The Biggest Tech Fails and Flops of 2011

If you like train wrecks, 2011 was a fascinating year in personal technology.

PlayStation Network Hack

When hackers broke into the PlayStation Network in April, Sony had to shut its online gaming service down for a month and rebuild it with better defenses. The downtime would have been bad enough to make this list, but even worse was that the invaders made off with user names, email addresses, passwords, mailing addresses, and other personal information. Sony's six-day delay in explaining the extent of the damage didn't help.


Color was an iPhone app that boasted all the right buzzwords when it launched in March: social, mobile, real-time, photo sharing. Maybe that's why investors dumped $41 million into the company. Too bad that the app itself was confusing, and that the idea of sharing photos with everyone around you works only if everyone around you is also using the app. Color has now reinvented itself as a live-broadcasting tool for Facebook. Next step: Profit!

Android Tablets

Acer, Asus, Motorola, and Samsung sold roughly 500,000 Android tablets in the United States from January to October, according to the NPD Group. Although U.S. sales for the iPad are unknown, Apple has sold 11.2 million tablets worldwide in the last quarter alone. Blame the competition's slow sales on an occasionally sluggish Android tablet interface, a small number of tablet-optimized apps, high initial prices, or poor marketing. In any case, the Android invasion has been no threat to the iPad.


Only a couple of years ago, television makers dreamed of a 3D takeover that would restore their profits as the price of LCD TVs plummeted. But this year, 3D TV has been a disappointment. Market research firm SNL Kagan projects 3D TV sales to decline this year, and a survey by the NPD Group shows customer indifference to 3D on the rise. Turns out not a lot of people want to pay premium prices to wear bulky 3D glasses while watching a limited selection of 3D content. Who knew?

Google TV

Although Google TV launched in 2010, the full extent of its failure finally became apparent this year, when Logitech ate nearly $100 million due to poor sales of its Revue Google TV set-top box. To move units, Logitech had to cut the price from $300 to $100, after reporting negative sales. In October, Google revamped its television platform to emphasize simplicity and Android apps, but any hopes of a living-room insurgence will have to wait until 2012, when the company regroups with new hardware partners.

Former HP CEO Leo Apotheker

After the failure of the TouchPad tablet, HP stunned the tech world in August by announcing plans to sell or spin off its entire PC business in order to focus on enterprise software. That was a bad idea, because HP's enterprise success is due to its ability to offer both hardware and software to businesses. Stocks plummeted, HP's board sacked CEO Leo Apotheker in September, and the company promptly reversed course on eliminating its PC business. Apotheker, however, got a $13 million golden parachute, while an estimated 500 employees who worked on WebOS lost their jobs.

Final Cut Pro X

Apple's newfound riches in the consumer market have turned into bad news for the creative professionals who once carried the company on their backs. Final Cut Pro X--the latest version of Apple's video-editing software--is a cheaper, simpler program that eliminates some tools on which many professional editors rely. Apple faced a backlash from these users after Final Cut's June launch, but saw no noticeable effect on its bottom line.

Nintendo 3DS

Although the Nintendo 3DS impresses with glasses-free 3D, at its launch in March the starting price tag of $250 and the lack of great software scared off customers. To save its newborn handheld, Nintendo had to cut the price to $180 four months later. The new price helps, and the recent launch of Super Mario 3D Land has given the 3DS a huge sales boost, but the initial price was a major miscalculation that contributed to Nintendo's first annual loss in three decades.

Cisco Flip Video Camera

Pure Digital's Flip camcorders were popular when Cisco bought the company and its products for $590 million worth of stock in 2009. But since then, Cisco let the product line languish while smartphones with built-in video cameras rose to popularity. In April, Cisco abruptly killed the Flip in a major restructuring of the company's consumer business--a sad demise for a once-proud gadget.

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