Gadgets

Steve Jobs's Biggest Apple Flops

In Steve Jobs’s two stints at Apple, the company made some great products. Their most amazing products. But no one’s perfect. Not even Steve Jobs. And Apple produced a few pieces of total crap during his reign. Here’re the worst.

Lisa

The Apple Lisa, named after Jobs’s daughter, may have been the first computer to employ a GUI in 1983, but it cost $US10,000 and had a hulking, unsightly design. Few bought the thing. A year later, the cheaper Macintosh came out and rendered the Lisa largely irrelevant.

iMac USB Mouse

The mouse introduced with the iMac in 1998 is up there with Comic Sans and Clippy when it comes to inciting geek rage. Not only was it a single-button mouse, like all other Apple input devices before and after it, but it was round, like a hockey puck. And truth be told, it probably would have been more comfortable sliding a hockey puck around a desk all day.

iPod Hi-Fi

The iPod Hi-Fi wasn’t a terrible device from technical standpoint. Reviewers generally praised the sound that emanated from its drivers. But it just didn’t make sense for anyone at the time. Audiophiles had no use for music that came from an iPod. The average consumer didn’t need a speaker that was so big. And all gadget freaks could do is look at the $US350 price tag and shrug their shoulders. Introduced in February 2006, the iPod Hi-Fi line didn’t last two years before being discontinued in September 2007.

Apple TV (1st Generation)

When the first Apple TV arrived in 2007, it had all the tools to be successful. Intel processor. 720p support via HDMI. Wi-Fi. Up to a 160GB HDD. But then came the limitations. It could only stream H.264 or MP4 video. It could play trailers and video clips from iTunes, but you couldn’t buy or rent movies or TV shows. Nor could you buy MP3s. Aside from photos, which used Flickr, streaming was facilitated entirely through iTunes on your computer. People weren’t exactly going crazy to get their hands on an Apple TV, which led the company to release a revised version of the software which supported TV and Movie rentals, and even that only offered limited success. Eventually, Apple reconceptualised the Apple TV in many ways, producing the awesome little black box that still exists today.

Buttonless iPod Shuffle (3rd Generation)

Yes, we all get it, minimalism is great. However, there’s a point when the quest for simplicity buckles back on itself and actually makes something more complicated. That’s what happened with the iPod shuffle. Aside from the power/lock button, It had no buttons on it. None! You had to use headphones with a compatible in-line remote to operate the thing. You solely used the morse-code like system for flipping through tracks, which was kind of a pain in the arse. AND, OH, if you wanted to use headphones that weren’t Apple’s terrible earbuds, you needed a special adaptor. It was received with a mix of novel curiosity and mockery. The following generation of the iPod shuffle was the first time I’ve seen Apple so blatantly return to a former design. And they aren’t shy about advertising the fact that the current one has buttons.

Final Cut Pro X

For years, Final Cut Pro has been a favourite among Hollywood filmmakers. The UI is clean and simple, but extremely powerful. When Apple released the revamped Final Cut Pro X, however, that love turned to hate. Unadulterated hate. Professionals hate the lack of power features and its resemblance to iMovie (which means aspiring professionals probably feel the same way). Casual hobbyists probably won’t pay $US300 for it. What we’re left with is a program that tries to please everyone while addressing the nobody’s needs. Or maybe it’s trying to address everyone’s needs while pleasing nobody. Who knows!

Ping

When Steve Jobs introduced Ping, it was supposed to be the greatest thing to happen to music discovery since radio. But not even half-baked, Ping was just raw and underdeveloped. It was a feed hiding in the most unusable section of iTunes (the music store), that let you recommend songs from the store, which only existed in the store. It also told everyone when you bought something new. No playlists from friends. No top lists. It kept the collective attention of the technorati for about 14 minutes. Eventually they “expanded” ping to let you recommend tracks from your library view, but you know what they say about pigs and lipstick.

Power Mac G4 Cube

One of the best things to happen during Steve Jobs’ second run at Apple is that the company began to experiment with form. While the company has been firmly entrenched in a minimalist aesthetic during its most successful phase, Apple wasn’t scared to play around with some weird ideas in the late ’90s and early 2000s (see also: iMac G4). The Power Mac G4 Cube is an example of one of those experiments gone wrong. Often viewed as a precursor to the Mac Mini, and despite costing more than the cheapest PowerMac G4, the 8 x 8 x 10 inch Cube was positioned somewhere between iMacs and PowerMacs when it came to power and functionality. Starting at $US1800 and frequently suffering from case cracks, the computer was bust, lasting only a year on store shelves. But hey, MoMA showcased it, so it wasn’t all bad. I guess.

iPod Photo

In 2004, people wanted a video iPod. So what did Apple give them? An iPod capable of displaying low-res photos (220×176!!!). At $US500, the 40GB model cost $US100 more than the regular 40 GB iPod, an eventually a 60GB model popped up for $US600. You won’t see a lot of people fondly recalling the iPod Photo days like they did the Third Generation iPod (swoon).

What’s your least favourite Steve Jobs Apple product?