Top 10 Tech Disappointments of 2010

This past year was an interesting year for technology. There were some really big wins, like Apple’s iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Xbox 360 Kinect. Sadly, there were also some really big flops. We pick the 10 biggest disappointments in the tech world in 2010.

The criteria for making our list was that these ten products or services were introduced with big fanfare or great expectations, but crashed and burned this year usually to our great disappointment. So in order of least to biggest disappointments here are our Top Ten Tech Disappointments of 2010.

10. Palm Web OS MIA

After HP bought Palm we hoped that by the end of the year there would be something exciting come from the new marriage. Nothing has shown up. So we will have to wait till next year for a cool new WebOS phone or Tablet. There are rumblings that something is coming, but not yet.

9. Apple TV

With Apple announcing that they’ve sold a million Apple TVs, it is hard to put it on this list. In fact we were tempted to put it on the ten most exciting tech toys of 2010. But in our review of the tiny set-top box, we found that while it is a great piece of hardware and easy to set up and use, it could be so much more if they would just allow the installation of apps like their other iOS devices.

And we are not asking for all the apps either. Create a very narrow app store with much higher requirements to get your app into the Apple TV app store. To make it in, there should be a minimum of 720p resolution. The controls should be simple to use with only the Apple TV remote. There might be other requirements that the folks at Apple could think of, but apps like hulu PLUS or the ABC app would be excellent additions to the Apple TV.

If Apple ever opens this device up to these kinds of apps, the Apple TV will be moved from the most disappointing tech devices of 2010 to one of the most exciting. In fact it would be up there with the iPad and Apple could probably charge double what they are now and still sell a million of them in the first month after doing so.

8. Google Buzz

There are Twitter and Facebook. Do we need another micro-blogging social network? Google thought so releasing Buzz. But they made a few big mistakes. We would include releasing it at all as the first and biggest one. But assuming it was going to be a useful service, the problem was they released it to everyone with big security concerns. And they forced it on everyone within Gmail. It should have been an opt-in situation to start with and then they should not have shown everyone’s private data either. And to be honest we think they should have spent the time and energy working out deals with the TV networks to make something like Google TV a better service and not even bother with Buzz.

7. Apple iTunes Ping

Everyone is going social. So Apple tried to do the same thing with the new Ping service. There are reports that they tried to get it tied into Facebook which might have made it useful. But they couldn’t pull that off. So instead the Ping service is just a bust. It is not very useful and has one huge problem for families. The father might like 50s hits while mom likes classical. One of the kids likes rap music and the youngest has nothing but Barney songs or other kiddy music. When the preteen girl in the family logs onto iTunes looking for Justin Bieber, she sees recommendations for Elvis, Tchaikovsky, 50 Cent, and Sponge Bob. It just doesn’t work in that situation, so it is a failure. Even for those who are the only music buyer on the account it is not that helpful unless a lot of others like you are connected. Apple created a big disappointment in 2010.

6. iOS AirPrint

The addition of printing to the iOS platform is not something that everyone was longing for. Sure it would be nice to do, but we haven’t had a huge need for printing from our iOS devices. Yet, when Apple announced the addition of printing, we were hoping it would be easy and ubiquitous. We should be able to simply print to any printer on our network or anyone else’s. The problem is technical. How can a mobile device with very limited amount of storage for things like drivers print to every kind of printer available? It is a huge mountain to climb. Yet Apple made it sound like they reached the peak and would be releasing exactly that. So when AirPrint only worked with a handful of HP printers, it was disappointing.

It is a shame that small app makers have figured this out while big Apple cannot. There is no reason it should not have the capability of printing through any PC that has iTunes or Mac OS X installed. The fact that it does not yet work is disappointing.

5. Google Chrome OS

It is kind of hard to put this one on the list. It hasn’t really been publicly released, but our own Xavier Lanier has tested the new Chrome netbook (see part two and three of his review) that Google gave the attendees of their announcement weeks ago. His reviews have been less than positive. The problem as we see it is the Chrome OS is a solution to a problem no one really has. Do we really want an OS that is so handcuffed it can only work online. To use Chrome the user must have an Internet connection most of the time. This is fine when at home or the office. It is okay since Wi-Fi is so prevalent. And the CR-48 that Google handed out even comes with a limited amount of wireless data so the recipients could test it out without a cost. But when it finally is released, it will likely come with yet another wireless data contract cost. Who needs another bill related to Internet access? The only way we see this being a success for the consumer is if Google essentially gives away the netbook with a wireless contract that allows the user to wirelessly tether their cell phone or tablet as well. If the whole thing costs more than $50/month, then forget it. It will remain a huge tech disappointment both in 2010 and 2011.

4. HP Slate

If you are like many of us, you were on board with the Windows Tablet PC experience before most people even knew it existed. In the months before Apple revealed the iPad, everyone was trying to grab the world’s attention with a slate or tablet style computer. Steve Ballmer stood up at CES in January and showed off an HP tablet that ran Windows 7 and promised it would be great. The end result was much later than expected and never was really released as a consumer tablet. Instead the HP Slate 500 is marketed for the vertical business users. Sure consumers can buy one, but why would they? The iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab do this so much better. Even our Tablet loving friends at Gottabemobile have declared that Windows is not the best OS for tablets. We wanted the Slate to be a huge success and a great product. It was instead a magnificent disappointment.

3. Google Wave

Google Wave was one of those services that grabbed the tech media’s attention. It seemed like a great idea. It was a collaborative email and online community service. But it went nowhere. It was a little complicated and the roll out was limited at first making it less useful. Once it went mainstream and anyone could get onboard the word was already out. It was not that useful. Other simpler services already exist that let you do what the core functions promised. Email, chat and collaboration all in one is something only a small number of business users need. As a result, Google Wave was shut down just months after it was revealed. It has now been open sourced and might become useful yet. but for now it is one of the most significant tech disappointments of this year.

2. Google TV

Google TV may still succeed but early on it is a flop. The key reasons are price and the fact that it has been blocked by the networks that many would want to use it most to access. The Google TV is an Internet streaming and search device that either comes built into a TV, as in the Sony version, or a set-top box that is connected to a TV and a cable or Satellite box. It searches for content both over the air, through the customer’s TV service, or the Internet. Regardless of where it is found the device promises to find it and display the content. So if you missed the most recent episode of Glee and want to watch the streamed version for the network’s web site, you should through the Google TV.

Unfortunately, the networks have blocked the Google TV from accessing their online streamed content. Google TV was a good idea for Geeks who don’t mind the extra work of such a set-top box. But the mainstream person would have found it too complicated and since it didn’t have the content most want from the Internet, there was no good reason to add the complexity. To make it a success Google will have to streamline it, get access to online streaming content from everyone, and lower the price to something closer to the Apple TV which is $99 or the Roku box which can be purchased for as lot as $59.99.

1. Microsoft Kin

The Kin is one of the biggest PR and sales disasters in Microsoft’s history. One may have to go pretty far back to find one that failed this big. The Microsoft Kin was a cell phone that was not a smart phone but not a feature phone either. Microsoft was trying to find a spot between the more advanced smart phone but simpler and the feature phone but with more features. We think the key failure was not so much the phone itself and it’s feature set, but the price. The monthly contracts were as expensive as smart phones.The handset was a little cheaper but not enough to make it work.

To compete with iPhone and Android it would have had to have an incredible feature set or an incredible price. It had neither and was the biggest tech flop maybe of the decade but certainly of 2010.

Don’t want to end on a downer? Check out our Best of 2010 Series to see what technology really rocked it in 2010 and stay tuned because we will be at CES 2011 in January to show you what’s going to be great in 2011.

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