The 4 Biggest Tech Disappointments Of 2012 [Opinion]

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Not everyone has had a great 2012, and it’s time again to take a look at what went wrong over the past 12 months. Last year it was RIM, HP and Fusion Garage who topped the list of shame, along with the looming threat of SOPA and PIPA which was thankfully shelved.

2012 ended up being a pretty disappointing year for some of the most successful and well-respected companies including Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. Tim Cook, Steve Ballmer, and Mark Zuckerberg might want to ask Santa for a better 2013, but it’s far more important that they learn from the mistakes they made this year.

Let’s take a look at what went wrong for tech’s biggest companies in 2012.

The iOS 6 Maps Fiasco

Rarely does Apple screw up on a such a large scale as to offer a public apology, but that’s exactly what happened after Tim Cook admitted that iOS 6 Maps wasn’t up to standards and asked customers to hang tight while the company strived to improve it. Never before has an Apple CEO stood up, apologised and suggested customers “try alternatives” but that’s exactly what Cook did in his open letter to disappointed iOS users.

 

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In case you missed it, Cook admitted that Apple were “extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better”. In addition to general inaccuracies, missing landmarks and generally less searchable amenities than the previous version that used Google Maps, Apple’s iOS 6 Maps has recently been in the news after drivers in Australia were warned that some individuals had found themselves stranded thanks to incorrect data.

While it would be hard to omit such a screw-up from an annual list of disappointments, the public apology and subsequent reshuffle at Apple was a welcome move from the company and a great example of how to handle a problem on this scale. Of course, a better way to handle a problem like this is not to release unfinished products before they’re ready.

Facebook’s IPO Bombs

In May, Facebook was valued at $104 billion after the initial share price was set at $38 per share, the largest valuation ever for a newly publicly trading company. With such a high valuation, Zuckerberg and co had a lot of convincing to do in order to bring investors on-board at $38 per share. As many predicted, the long-awaited initial public offering fell flat on its face within a week and over the course of a few months the share price had nearly halved in value.

The first day of trading was marred by technical glitches that would be synonymous with Facebook stock for the foreseeable future. In the following days, stock struggled to stay above the initial offering price and a week later was nearly $10 down. Three months later in August, stock hit the $20 mark, almost 50% down from the price paid by early investors. According to Bloomberg, retail investors could have lost as much as $630 million during this period. Investors felt cheated and many filed lawsuits against Facebook in the month following the IPO.

Other companies took a hit as the Facebook’s stock price affected the rest of the market, with some blaming NASDAQ for greater losses incurred due to the technical problems that prevented them selling their shares on the first day of trading. Ouch.

Microsoft Surface & Windows RT Confusion

2012 was the year that Microsoft decided OEMs simply weren’t producing the right hardware, and so instead released their first ever “computer” – the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT. The company chose to launch Windows 8 and Surace on the same day, with surprisingly little mention of the core differences between them. The differences are huge – RT is Windows recompiled for ARM, capable of only running Office and “modern” apps whereas Windows 8 was proper Windows for x86/x64 devices (albeit with a touchscreen UI).

Microsoft did very little to educate customers about Windows RT and its limitations. The majority of Surface advertisements that adorn whole cities, TV networks and YouTube don’t even demonstrate the device in use aside from the “click in” gimmick of the touch or type covers. The decision to only sell the tablet at Microsoft “stores” (read: Microsoft booths at shopping centres) and online has already been scrapped (it was due to happen in early 2013 anyway) as the company try to unload stock onto high street retailers instead.

And the price? Not a penny less than the already established market leader. In fact, once you factor in the fabled touch cover the price is $100 more than an entry-level iPad, and considerably more expensive than leading Android tablets. Market analysts are already predicting that Microsoft will sell (not ship) less than a million units in Q4, with some estimating that figure to be as low as 500,000. Whichever way you try to dress it up, it seems the public aren’t convinced they need a Microsoft Windows-branded tablet with a crippled OS in 2012.

Terrible Marketing Helps Bury Nokia & Windows Phone

Adding to the disappointment of Surface and the lukewarm reception of Windows 8 is Microsoft’s marketing department and their efforts to drag the Windows Phone brand through the mud on not one but two separate occasions. At the beginning of the year you might remember the smoked by Windows Phone contest that challenged non-WinPho smartphone owners to beat Windows Phone 7 at performing a set of predetermined tasks. The tasks were set up in Windows Phone’s favour (nothing wrong with that) but when Android user Sahas Katta beat the challenge to display the weather in two separate cities in the fastest time, Microsoft had a tantrum.

Katta had two weather widgets on his home screen, and he disabled the lock screen on his Galaxy Nexus. It was a clever but entirely valid trick, though Microsoft didn’t think so. Katta wrote:

“After trying to push for a real answer since I clearly won the contest by their rules, another Microsoft Store employee (possibly a manager) came by after noticing me asking more questions. Thinking on his feet, he quickly gave a ridiculous out-of-thin-air reason that I need to display the weather of different cities in different states and that “my phone could not do that” … I was then asked to snap a photo in front of a sign that read along the lines of “My Android was smoked by Windows Phone” before leaving the store.”

Eventually Microsoft caught on that the Internet would probably be less-than-receptive to this result and awarded Katta his free laptop, as promised in the competition rules. That didn’t stop them launching another questionable marketing campaign, and one that had run before, to advertise Windows Phone 8 later in the year though. Using Twitter, Microsoft’s official @WindowsPhone account began asking users for their #DroidRage stories about malware, viruses and rogue apps in exchange for free phones. Android owners, many of whom are fiercely loyal, didn’t see eye-to-eye and soon jumped on Microsoft’s track record with Windows and its past problems with malware. The #WindowsRage hashtag soon appeared and another marketing campaign was condemned to the Web pages of history.


These ham-fisted campaigns that focused on discrediting the competition served no more than to damage the Windows Phone brand, which is a real shame because out of all Microsoft products to emerge in 2012, Windows Phone 8 was probably the most likeable. Suffice to say, the knock-on effects for a company like Nokia who are pinning their final hopes for survival on the platform are not good. Bad marketing decisions like these have only set back progress made by a promising platform, which is bad news for consumers who still only have two real choices – Android and iOS.


What were your top tech disappointments of 2012? Do you agree or disagree with these choices? Have your say and get arguing in the comments, below.

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