5 technology flops

After missing sales estimates for BlackBerry 10 by almost one million units, analysts are calling BlackBerry’s latest touch-screen device a flop – but is it too soon to tell?

On Friday (28 June 2013), BlackBerry posted a quarterly loss of $84 million in its latest financial reporting, causing its shares to plummet 28%.

According to Bloomberg, the company shipped 6.8 million smartphones in the quarter, of which 2.7 million were new BlackBerry 10 models (primarily its flagship Z10 touch-screen phone).

Analysts and investors, however, had estimated total shipments of 7.5 million, with about 3.6 million BlackBerry 10 units, Bloomberg said.

To add to the pain, in its financial reporting BlackBerry also said it will not make an operating profit in the current quarter.

While analysts and investors lament the disappointing sales figures and bleak outlook, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins told investors on a conference call that the BlackBerry 10 platform is still in early stages of transition, noting that the company was only five months into an entirely new mobile platform.

Is it too soon to call BlackBerry 10 a flop? We take a look back at 5 famous technology flops that show that there is no timeline attached to measuring the success of a product – and the writing could be on the wall for Canada’s most successful mobile export.

BlackBerry Playbook
BlackBerry Playbook

BlackBerry Playbook

Even before facing the frowns of its BlackBerry 10 device sales, BlackBerry found troubles with its foray into the tablet market with the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Unveiled in October 2010, the PlayBook only got its launch the April of the following year (2011),  by which time Apple had already launched the follow-up to its wildly popular iPad tablet.

Dismal app support and no clear focus for the device – as well as lack of integration and functionality with BlackBerry phones – meant that the tablet came across almost as an afterthought for BlackBerry – and the sales figures reflected it.

From shipping (not selling) 500,000 units at launch, dropping to 100,000 in the last quarter (June 2013) – BlackBerry has only managed to move 2.46 million units over three years.

If you’re not convinced about how much people – including BlackBerry – don’t care much for the future of the device, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins has confirmed that the tablet will not be getting an update to BlackBerry 10, effectively keeping the tablet cemented in the current generation.

Nokia Ngage
Nokia N-Gage

Nokia N-Gage

Nokia has had to face troubles of its own in recent months; but while the company struggles to make its flagship Lumia brand of phone compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung, it’s the company’s N-Gage that was cemented in notoriety.

Pegged as a half-phone, half-portable gaming device, the N-Gage was released in 2003 to take on the likes of Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance (GBA) and grab a piece of the hand-held gamer market.

Unfortunately, in its first week of availablity – selling for a costly $299 – it was reportedly outsold by the GBA 100 to 1. Aside from being sluggish, the phone was widely criticised for its poor design, which forced users to hold the device sideways to talk.

side talking
A “side talking” meme appeared online, lampooning the N-Gage’s counter-intuitive design.

Nokia stopped making N-Gage phones in 2005, and launched the brand as a gaming service on later smartphone models.

Microsoft Zune
Microsoft Zune

Microsoft Zune

In 2006, Microsoft entered the portable media player market to take on Apple with its own offering – the Microsoft Zune.

Late to the game, and available in America and pretty much nowhere else, the Zune was already at a disadvantage from a marketshare point of view. Even the former Zune boss, Robbie Bach, admitted to Business Insider that they released a “chasing product” that appealed to a small segment of the music space.

Zune sales weren’t bad, at first – from its launch in 2006, the device even spawned different models and versions. But with a declining market share, and facing the powerhouse of portable media that is Apple’s iPod, the Zune was ultimately crushed.

Microsoft discontinued all Zune hardware in October 2011, and in 2012 the Zune marketplace and Zune Software were replaced by other branded Microsoft services.

Google Nexus Q
Google Nexus Q

Google Nexus Q

Can a device flop before it’s even launched? In the case of Google’s media streaming device, the Nexus Q, it would seem that it’s quite possible.

Announced in June 2012, the Nexus Q was an Android-based media-streaming entertainment device that integrated with Google Play and sported a slick and futuristic spherical design.

The device was built to connect to your home system and play video content from Google Play or YouTube…and that was it.

After facing criticism for its limited pool of content at such a high price (expected to be $299), Google postponed the launch of the Nexus Q, and eventually dropped off of Google’s Nexus pages.

HTC First
HTC First

HTC First

HTC First, also known as the Facebook phone, was unveiled in April 2013 as the first Android device to be pre-loaded with the Facebook Home software which replaced conventional home screen functionality with Facebook features.

The phone was built as a mid-range smartphone and was released exclusively on the AT&T network, and faced a lukewarm reception with mixed reviews.

A month after the device went on sale, reports surfaced that AT&T had only sold 15,000 units since launch. Staggeringly, this was after AT&T had actually dropped the device’s price from US$99 to US$0.99.

While AT&T said the price drop helped spark sales, reports linger that plans are in place to discontinue the device.

More on BlackBerry

BlackBerry falls further

BlackBerry announces mid-tier Q5

BlackBerry shareholder case dismissed

BlackBerry subscriber numbers decline

BlackBerry profits off Z10 sales

Low expectations for BlackBerry results

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5 technology flops