Gadgets that Failed to Launch

While most gadgets make it to the market for consumer purchase, a few even fail to launch despite creating a hype.

Gadgets that Failed to Launch
Gadgets that couldn’t make it

Gadgets have not only become an integral part of our lives but have also manifested into an extension of our physical selves. In an ever-demanding world, we seamlessly depend on them to make our lives easier and run with ease. The market is awash with numerous of them, captivating the eyes of consumers with their cutting-edge innovations. While only a handful of them manage to succeed in the competitive market, most of them fail to make a mark. Then there are those that never even make it across the starting line, dissipating in the heat of their own promotion.

The procedure to make a gadget commercially available is far more rigorous and difficult than building a prototype based on the initial idea. Large-scale production plans are impeded by technological and logistical hurdles associated with hardware – which inevitably changes the price of the product. Moreover, consumer demand and sentiment to own the gadget might also subside over time.

In 2007, Palm Inc. hyped up the development of its $600 laptop, Palm Foleo. The laptop was meant to sync up with Palm’s Treo smartphones for data connectivity to be used in corporate offices worldwide. Unfortunately, Palm scraped the project just 3 months after the announcement – to focus on advancing Treo’s platform to build the next-generation smartphones. After failing to capitalize on their smartphones as well, Palm was eventually bought by HP in 2010.

History is also witness to the failure of big tech companies to bring revolutionary gadgets in the market. Microsoft promised the launch of Courier tablet, folding phones that open and close like a book. While the market still hasn’t seen the advent of such smartphones, the development idea was shunned in 2010 due to several reasons. In addition to the high demand and challenge of acquiring all the pieces to build it, Microsoft was also afraid of losing its customer base loyal to the Windows operating platform.

By starting Project Ara in 2013, Google took up the idea of building a modular smartphone – a phone with detachable parts like a LEGO which allowed the user to upgrade its individual components instead of replacing the whole phone itself. After three years of keeping the market in the dark, Google scraped off the project in 2016, as Motorola incorporated the watered down version of the same idea in its Moto Mods device.

In September 2017, Apple promised the launch of its Airpower Wireless Charger, to wirelessly charge several of its devices at the same time. A year and a half later, Apple still remains silent on the product, and it has the potential to slowly slip away into the forgotten territory.

Mattel Aristotle, a voice-controlled hub designed to aid babies, was shelved after outbursts from privacy advocates and child-development experts. Sega’s Virtual Reality (VR) headsets also failed to see the light of the day after users experienced motion sickness and severe headaches during development testing.

A major factor in the failure to launch such gadgets is the tendency of companies to bite more than they can chew. Kickstarter, a major crowdfunding platform, has started a partner program to help rookie companies navigate the maze of supplies, production, and complex legal certifications to free products from manufacturing limbo. The decision was taken after a study in 2015, which revealed that 9% of Kickstarter projects never managed to deliver their ‘rewards’.

Technological advancement is not possible without pitfalls. These gadgets, that never made it to the market, have surely provided inspiration to the development of the ones we currently own and use.