Editors of gamer magazines don’t know jack. That’s the conclusion I’m drawing as the Microsoft Xbox fails to overwhelm the market, although the gamer magazine editors predicted huge success for the console long before its release. Every one of them, without exception, said that the Xbox would become the dominant console, period. When I questioned them about this, they all said the hardware was better, the games would be better, and that Microsoft is committed. Many of the assertions were made sight unseen, “just because it’s Microsoft.”
Although I’m a fan of the X-Box and have recommended it, I have no doubt that Microsoft will drop it like a hot potato if it doesn’t get traction soon. And this also means reversing the negative publicity that has begun to crop up. In April, Reuters reported how the console is doing miserably in Japan, and Japan is a cornerstone of the gaming world. Bad publicity.
So I figure that now would be a good time to remind ourselves that Microsoft is a fallible company and has had more than a few flops in its history. With that in mind, I’m asking the readers to recall their favorites, so I can produce a definitive list of Microsoft flops and abandonware. I’m looking in particular for software that is no longer supported, such as NetBUI. I would argue that many of the historical Microsoft flops would have been long-term success stories if the company had more fortitude.
Here’s my starter list of flops:
Microsoft Bob. This is on everyone’s top-ten list of all-time flops, although I consider the product to have simply been mismarketed. “Bob” was the code-name Utopia Interface that was socially engineered by a team of top academics with high hopes. The rollout of the product at the CES show was a spectacle, and the company was convinced that it was going to set the world on fire. Bob arrived with a thud, mainly because it seemed like a trivial, lighthearted, somewhat simplistic, and mere cartoony interface. In fact, it was perfect for children but marketed to adults. Bob was a pure corporate marketing failure, not a failure in product execution. This theme permeates all the Microsoft flops.
MSX and MSX-II. The MSX concept was rolled out in 1983 to much fanfare. The idea was for a super-duper 8-bit OS during the time that 16-bit was taking over. This OS was not just for computers, either. It was for everything, including Yamaha keyboards, and was designed to integrate computers with other consumer electronics goodies. The whole effort was an enormous failure. Microsoft, however, is still thinking along these lines.
Microsoft at Home (MAH)/Microsoft at Work (MAW). Here we have a second attempt at integrating computers with the rest of the known universe. These two initiatives went right from the drawing board and into the dump, despite all the free publicity they received when it was announced as the next big thing. These products were going to integrate all sorts of devices, such as fax machines and computers, as if a parallel port couldn’t do it. Curiously, experts who examined the basic architecture of these schemes say they represented some of Microsoft’s best work.
Microsoft Home. This was an entire product line, including a blue-gray mouse and other products with the Microsoft Home logo. This effort included a slew of games and CD-ROM–based informational programs such as the Microsoft (Oz Clark’s) Wine Guide, Gahan Wilson’s Haunted House, and a laundry list of other offerings. The whole line was abandoned unceremoniously when Microsoft decided that the Internet was more important than anything else.
Microsoft Actimates. (Click here for the details on this.) Here is abandonware at its worst. These robotic toys, sold by Microsoft in conjunction with a radio-controlled interface and software games, were nothing less than astonishing. Kids adored these wonderful toys. Perhaps they were marketed only as a ploy to make a federal judge believe the company had a heart. That heart didn’t beat long. Marketed with no enthusiasm and abandoned with hardly a whimper, it makes you wonder what’s going on at Microsoft.
There are a lot of cool products and initiatives that Microsoft bailed out of prematurely. And there are serious dogs that never should have been released. Microsoft Access—the datacom product, not the database—is a prime example. Brought out to compete with products like Procomm and Smartcom, it was seriously awful.
But there is no definitive list of Microsoft abandonware and flops. Microsoft doesn’t even reference Bob on its own corporate time line. So I’m asking the readers to come up with the definitive list, which I’ll post online as the much-needed reminder that Microsoft is hardly infallible. Tell me about what you remember. A list of all the Microsoft Home Products would be a start. Anyone have some of them left? What did you think of them or any other Microsoft abandonware?
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Microsoft Megaflops, Abandonware, and the Xbox Hiccup have 905 words, post on uk.pcmag.com at May 26, 2002. This is cached page on Konitono.Blog. If you want remove this page, please contact us.