The 10 biggest failures in IT history

Guess what’s number one…

No surprise there. And boy, did we like that WordPerfect ‘reveal codes’ function. Far superior to any other wordprocessor. Alas…

The 10 biggest failures in IT history
    * Date: October 30th, 2009
    * Author: Jack Wallen

1: Windows Vista
What a disaster! Could Microsoft have assembled a bigger failure if it tried? Well, possibly. But Microsoft wasn’t trying to make a failure — it was trying to make the best of the best. The result was the worst of the best.

2: NeXT
I have to qualify this entry, because NeXT did inspire a lot of software for the Linux desktop (such as AfterStep), and the NeXTSTEP did eventually become the foundation of OS X. So NeXT wasn’t a complete flop.

3: BeOS
What is it with the capiTalIzaTion? Although BeOS has been resurrected as Haiku, the BeOS (and all the cool hardware it promised) never really got off the ground. The PC that promised to be the dream machine for the media crowd fizzled out before its fuse could really be lit.

4: Cobalt Qube
The Cobalt Qube looked cool. If you’re lucky, you can still find one on eBay going cheap. Underneath that tiny blue exterior lay a beefy 64 MB of RAM and an 8.4 Gig HD that was ready and willing to serve up your Web site, your mail, your DNS, or anything else you needed. Ah, but those were the glory days — and short-lived at that. The serious IT crowed quickly realized that function held sway over form, and the cool blue Qubes went nowhere. Even after Sun bought the Cobalt company, these devices did nothing.

5: Y2K
I can’t resist including this one. The entire world was supposed to cave under the pressure this little bug promised, wasn’t it? I even read plenty of sci-fi books based on that premise. But nothing happened. Banks didn’t lose all of your money, the world’s security didn’t fall to pieces, and all IT professionals woke up the next morning collectively saying, “Was that it?”

6: MP3
I know, I know — it isn’t a flop, exactly, but the MP3 format is on this list because of all the licensing issues it has caused. On the Linux operating system alone, MP3 isn’t installed on most distributions, by default, because of licensing issues. As a result, users scramble to get MP3 support built into their various tools. This causes as much hair loss as MP3 causes audio quality loss. There are much better formats out there without the licensing issues, people!

7: Richard Stallman
This man was supposed to be the champion of open source — but he endangers open source at every turn. Instead of making ridiculous claims, RMS should stand down and let someone with a modicum of tact and sense to take over as the voice of open source software.

8: WordPerfect
What I should actually place here is Corel, the maker of WordPerfect, instead of the software itself. WordPerfect was an outstanding word processing tool. Corel, however, was not outstanding in its ability to market and sell something as good as WordPerfect. So instead of a piece of software that should have single-handedly toppled the Microsoft juggernaut, WordPerfect died. This should never have happened. Any other company could have pulled off this win.

9: IPv6
Should this already be in place? Should something so simple really be that hard? The ‘net could run out of IP addresses and there is no solution in place yet. Why? Because we don’t have the problem yet. But didn’t everyone panic with claims that the “IP sky is falling”? Wouldn’t it be smart to go ahead and put this in place? Maybe the powers-that-be are waiting until that very last IPv4 address is issued and we have to say, “We have no more!” At that point, no one will really know how to implement the solution and it will be Y2K all over again.

10: Mesh networks
At one point, wireless was going to cover the entire planet and everyone was going to have free wireless networking, thanks to wireless mesh networks. It didn’t happen. It sounded like a great idea, and sites popped up all over the place trying to get users to set up their own mesh networks to further expand the “net.” It was a grand idea, based on a grand ideal, but it just never got off the ground. That’s a shame, since a “mesh Wifi” would have enabled anyone to be online anywhere. Of course, I am sure the telecoms had NOTHING to do with the fall of mesh networking.

3 thoughts on “The 10 biggest failures in IT history”

  1. Whoa, I have lived most of the above. Y2K was a massive money pit for us IT Contractors. For up to 5 years before Y2K, companies were willing to pay almost any price for bodies to convert code.

    I also remember people buying generators, taking all their money out of the bank, stockpiling food etc. All that happened in the city of Edmonton was a parking lot gate arm continuously going up and down, ROFL!

    I worked briefly with the Next machines, I think the problem their was that they were trying to bundle the hardware and software as one package. They should have just marketed the software. I think shortly after they went under Microsoft came out with VB which was essentially the rapid application development that Next was touting a few years earlier.

    Thanx for digging up those old memories. Cheers!

  2. I think they forgot one, Darcy. That epic episode where IBM squandered their hold on the PC market and set up Intel and Microsoft to prosper..

  3. no kidding, STP. I worked for IBM in the early nineties when the crap was hitting the fan as a result of the PC market rooting itself into the every day household. I truly believe the reason that they were in that position was the reason you mentioned above, although there was a lot of fat that also needed trimming due to their long stint at the top of the IT totem pole.

    I believe in hindsight, if they would have cornered the PC market, there would have been a forced company split imposed by the government due to monopoly regulations.

    So perhaps we end up right where we are today, if IBM cornered the PC Market many moons ago, the only difference would be the names of the companies 😉


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