Apple Newton and the Other Worst Failed Products of All Time From Big Companies
Even for big companies with thousands of employees, making successful products that people love is a hit-or-miss affair. For every Kindle or Amazon Prime Day, there’s an Amazon Local, which was that company’s failed attempt to copy Groupon’s business model. Heck, supposed business geniuses such as the Shark Tank sharks get it wrong and reject products that make millions. What we’re saying is, even big companies make failed products. These are some of the worst of all time.
CB Insights rounded up some of the worst ideas that turned into embarrassing flops. Don’t feel too bad if you bought any of these, because you probably weren’t alone (even the terrible Apple device at No. 7 or the drink no one wanted at No. 12).
1. New Coke
- Don’t mess with a classic.
You can’t discuss failed products and big business blunders without mentioning New Coke. Everyone already loved the traditional formula, but Coca-Cola decided to give the world New Coke instead. People hated New Coke’s taste, and less than three months later, traditional Coca-Cola was back on the shelves, and no one had to worry about sullying their taste buds with swill.
Next: The second-biggest black eye for this company.
2. Facebook phone
- Mark Zuckerberg should stick to software.
Facebook changed the way people around the world connect, and its success put creator Mark Zuckerberg near the top of the richest Americans list. Aside from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, 2013’s failed Facebook phone is the biggest black eye for the company. Nobody wanted a cell phone whose primary function was running Facebook, and it quickly disappeared.
Next: It sounded too good to be true, and it was.
3. Wow! potato chips
- Health, but at what cost?
No calories, zero fat, and zero cholesterol in potato chips sound too good to be true, and they were. Frito-Lay was one of the first companies to use olestra in its potato chips, and the healthier Wow! line was the result in 1998. Unfortunately, they are one of the worst failed products of all time. Olestra caused too many unwanted intestinal side effects, people stopped buying the chips, and they quietly went away.
Next: A failed product similar to the Facebook phone.
4. Google Nexus Q
- The scope was too narrow to compete.
Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV are some of the successful devices helping people ditch cable for good. Google’s attempt at the same thing was the Nexus Q, and it didn’t work out well. You needed an Android phone or tablet to use it, and it only played music and movies from Google apps. It’s one the worst failed products from any tech giant and one reason Google gave up in the fight for set-top TV customers.
Next: This failure was a nail in the coffin for this company.
5. Sega Dreamcast
- Dreamcast is the reason Sega doesn’t make hardware anymore.
When home video game consoles were new in the United States, the main choices were Nintendo, Atari, and Sega. The Dreamcast was a nail in the coffin for the hardware side of Sega’s business. It came to North America in September 1999, but by March 2001 it was gone for good since it couldn’t compete with Sony’s PlayStation 2.
Next: Who does this appeal to?
6. Cisco Umi
- The world’s most expensive webcam
If you want a TV that’s just a webcam that makes and receives video calls, then the Umi is right up your alley. And if it is, you’re probably one of the few that paid for it. When you look at the specs, it’s no wonder its one of the worst failed products of all time.
- It cost $600 when it first hit the market, and the price dropped to $499 later.
- Users had to pay a $25 per month subscription fee on top of whatever they paid for internet access.
- Did we mention it wasn’t really a TV in the classic sense? It was just a high-priced webcam that couldn’t compete with Skype and FaceTime. Umi came out in 2010, and by 2012 it was dead.
Next: A massive Apple failure.
7. Apple Newton
- Expensive, lackluster, and a failure among the many successes.
Steve Jobs remains influential in the technology industry, even though his NeXT Computer brainchild wasn’t as great as the iPod. Luckily, the Apple Newton is a device that didn’t come on his watch since he wasn’t at the company at the time. The personal digital assistant came out in 1993, a time before smartphones and lightweight laptop computers were everywhere. It was expensive and didn’t live up to expectations, and it ended up being one of Apple’s biggest failures amid a string of successes.
Next: A failed product, or ahead of its time?
8. Maxwell House Brewed Coffee
- Coffee that confused consumers.
Cold, ready-to-drink coffee sounds like a dream in the 21st century, but folks in 1990 weren’t ready for Maxwell House Brewed Coffee. Maybe the drink was ahead of its time, but it goes down as one of the worst failed products for a few reasons:
- The packaging reads ‘Enjoy Hot,’ but they sold it in the refrigerated section at the grocery store.
- You couldn’t pop the entire carton in the microwave to heat it up since it had a foil lining.
- As Fast Company notes, making coffee is easy with a drip machine, so people didn’t need brewed coffee sold cold that had to be re-heated.
Next: Back to the technology world for a minute.
9. Sony Betamax
- A misstep for Sony in the home video arena.
Home video enthusiasts had two options in the late 1970s and early 1980s: JVC’s VHS or Sony’s Betamax. Early Beta tapes held only one hour of footage while VHS held two, which was one reason it flopped. VHS was king almost immediately, but Sony didn’t get out of the Beta game until 2016, the last year it made cassettes.
Next: A tech battle that Sony won.
