Present day Apple is one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world. Lately, it seems they can do no wrong. The iPad was ridiculed in 2010 by tech experts as an unnecessary toy — until they sold almost 20 million units in the first year alone. People line up for days in advance whenever a new iPhone is released. But the company wasn’t always such a sure thing. In the 80s and 90s, Apple struggled financially. A litany of different products were released to turn things around, but only a few of them were successful. It wasn’t until the iPod was released in 2001 that Apple really started to surge and not look back. Before that, a whole bunch of crappy products briefly hit the shelves and suffered dismal sales. Here are 14 products that can only be considered complete disasters.
14. The Apple Macintosh Portable
This was Apple’s first attempt at portable computers. Luckily for them, they’ve come a long way since the Macintosh Portable, as the MacBook line of laptops are some of the best around. In 1989 though, this clunky heap of plastic was released. Design failures meant that sometimes the machine wouldn’t turn on at all, even when plugged in. Calling it “portable” was generous, at best. It weighed 16 pounds and was four inches thick.
13. The Apple Newton
Apple attempted to join the developing PDA market in 1987 with the Apple Newton. The headline feature of the Newton was supposed to be the ability to recognize handwriting that was input with a stylus. Too bad it barely worked and was famously mocked on The Simpons. “Eat up Martha?”
12. Apple Pippin
Apple thought it would enter the console gaming market in the mid-90s. Rather than copy what Sony, Nintendo and Sega were doing, Apple tried to pave new roads with the Pippin. It was a cross between a gaming console and a networked computer, but terrible marketing and bad design doomed it to fail as either. It only had a 14.4 kb/s modem and no support from major game developers. A $599 launch price didn’t help, and the Pippin was pulled in 1997.
11. Apple eMate
One of Apple’s most quirky products, the eMate was a hybrid between a laptop computer and a PDA. It ran the same software as the Newton and actually quite an affordable device, at just $799. The colourful design was actually the inspiration for the iMac and iBook. The problem was that the eMate was only sold to educational institutions, severely limiting the potential market. It was pulled just 11 months after its debut.
10. Round Mouse
This thing is just ugly. We know Apple has a love for rounded corners instead of right angles, but this mouse is just too much. It was clunky and hard to use. Some users even complained that it barely fit in their hands. It was Apple’s first USB mouse, and came included with desktop Macs for two years starting in 1998. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and Apple went back to making more conventional fare.
9. The U2 iPod
Apple’s marketing department has the ability to crank out some amazing commercials and advertising. Irish rock legends U2 were actually a big part of the iPod advertising campaign, with their songs used in television commercials for the revolutionary tiny music devices. But the ego of Apple and Bono got a little over inflated. They released a special edition iPod with a red click wheel, included U2 content, and the band member’s signatures engraved on the back. Not a terrible item, except they priced it $50 higher than the comparable non-U2 model. Consumers said no thanks.
8. The Power Mac G4 Cube
Originally released in 2000, his square-shaped computer only lasted a single year on the shelves. It was more expensive than comparable machines and didn’t include a monitor of any kind. Buyers were not impressed by the creative cube-shaped design and quickly shunned it in favor of the regular Power Mac G4, which was also more expandable to new hardware.
7. 20th Anniversary Macintosh
When the company celebrated its 20th anniversary, they released a special edition Macintosh computer that would be delivered by limousine. Too bad it was a $8,000 system with somewhat average specs. And was actually released a year after their 20th birthday in 1996. Only 12,000 units were produced, but they barely sold, even after the price dropped below $2,000.
6. Macintosh TV
Not to be confused with the current Apple TV product, Macintosh TV was introduced in 1993 in an attempt to combine computers with television sets. In this case, Apple was just too ahead of the market. Smart TVs, and other devices like Rokus and Chromecasts, are popular now but the Macintosh TV had serious drawbacks. You could use the 14″ screen as either a computer monitor or a television screen. But not both at once. Plus it cost over $2,000.
5. Lisa I
Lisa I was both an amazing piece of technology and a complete failure of a product. It was the first personal computer to offer users a graphical user interface, something that we take for granted these days. That one feature was supposed to justify the incredible pricetag of nearly $10,000. While the display was revolutionary at the time, the rest of the computer was slow and hard to use for most people. Apple eventually gave up and let buyers trade them in for different machines.
Designed as a competitor to USB, FireWire was Apple’s proprietary data transfer technology. Marketed as much faster than USB, the average consumer couldn’t really tell the difference. Hardware makers didn’t like paying Apple the licensing fee to include a FireWire port on their devices, so many of them simply didn’t. The free market spoke and FireWire gradually faded into obscurity until Apple officially discontinued it in 2011.
3. iTunes Ping
What exactly was Ping? We remember it existing, but not actually what it did. Turns out it was a social media network for iTunes users, letting you sample your friend’s music and get smart recommendations. Even though it was completely free, no one wanted to join yet another social network. It quietly disappeared after two years.
In the mid-90s, AOL was dominating internet access in the United States. eWorld was Apple’s attempt to make a competitor. Similar to AOL, it let users get online in a “walled garden” environment, with different city buildings representing different functions (Click the post office to send an email, for example). Unfortunately, it was ultra expensive and only available on Macintosh computers at first. With such a low subscription rate, it couldn’t hope to compete with AOL and was cancelled in 1996.
1. The Apple III
After the success of the Apple II, it seemed like adding improvements to the machine would be a sure bet. Instead, Apple let the design team overpower the engineering team and make a computer with a ton of physical faults. The casing was too small for the components and no cooling fans were added because design wanted the computer to run quietly. The result was constant overheating, to the point that motherboards would warp and components would come loose. It’s probably no coincidence that this was the first Apple computer that wasn’t designed by Steve Wozniak.