Gadgets That Flopped in 2010


Microsoft's Kin One, which was released in spring and then dropped a few weeks later.

For every great gadget that triumphantly bursts onto the scene in a given year, there are many that never quite catch on. We’ve rounded up a few products that were each supposed to be the next big thing this year, but ultimately ended up being pulled from the market, having their release date pushed back indefinitely, or simply not selling.

—Seth Fiegerman

The Kin was supposed to help Microsoft break into the smartphone industry and boost its gadget cred. Instead, it proved to be a monumental failure.

The Kin, which came in two different models, was an oddly shaped touchscreen phone with a slide-out keypad that specifically targeted teens by focusing on social media features. Microsoft had actually worked on building the phones on and off for several years, but all that effort proved to be a waste. Just a few weeks after the phone was released this spring, Microsoft stopped selling it.

Instead, the company turned its attention to the Windows Phone 7, which hasn’t done much better.

Microsoft wasn’t the only one to experience setbacks in the smartphone market. Google  released the Nexus One earlier this year, a smartphone that was supposed to be an “iPhone killer,” but that ultimately ended up dead itself.

While the phone was a solid product with features that rivaled the iPhone’s, Google initially launched it without partnering with a service provider and failed to attract any major phone company afterwards. As a result, estimates are that Google sold just over 100,000 of them, not nearly enough to compete with its competitors. Within a few months of its launch, Google nixed the Nexus One.

Of course, Google has had remarkable success with smartphones through its Android platform, which powers many popular phones. In fact, when taken together, Android phones are now outselling the iPhone.

After Apple unveiled the iPad at the beginning of the year, many tech companies promised to release their own versions of the touchscreen tablet. Nearly a year later, only a handful of tablets have been released, while the iPad has gone on to become arguably the biggest success story of this year, selling some 7.5 million units.

So what happened to all those supposed competitors? For some like the Notion Ink Adam, the release date has been perpetually pushed back, which means we may still see some new entries by early next year. But others like the JooJoo tablet simply could not compete.

The JooJoo, a product of Fusion Garage, earned a significant amount of media attention before hitting the shelves this year, though much of that coverage stemmed from a lawsuit filed by a major technology blog. By the time the product was actually released, it proved to be a complete dud. Just 90 people pre-ordered the device, and 15 of those reportedly cancelled their order. The tablet was eventually discontinued in November, though the company plans to release a similar device sometime next year.

Then there’s the Courier from Microsoft, another tablet that never really got off the ground despite a significant amount of buzz and advance praise. The Courier was intended to be a unique blend of a tablet and e-reader, a device with two tablet sized touch screens side by side giving users the feeling of reading a book. The project was shelved indefinitely in April.

Microsoft really couldn’t catch a break this year.

Is the Skiff e-reader on your holiday shopping list this year? No? Don’t worry, it’s not on anyone else’s either.

The Skiff was supposed to be a large newspaper-sized e-reader specifically designed for reading electronic publications, and it was praised for its potential to provide a lifeline to the struggling newspaper and magazine industry. But alas, the Skiff was to put to rest in June of this year after the company was bought out by News Corp., which apparently decided not to develop the project any further.

Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble have dominated the e-reader market this year, making it difficult for other companies to get a foot in the door. Case in point: the Cool-er E-reader, produced by Interead, a British company.

This e-reader, which came out last year, essentially fashioned itself as a more stylish version of the Kindle, equipped with the same e-ink technology, but for less money and sold in a case with more color options than just black and white. Unfortunately, the Kindle proved too difficult to compete with and the company ended up going out of business in mid-2010.

On the whole, Apple had a stellar year in 2010, not only because of the success of the iPad, but also because of the new iPhone 4, which sold nearly 2 million copies in its first three days alone.

But there was one blemish on this success (well, really two, if you count the antennagate controversy with the iPhone 4). Apple still has yet to produce a white iPhone 4, claiming that it has “proven more challenging to manufacture than expected.” As a result, the release date has been pushed back multiple times, and there are still doubts about whether it will ever see the light of day.

Indeed, the only person who seems to have one right now is Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, who may or may not have modified the iPhone himself.

Google Wave may not be a gadget in the traditional sense, but it was marketed as the ultimate online tool for employees and students looking to collaborate on products. Essentially, Wave functioned as e-mail version 2.0, allowing users to share and edit information with selected contacts in real time. But in the end, it proved to be too ahead of its time, and was not adopted by many users. In August of this year, Google pulled the plug on the project, though there are talks of resurrecting some of the code for another software project down the road.