news hardware Apple failures: we bet you don’t know the worst products from the brand that created the iPhone
If you think Apple has had nothing but successes, you’re sorely mistaken: The company that created the iPhone, MacBook, and iPad has had its share of failures, some of which are particularly bitter. Here are the most beautiful failures of Apple.
- The Macintosh Laptop (1989): 7 kg to carry
- Newton MessagePad (1993): the ancestor of the iPhone and iPad
- Macintosh TV (1993): The Apple TV of the 90s (or almost)
- The Apple III (1980): the first real failure
- Pippin -o Pipp! n- (1996): the cursed console
- Ping (2010): the social network dedicated to music
- iPod Hi-Fi (2006): The Speaker Connected Before Its Time
100 million iPhone 12 sold in 7 months, 23 million Macs sold in 2020, 450 million iPods worldwide… Apple’s successes sometimes border on insolence and one sometimes wonders if the company has already known real failures. Well, imagine yes, and you’re still happy: with more than 46 years of existence, the Californian company has launched a large number of products and services, some of which have left little mark on the history of technology, more or less for reasons wrong. Here you will discover or rediscover strange, surprising, too advanced, or simply poorly made products, which cost a few million dollars to the company founded by Steve Jobs.
The Macintosh Laptop (1989): 7 kg to carry
In 2022, you may have gotten a MacBook Air M1: an excellent 1.2kg ultraportable with a brilliant color screen and 15 hours of battery life. 33 years ago, Apple released its first laptop, in a somewhat different format. The Macintosh Portable did indeed weigh 7kg (!) and offered a black and white screen limited to 640×400 pixels (which was very good for the time). Inside the Macintosh, Portable was a Motorola 68000 processor clocked at 16 MHz, similar to the one in the Amiga 500 or Atari 520 ST. Sold for $6,500 when it launched, this first attempt at a “portable” computer from Apple was a dud: too expensive, not powerful enough, too bulky… It didn’t appeal to anyone. Two years later, Apple released the PowerBook 100, which looks much more like a “real” laptop, weighing just 2.3kg. The formula begins to take force.
Newton MessagePad (1993): the ancestor of the iPhone and iPad
When Steve Jobs worked on the iPhone concept in the mid-2000s, he didn’t start from a blank page. The founder of Apple will be inspired by one of the most beautiful failures of the company: the Newton. Released in 1993, the Newton is what was then called a “personal assistant.” You may know of this type of product through the Palm Pilot, which has been much more popular. The Newton is thus the ancestor of touch panels and uses a stylus (yes, like on the Galaxy Note). The screen is black and white, the format is that of an A4 sheet folded in half, the set weighs 484 grams without battery (an iPad Air today weighs 461 grams) and offered calendar, calculator, notepad, and mail functions. electronic… Exactly what smartphones (and more) will offer 15 years later. Newton’s star argument is its handwriting recognition system, sold as revolutionary by CEO John Sculley (Steve Jobs will only return to command 4 years later). But the latter is too capricious and the Newton will never find its audience.
Macintosh TV (1993): The Apple TV of the 90s (or almost)
Imagine that Apple sells only 10,000 copies of a new product, before ceasing production after 6 months. Unthinkable today, but that’s what happened with Machintosh TV. Released in October 1993, it disappeared in April 1994 and is now particularly rare and sought after. It’s nothing less than a Mac with a TV tuner and remote, all in a design that can fit in a living room or bedroom. The “computer” part was similar to the Performa 520 released a few months earlier, but the screen was a 14-inch screen made by Sony, with all the connectors to display the TV. But beware: you had to choose one or another function and it was not possible to show the TV in a Mac OS window. A failed attempt, at a time when Apple was launching many (too many) “just to see” products.
The Apple III (1980): the first real failure
Let’s go back to the context of the time: in the late 1970s, Apple had the wind in its sails and experienced its first success with the Apple II (1977), a pioneer in consumer microcomputing. This computer was for many a gateway to programming and video games. But the company quickly thinks of a sequel and logically considers the Apple III. Launched in 1980, it is very “professional” and incorporates many productivity tools. The concern is that the design phase has been delayed and the computer is coming out with a lot of technical issues: buggy operating system, faulty chips… All for an entry price set at $3,400. The failure is acrimonious and forces the manufacturer to produce its Apple II much longer than expected. It is estimated that only 75,000 copies of the Apple III have been sold in 4 years, while the Apple II -all models combined- would have sold more than 12 million copies.
Pippin -o Pipp! n- (1996): the cursed console
The middle of the 1990s was of crucial importance for video games: the Super Nintendo and the Mega Drive were a success and Sony was about to revolutionize the market with the first PlayStation. And then there’s Apple, which has thought of launching its home console in partnership with Bandai. The first takes care of the hardware and the ecosystem (PowerPC under System 7) and the second creates the design. There’s also a CD-ROM drive in Pippin, and it all comes with a particularly weird driver. Available only in Japan and the United States (at $599 anyway), the Pippin was already outclassed by the competition at the time of its release, selling no more than 45,000 copies. We still remember the Exotic Sushi “game”, which taught you how to properly prepare and taste a certain Japanese specialty based on raw fish.
Ping (2010): the social network dedicated to music
Do you have any memories of a social network launched by Apple twelve years ago? Neither do we, but the research for this article has brought this fabulous failure to light. Launched in 2010, Ping was described by Steve Jobs as “a mix of Facebook and Twitter dedicated to music sharing.” It allowed people to let everyone around them know about their musical tastes… The only condition was that they used iTunes on a computer or in the dedicated application on iPhone or iPod Touch. Effectively, Apple’s gas plant had to be used to access Ping, cutting it off from 80% of its potential audience. Apple still maintains the service for 2 years, before stopping the charges in 2012.
iPod Hi-Fi (2006): The Speaker Connected Before Its Time
Apple’s flagship product in the early 2000s was undoubtedly the iPod. The pocket music player is a hit and will go a long way in democratizing music nomads, as Sony’s Walkman did before it. But in 2006, Apple offered an unprecedented “accessory”: a huge speaker that could accommodate the iPod thanks to a dedicated port. The idea is far from bad… but the company is too late. There are already dozens of “compatible” products of the same type, of good quality, and, above all, much cheaper. Because at 380 euros per unit, it could well be said that the vast majority of the public will have preferred to resort to alternative solutions. Result: iPod Hi-Fi production stops a year later.
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