These Apple Computer releases "sucked up man hours and development funds, were released commercially and then, for myriad good reasons or none, ceased to exist."

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"Underpowered, overpriced, and underutilized – that pretty much describes everything that came out of Apple in the mid-90s," a PC World journalist once said, summing up Apple's (AAPL) interesting failures.

Some were ahead of their time, some were outstripped by newer technology. Some of Apple's flops represented the triumph of aesthetics over functionality, and some were felled by the ascendancy of market reality over magical thinking.

What constitutes Apple's "failures"? Products that sucked up man hours and development funds, were released commercially and then, for myriad good reasons or none, ceased to exist. Here are 10 examples.

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Apple Lisa (1983-1986)
The Lisa project -- reportedly named after Steve Jobs' daughter born the year the project started, but also an acronym for "Local Integrated Software Architecture" -- was Apple's stab at a PC with a graphical user interface. Apple targeted the Lisa to the business community and priced it at $10,000, sending even people who spend other people's money scurrying for the cheaper IBM PCs (IBM) on the market and making spendthrifty NASA the Lisa's primary customer. The high price bought a system whose Motorola central processing unit, at 5 MHz, couldn't keep up with what the machine was designed to do. The Macintosh, released in 1984, was the beginning of the end for the Lisa.
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Macintosh Portable (1989)
Designed as a battery-powered laptop that would work as well as a desktop computer, the Macintosh Portable boasted the innovative plan to use SRAM to help with battery life. Unfortunately, once the battery ran down, there was no way to reboot the computer on AC power. That it cost as much as a used car and, at 16 pounds, strained the definition of "portable," didn't help matters. After only a year in production, it was discontinued.
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Pippin (1996)
A Frankenstein mix of a gaming console and a PC, the Pippin's downfall was two-pronged: at $600 in 1996 dollars, it was three times the price of the more nimble and functional and better equipped Nintendo N64. And as for connecting with the Internet – the Pippin's 14.4kbp speed, glacial even for dial-up, made it easier to just not go online.
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Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (1997)
A celebration of Apple's first 20 years in business, the TAM was one of the first desktops to use an LCD screen. It was equipped with Bose speakers and a snazzy design, and offered the cachet of being one of only 12,000 built. It was geared toward the kind of buyer who would happily pay $7,500 for the exact same specs as the $3,000 Power Macintosh 6500. Such buyers were not as plentiful as Apple imagined – the fact that the newly re-entrenched Steve Jobs himself owned one did nothing to help sales, and after a succession of ineffectual price drops, the machine was discontinued.
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Hockey Puck Mouse (1998-2000)
This design debacle came in an array of Jellies colors, but the cutesiness couldn't compensate for the awkward round shape. The mouse was difficult to maneuver and the push button frustratingly evasive, even after Apple tweaked the design to include a small indentation. The mouse also had an inherent and unprofitable left-hand bias – the 2-foot cord only barely reached around from the left-side USB port of most Apples.
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Newton (1993)
A forward-thinking project, the Newton was both an operating system and the world's first personal digital assistant – in fact, the PDA got its name from Apple CEO John Sculley. Although the iPad uses a different OS, the Newton was essentially its precursor. At the time, the market was looking for small, smaller, smallest, and at a nearly iPad-sized 8-by-5 inches, the Newton didn't fit the bill. Like other failed Apple products, the Newton was priced higher than its functionality warranted. Once the smaller, cheaper Palm Pilot hit the market, the Newton PDA was toast. Though the tablet is gone, a version of the OS is still around as an open source project.
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QuickTake (1994-1997)
One of the first digital cameras, the QuickTake succumbed to leaps in digital photography technology and the profusion of established camera companies offering them. Kodak and Fujifilm (FUJIY) separately collaborated with Apple on versions of the QuickTake, which was meant, predictably, to work only with a Macintosh. The camera stored eight photos at a maximum resolution of 640x480 and had no focus or zoom. You couldn't preview pictures on the camera or delete individual pictures, and since Apple isn't actually in the business of making cameras, the QuickTake was quickly overtaken by more competent, less proprietary competitors.
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Eworld (1994-1996)
eWorld was Apple's attempt at a Mac-only version of the early America Online network. At its peak, the service had 115,000 subscribers compared with AOL's (AOL) 3.5 million. Like AOL, eWorld offered an insular online world and limited access to the outside Internet with its proprietary browser and e-mail system. eWorld failed primarily because Apple was too distracted by its massive financial problems to market it or price it competitively. Intimidated by the larger market share held by former contractual partner AOL, Apple decided to cut its losses and focus on sure things.
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G4 Cube (2000-2001)
Although its 8x8x8 design was distinctive enough to land it a spot in the Museum of Modern Art's collection, the G4 Cube was overpriced, a fatal flaw that had had taken down other Apple creations. Apple's own Power Mac G4, though not a design marvel, cost some $200 less for the same capabilities and things the Cube's design precluded, like expandability and a fan. The G4 Cube price didn't include a monitor, it tended to overheat, and early versions often came off the line with cracks in the case. In short order, Apple's own rapid advances in processor speed made the Cube the computer version of the Polaroids of the era – of cult value only.
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ROKR (2005)
Apple's collaboration with Motorola on a phone that stored and played 100 iTunes failed, alright – and not just for Apple. Jonathan Rubinstein, then head of Apple's iPod division, expressed his deep commitment to the ROKR he'd helped bring into existence when he mused days after the release, "Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee? There is no such combined device, because it would not make anything better than an individual toaster or coffee machine. It works the same way with the iPod, the digital camera or mobile phone: it is important to have specialized devices."

His eerily unprescient remarks came on the heels of Motorola CEO Ed Zander's meltdown once he discovered Apple had simultaneously released both the ROKR and its nemesis. "Screw the nano," Zander said during a 2005 Silicon Valley press conference. "What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs? People are going to want devices that do more than just play music." True, but not true enough to save the ROKR.



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Click here to return to "The Mythology of Apple" and our complete list of Apple stories.

Why is Apple so important to us? What's next for the iconic brand? Click here to continue reading from our series on the mythology of Apple. You'll also find a link to our video, "Is Apple a Religion?"

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