by Brad Moon | January 30, 2014 12:00 pm
Between Apple (AAPL) earnings and a big-time anniversary, two interesting tidbits about Apple products have popped up over the past week or so.
To start, Apple celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer. Thirty years may as well be an eon in the PC industry. And while today’s Apple iMac may have virtually nothing in common with that first Macintosh, the current popularity of Apple computers is a notable achievement. PC competitors like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) may be less excited about the milestone, mind you.
The second piece of notable Apple products news came from the opposite direction, though: The Huffington Post declared “The iPod Is Dead.”
There’s more than a little hyperbole there — iPod sales are clearly on the decline and holiday sales in 2013 dropped 52% year-over-year, but Apple did still sell 6 million iPods during the quarter. So the Apple iPod is hardly among the pool of dead Apple products.
Still, the writing may be on the wall as the iPhone and iPad cannibalize Apple iPod sales. And plenty of Apple products have gotten the axe before. Don’t believe that not everything Steve Jobs and company touched turned to gold, or lived to see a 30th birthday? Take a look at these five dead Apple products … and why they failed.
We all know the story of how digital cameras have gutted the photography industry, killing off film-makers like Kodak while leaving giants like Nikon (NINOY) fighting for survival.
We also know about the cameras in smartphones like Samsung’s (SSNLF) Galaxy S4 Zoom or the Apple iPhone, which are threatening what’s left of the market for digital point-and-shoot cameras.
But did you know that Apple products were once at the forefront of the digital camera wave? The QuickTake camera, which was introduced in 1994, was one of the first consumer digital cameras. The company I worked for at the time adopted these for taking photos of properties that could be quickly uploaded to an appraisal. Built in partnership with Kodak, the first Apple QuickTake camera had 640 x 480 resolution, looked like a pair of binoculars and cost $749.
As film camera manufacturers ramped up production of increasingly cheaper digital cameras, the QuickTake went to the Apple products graveyard in 1997 after the release of three models.
3D printers may be all the rage these days, but the laser printer helped kickstart the desktop publishing boom that fueled Macintosh popularity and helped the Apple Mac celebrate that big 30th anniversary.
In the early 1980s, laser printers were big and expensive. Hewlett-Packard finally got the technology down to the point where it would fit on a desktop (instead of filling a room) … but its first desktop laser printer went for nearly $13,000 — too expensive for most offices.
Apple introduced its own laser printer, the LaserWriter, in 1985 at a cut-rate price of $6,995. This line of Apple products turned into a lucrative business, but competition and growing popularity of cheaper inkjet printers eventually signaled it was time to get out.
After more than a decade and two dozen models, the company killed the Apple LaserWriter in 1997 — the same year the QuickTake was added to the list of dead Apple products.
There’s plenty of buzz going around these days about the possibility of Apple turning the Apple TV set-top streaming box into the kind of casual low-cost gaming box that would give Nintendo (NTDOY) night terrors.
What most people don’t know is that it wouldn’t be the first time Apple products tiptoed into the game console business. In 1995, the company partnered with Bandai (NCBDF) to release the Apple Pippin, a video game console based on the Mac — and one of the least-known dead Apple products.
Going up against giants like the original Sony (SNE) Playstation and having no game developer support, the Pippin flopped. Steve Jobs officially killed the Apple Pippin on his return to Apple in 1997, although Bandai continued to support the devices (which could sometimes be found as entertainment consoles in hotels) through 2002.
The iPad has become a runaway success for Apple, but other Apple products were also attempts at a slate-like device. The first was the Apple Newton, released in 1993.
Starting with the Apple Newton MessagePad 100 (one of which holds a place of honor in my desk drawer), Apple released a series of hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs). Input was via a plastic stylus and the Apple Newton even featured handwriting recognition and a healthy ecosystem of third-party apps.
But the Newtons ate batteries, the handwriting recognition wasn’t exactly perfect and competition in the form of Palm Pilots and other PDAs soon made for a tough market.
The last Apple Newton — the MessagePad 2100 — went on sale in late 1997 and the Newton joined the list of dead Apple products in the spring of 1998 as a struggling Apple focused on its core computer products.
To the casual observer, timelines of killed Apple products might just suggest that Steve Jobs had a thing for terminating projects started in his absence. That may be true of the Apple Newton, the Pippin and a few others that didn’t make this list of dead Apple products … but Jobs knew when to pull the rug out from under his own gear too.
Take the Apple Xserve. This was Apple’s attempt at taking on big enterprise computing players like Sun by selling Apple Mac-based rack mounted servers. The Xserve was released in 2002 as a high-powered, upgradable server aimed at system rooms. Running Mac OSX, the Xserve line was upgraded to Intel (INTC) processors in 2006. But despite its popularity among many companies, the Xserve remained a niche product for Apple, and Jobs eventually decided the Mac Pro could be used to more or less serve the same purpose.
In 2010, the company announced there would be no future Apple Xserve releases and it officially joined the dead Apple products list in January 2011.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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