10. HD DVD
- Toshiba lost $1 billion trying to make HD DVD a success.
Nearly 20 years after Sony lost with Beta, it scored a big win with Blu-ray movies at the expense of Toshiba’s HD DVD. Both formats offered high-quality video at home, but Toshiba never got the big Hollywood film studios to back its platform. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. was loyal to Blu-ray, HD DVD could never gain an edge, and Toshiba shelved it in 2008 after roughly $1 billion in losses, according to Time.
Next: Everything old is new again.
- It failed, but they still brought it back.
Before Smirnoff Ice, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and adult root beer, there was Zima. The sweet malt beverage shared shelf space with wine coolers when it debuted in 1994, but it never gained a dedicated following. Even though Zima didn’t have many fans when it debuted, Miller-Coors, which owns the brand, brought it back for a limited run in 2018.
Next: A short-lived drink that no one wanted.
12. Life Savers Soda
- The candy was good enough for consumers.
Life Savers candy debuted in the early 1900s, but the brand wanted to branch out later in the 20th century. Life Savers Cola hit shelves in the 1980s after successful taste tests, but it flopped in stores. The drink was too similar to the candy, according to Business Insider, and the short-lived beverage turned into one of the worst failed products ever.
Next: A miserable failure from a beloved company.
- Netflix’s attempt to separate streaming and DVD service failed miserably.
Netflix still has a ton of DVD subscribers, which is a little-known fascinating fact at a time when everyone seems to love the streaming service. When the company attempted to separate its streaming and DVD services into separate companies, we got Qwikster, which was a miserable failure. The idea was to make people pay for either service or both at the same time, which was not a popular idea. Netflix shelved Qwikster after a month, but not before the company endured a public relations nightmare.
Next: Another beverage failure doomed from the start.
14. Crystal Pepsi
- We’re choosing clear cola over breakfast soda as the bigger failure.
Just three years after breakfast cola Pepsi A.M. fell flat, the beverage brand gave us Crystal Pepsi, which was doomed from the start and the more notable failure. For all the hype, it was just regular Pepsi without the color. People either weren’t ready for it or they didn’t like it, and it was gone by the end of 1993, less than a year after its debut.
Next: Consumers weren’t ready for this at all.
15. Bengay Aspirin
- Apparently, customers didn’t want to ingest Bengay.
Bengay’s topical pain relief creams get the job done, and they’ve been around since the turn of the 20th century. But when the company marketed Bengay aspirin in the 1990s, it turned into one of the worst failed products we’ve ever seen. Apparently, customers had hang-ups ingesting Bengay instead of applying it on the outside of their bodies.
Next: This should never have happened.
16. Cosmopolitan Yogurt
- Chefs appearing in magazines works, magazine-inspired yogurt doesn’t.
Cosmopolitan is a staple on the magazine racks in the grocery store checkout lane, and in 1999 someone thought it would be a good idea to put Cosmo in the dairy aisle. It wasn’t. We’ve heard of chefs appearing in magazines, but a magazine company moving into the dairy case never should have happened. Cosmopolitan yogurt went sour 18 months after the debut, and we’re guessing no one misses it.
Next: We can totally see why this one failed.
- McDonald’s wanted you to put your own burger together.
In 1984, McDonald’s unveiled the McDLT, a burger packaged in two separate styrofoam domes joined in the middle. In one compartment, the bottom bun and the patty. The other contained the top bun, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and other toppings. When you sat down, you assembled your own burger. We can totally see why it ended up as one of the worst failed products.
- Forcing people to make their own burgers was a total break from the way McDonald’s typically does things.
- It wasn’t all that different than the other burgers on the menu, which don’t require extra construction.
- The large styrofoam container wasn’t earth-friendly.
The McDLT is hardly the only forgotten menu item, but it is one of the biggest flops.
Next: A product that failed in every conceivable way.
- Not to be confused with the current product named DivX.
These days, DivX is a free video converter and media server. In 1998, DIVX (the capitalization is important here) was a disc-based movie rental system, and it turned into one of the worst failed products in history.
- It required a special player, which cost at least $100 more than a DVD player.
- The player needed a dedicated phone line for an internet connection.
- When you rented a DIVX disc, the movie wasn’t on it. The player would dial up to a server and stream the movie (which is why it required a phone line). Plus, you didn’t own the film; it was a rental.
- The DIVX movies were *lower* quality than a DVD, according to Tested.
- DIVX was incredibly wasteful since uses threw away the discs when they were done.
- Circuit City, which was already struggling, was the primary force behind DIVX.
With that laundry list of negatives, we’re glad DIVX crashed and burned.
Next: Donald Trump has a connection to this failure.
- Americans love football, but not enough to watch the USFL.
The United States Football League played three seasons between 1983 and 1985 before closing up shop. One of Donald Trump’s worst business deals was owning a team, but the league was modestly successful when it played during the NFL offseason in the spring and summer. When the league moved games to the fall, it all went downhill quickly and turned into one of the worst sports failures of all time. It’s a fate the reincarnated XFL is looking to avoid.
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