Lauren Goode

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In Memoriam: Tech Products We Lost Too Soon

The year is nearing its end, and while 2012 is expected to be increasingly cloud-y, voice-controlled and filled with more mobile madness, this seems like an appropriate moment to look back and remember those that have gone to the tech-product graveyard in 2011.

The Flip Camera
San Jose, Calif. — The Cisco Flip, a beloved handheld video recorder, was killed on April 12, 2011. Its untimely death was a result of the realignment of Cisco’s consumer electronics business.

Born in May 2006 as the Pure Digital Point & Shoot, the pocket camera went through many evolutions in its lifetime, later becoming the Flip Ultra and spawning the Flip Mino and Flip MinoHD. It found a new home in 2009, when it was acquired by Cisco for $590 million. The Flip was known as the life of the party at birthday and wedding celebrations, and will be remembered for its simplistic design and pop-out USB arm. “People literally flipped for the Flip when it first came out,” a friend of its parents, Pure Digital, said. It is survived by a number of boiled-down point-and-shoots and countless smartphone cameras, as well as video-sharing apps with annoyingly cute names like “Viddy.”

Its distant cousin, the Kodak Zi8, also went missing from the Kodak store earlier this year.

Guitar Hero
Santa Monica, Calif. — For Guitar Hero, Feb. 9, 2011, was the day the music died. The videogame franchise was killed when Activision announced during its fourth-quarter earnings call that it was shuttering the business unit dedicated to Guitar Hero.

The popular game was born in 2005 to Red Octane and Harmonix, and was distributed by Activision. Later iterations of Guitar Hero, which were developed by Neversoft, had band-specific titles and also incorporated more instrumental props, so fans could play drums or sing as well as play guitar.

But Guitar Hero sales fell off, and the game was eventually overshadowed by its record-breaking Activision siblings, the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft series. Revenues of Guitar Hero fell from $1.7 billion in 2008 to about $300 million in 2010.

Guitar Hero will be remembered for its love of music, with Aerosmith, Metallica and Van Halen among its favorite artists, and for creating living-room rock arenas for millions of users.

Guitar Hero is survived by Rock Band, Rocksmith, Rock Revolution and likely many other console and mobile games starting with “Rock” that we’re not aware of or haven’t been invented yet.

HP TouchPad
Palo Alto, Calif. — That flame which doth burn brightest often burns out quickly, or something like that.

The HP TouchPad was effectively killed on Aug. 18, 2011, at the young age of just 49 (that’s days). Prior to its demise, the TouchPad was praised for its bright 9.7-inch display, Beats audio and mostly for the fact that it ran HP’s intuitive webOS mobile operating system, though the tablet ultimately saw disappointing sales during its short life.

Hewlett-Packard, its maker, said webOS devices had not gained enough traction in the marketplace with consumers, and couldn’t justify continuing to produce hardware like the TouchPad around it.

HP’s new CEO, Meg Whitman, said later on, “I think we’ve got to walk before we run here.” The TouchPad is survived by a newly open source webOS system and a cult of rabid fans, as evidenced by its post-mortem fire sales. It joins the Microsoft Kin phone in a special Afterlife for Tech Products Less Than 50 Days Old, while its operating system remains in a state of purgatory.

Dell Streak Tablets and Mini 10 Netbook
Round Rock, Texas — The streak was not a long one.

Dell’s Streak 5 tablet, which was originally demoed at D8 in 2010, disappeared from store shelves in mid-August of this year. Dell hardly had time to recover from the loss before its sibling, the Dell Streak 7, was also discontinued.

Shortly after the loss of the Streak tablet, tragedy again struck the Dell family, when Dell confirmed it would no longer make consumer netbooks, feeling the pressure of tablets as well as an emerging shift toward thin, light “ultrabooks” in the laptop category. The Dell Mini 10 was known for being small, as netbooks are, and for being that laptop you knew you could always fit on the seatback tray on an airplane.

Apple MobileMe
Cupertino, Calif. — June 6, 2011, was Steve Jobs’s last appearance at an Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. It was also the day MobileMe effectively went away, with Jobs saying the $99 dollar service wasn’t Apple’s “finest hour.”

MobileMe launched at WWDC in July of 2008, and was meant to sync calendars, emails, bookmarks and photo galleries. For individual accounts, it came with 20 gigabytes of online storage and 200GB of monthly data transfer.

While great in theory, our friend MobileMe was not without flaws. In fact, AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg said, in his review of the service, that MobileMe was “far too flawed to be reliable.”

Apple’s Internet-based sync services since 2000 have evolved, but have never truly gone away: Like an actual ghost, we know they’re there, and we see glimpses of how they work, but they still elude many people. MobileMe, in its earliest form, was iTools, and later on, the subscription service .Mac. Even now, we’re not entirely sure whether MobileMe was killed or simply reincarnated as something new — in this case, iCloud.

Adobe Flash on Mobile
San Jose, Calif. — This is the way mobile Flash ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper.

On Nov. 9, Adobe said it would no longer be developing Flash, its platform for interactive and rich media content, for mobile devices.

Macromedia Flash was born in 1997, the spawn of FutureWave’s FutureSplash Animator. Macromedia was acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005, thus becoming Adobe Flash.
As smartphone and tablet wars heated up in recent years, Flash support became one of the features that iPad competitors — mainly Google Android devices — touted to set themselves apart from Apple’s mobile products.

The tech world has contemplated what this could all mean for the future of Flash. As AllThingsD’s Ina Fried wrote, Flash’s death on mobile was seen as a vindication for the late Steve Jobs, who took a controversial stand by not supporting Flash on Apple’s mobile products. Could Jobs once again have seen the future? Flash is not a completely dead standard yet, but with developers increasingly adopting HTML5 as the new standard for Web language, it’s unclear what exactly will become of Flash.

Google Buzz
Mountain View, Calif. — A standard housecleaning session turned fatal this past October when Google pulled the plug on its social networking effort. Google Buzz, the predecessor to Google+, aimed to create a social network through Gmail.

Social and gregarious by nature, Google Buzz was born in February of 2010. Its early life was filled with strife, as users struggled to grasp the real-time social interactions that were occurring within email chains, and real privacy concerns emerged.

Despite its short life span, the memory of Google Buzz surely remains, as the search giant eventually had to settle with the FTC over privacy violations and is now committed to 20 years of privacy audits.

Memories, indeed.

Google Buzz is survived by Google+, and follows Friendster and Myspace to the social graveyard, although technically those still exist.

Readers, what do you think was the greatest tech product loss in 2011?


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus