With $156.508 billion in revenues and $588.540 billion in capitalization as of September 29, Apple, Inc. was America’s biggest corporation. Bigger in capital than Exxon Mobil. Bigger in revenue than Government Motors, General Electric or Berkshire Hathaway.
Obviously, you don’t get that big unless you’re very, very good at what you do.
But being very good doesn’t mean being perfect.
Apple has had its share of failures, too – some resulting from bad decisions, some from corporate or personal ego.
- Quick Take Camera, 1994-1997 – With 640 x 480 pixel photos at 0.3 megapixel resolution, this camera was forefront technology back in the Geocities era, and Apple could’ve made a fortune with it. Its only problem was non-technological. It was an initiative from John Sculley, Steve Jobs’s successor and predecessor as Apple CEO, and when Jobs returned to run the company, it was one of 11 Sculley product lines he killed in the name of “streamlining.”
- iPod Socks, November, 2004-September, 2007 – These were knitted cases for iPods, which have always been durable enough to not need them. Possibly a misguided attempt at branding, they served no real-world function, became a joke among Apple users and sat around, unsold, in Apple Stores for years.
- Motorola Rockr, 2005-2006 – An early smart phone, though with a room-temperature IQ. Its camera was substandard, it stored only 100 iTunes songs, made transfers v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, lacked features other phones had, followed the Motorola tradition of building really bad phones, and failed to work when Jobs demoed it on stage. It was a good guide to what not to do in developing the iPhone, which Apple introduced in 2007.
- iPod Hi-Fi, 2006-7 – The whole idea of the iPod is personal music. And what better way to enjoy music personally than with a speaker 14.5 box that sells for $350? No wonder it sat on the shelves the way iPods were supposed to sit in its dock.
- Texas Hold ’em iPhone App, 2006-2011 – This app was actually a pretty good product. It debuted on the iPod and was the first available when the App Store launched in 2008. But by November, 2011, the company had stopped updating it and pulled it from the market – making Apple’s first game app its only one.
- Bluetooth Headset, 2007-2009 – Being eclipsed by the original iPhone’s introduction at the same event didn’t get it off to the greatest of starts, and its $130 price tag didn’t help, either. One reviewer described its sound quality as “like a bowl of Rice Krispies sprinkled with crystal meth for your ear, so bad is the snapping, crackling, and popping sounds accompanying its use. Do yourself a favor and jam the point of a sharpened pencil in there instead and talk to that. It will be a less painful experience, and will probably work just as well.” Cutting features in order to cut the price didn’t help.
- Ping, 2010-2012 – The bastard offspring of iTunes and social networking, it wasn’t very good at either. As one critic said, it “came out half-baked.” It handled only music bought from the iTunes store, limited messaging to likes and music reviews, and – in the longstanding Apple tradition of shutting other companies, even at the cost of sacrificing functionality and sales – had no interchangeability with Facebook or other social networks, even for importing friend lists.
- Face Time Open Standard, 2010-?? – With much fanfare, Jobs announced in 2010 that Apple was going to standards bodies the very next day to make Face Time (itself based on open standards) an industry standard. He never did – some say becausethe traditional Apple hogishness kicked in, others because it was all a ploy to undermine Skype and similar videocalling brands.
- Cards App, 2011-present – There’s only one thing wrong with this Apple product – nobody uses it. Which is a shame, because it lets iOS device owners design physical greeting cards from a large and growing array of options, then mail them to the recipients. Maybe the upcoming holiday season will help.
As Wired.com writes,
Apple’s breakthrough products are so massive that it seems everything the company does is destined to succeed. But it doesn’t take much digging to find a trail of failures and false starts. Even in recent years, there are examples of products that seemed great but never resonated with consumers, and some that seemed so destined for failure it’s hard to imagine why any company would have brought them to market.
The point all businesses can take from this is, whether giants like Apple or home-based solo operations here in Richmond, mistakes and failures are inevitable. Our ability to learn from them should be as well.