They can’t all be winners. For every Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad — a sexy new technology toy that takes collective consumer consciousness for every red cent it has — there’s a Segway — a device that flops so hard its name becomes synonymous with failure.
In fairness, there are few flops quite as notorious as Dean Kamen’s two-wheeled punchline. Most failures are quiet by definition. Gadgets fail because they never connect with consumers in a meaningful way — they simply fade into the background. While the past 24 months have seen both spectacular successes (the iPad) and modest victories (HTC’s swiftly selling Thunderbolt smartphone), they also have hosted some shocking failures. Here are the three biggest surprise technology flops of the last year and the companies that delivered them.
Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo
Nintendo‘s (PINK:NTDOY) Nintendo DS is close to becoming the best-selling devoted video game machine ever made. Its predominant features — a microphone, dual screens, touchscreen and WiFi capabilities — presaged the wild success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad when it released in 2004. It was forward-thinking and shrewdly priced; a product that briefly transformed the Japanese game company into a seriously hot stock.
The Nintendo DS’ successor, the Nintendo 3DS — a graphical upgrade with a stereoscopic 3D screen that forgoes specialized glasses — is the opposite. The 3DS is a device that fundamentally misunderstands consumer habits, opting for $40 games purchased at retail and rigid online functionality rather than the downloadable hits of the App Store and connectivity of social gaming.
The 3DS has sold so poorly since it released in March that Nintendo has been forced to drop the price from $250 to $170. The stock fell 12% after the 3DS’ price drop, and Nintendo now is trading at levels it hasn’t since around when the original DS was released.