Apropos of the top 10 tech flops of the year, it might be good to look at some of the things that made their companies a success. Sometimes the same company that stumbles is also the one that shines, or a major success may come out of nowhere. We also took a look at the things that made a real impression on the culture and the way people live, work and do business. Or maybe it was something that proved the naysayers wrong.
1. The iPad
It doesn't take a lot of thinking to put this device near the top. Since its introduction in April, Apple
2. The App
The App Store from Apple, and later similar offerings on the Android platform, have made people actually want to buy smartphones in a way that few other things do. By offering small, focused programs that do everything from the really useful to the banal, Apple made the iPhone useful enough that people were willing to pay extra for what is, at its heart, a phone. When the same kind of software was offered for the Android, it ensured that smartphones would really take wing. Once the province of business users -- with the Blackberry dominating the market -- smartphones became a truly mass-market phenomenon.
3. iPhone 4
The iPhone has now been through four generations, and each time it has sold better. Technically, the iPhone has been a success, despite the infamous "antennagate" problem. The screen resolution is as good as any other smartphone out there, and the improvements in processor speed and memory have made it quicker on some tasks than its predecessor. The video calling feature is also a differentiator, as few other phone models offer anything like it. But the reason this is such a big win for Jobs and for Apple is that it has cemented the position of the iOS -- and by extension Apple -- as the front runner in the smartphone market. The fact that it has sold so well despite the lack of a user-replaceable battery, less-than-perfect signal strength and being tied to a single carrier is a testament to the marketing and design savvy of Steve Jobs.
Julian Assange is going to be questioned over what amounts to a rape accusation, but that can't alter the fact that Wikileaks has shown that the Internet can be a powerful tool for keeping governments honest. The cables may be embarrassing, and they might even damage "national security" -- however defined. But the fact that every effort to block access to the information has so far failed shows that the distributed nature of the Internet means you can't keep a secret. There are lies of omission and lies of commission, and Wikileaks means that your government can't get away with either one as easily.
In contrast to one of our flops of 2010 (though it could still have a reversal of fortune) Android went from being a relatively obscure operating system when it was introduced in 2008 to one that is in just over one in every five smartphones. Android is only just a few percentage points behind the Blackberry and iPhone operating systems, and as more mobile phone companies opt for Android it will probably surpass the former soon.
Facebook passed 500 million users in 2010, and has made Mark Zuckerberg, its founder and CEO, a billionaire. Despite the problems the site has had with well-publicized privacy violations and vulnerability to hackers, the number of users keeps rising. How did this happen? One reason is technology: the social games Facebook offers essentially invented the genre, and a clean and more user-friendly design eventually outmatched MySpace. Some of it was luck: Bebo and Friendster were popular outside the U.S. but never made serious inroads. Now everyone from pop singers to BP has a page, and it has even affected family law. A new verb entered the English (and other) languages: "de-friended." Whether this continues into the future remains to be seen, but it's hard to argue that it hasn't been huge so far.
Gesture-based controls are not a completely new idea -- motion capture of some sort has been around for years. But the Kinect takes the system to another level, making it cheap enough for the home and finally freeing gamers from the tyranny of the wire. Even more than the Wii, the Kinect has promise because not only is it a game control system, but numerous tinkerers have been experimenting with it, even adapting it to PCs. Microsoft
Twitter continued its hockey-stick growth. The company passed 100 million users, and has, like Facebook, become part of our cultural lexicon. Everyone from Sarah Palin to Britney Spears has used it to connect with followers. The only problem is that nobody has figured out how to make money with it yet. In April Twitter unveiled its plan to finally monetize the user base, by offering what amounts to paid tweets to targets of certain ads. But in the meantime, Twitter is showing off a bit of the old (i.e. 1990s) model that made Internet companies famous: offer a service people will use and figure out how to make money later. Hey, it worked for Google.
9. Windows Phone 7
After the demise of the Kin, Microsoft redoubled its efforts to put together a mobile phone system. And with Windows 7 it seems to have recovered. While Windows Phone 7 hasn't blown people away in the fashion that the iPhone did, it is something of a second act for Microsoft, which is proving it can try to reach out to new and fast-changing markets in a way few people give its management credit for. In a world where the desktop is an ever-shrinking part of the computing landscape, kudos to Microsoft for making a bold move.
10. Samsung Galaxy S
iPhones get a lot of the press and the love, but Samsung proved it can fight with the Galaxy S, which has gone a long way towards making Android phones sexy to users. The phone was introduced in March and was a big seller outside the U.S. Samsung said it sold a total of 9.3 million of the phones in early December, and it may hit the 10 million mark. The processor is similar to that in the iPhone 4 and its design is every bit as cool and functional. The phone was popular enough that Google plans to use the Galaxy as the basis for the Nexus S, Google's second attempt at getting into the smartphone market.
International Business Times, The Global Business News Leader