Cloud // Software as a Service
News
12/27/2013
09:06 AM
Shane O'Neill
Shane O'Neill
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

10 Biggest Tech Disappointments Of 2013

From HealthCare.gov to the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, here are some of the year's biggest letdowns.
Previous
1 of 11
Next

To quote a long-dead English author, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Indeed, 2013 had its share of good times and tech innovation. More companies invested in private and public cloud services and started using data analytics to improve bottom lines. Advancements in robotics got a boost as major players like Amazon and Google bought various robot companies (many call this progress, but it qualifies as a letdown if your job is replaceable by a robot).

The tablet craze continued this year as more sizes and designs hit the market. An influx of Android-based tablets helped reduce Apple's tablet market share to about 50%. Apple also acknowledged that the iPad needed to evolve by releasing the iPad Mini and iPad Air. At the same time, mobile apps and smartphones got better and more plentiful, and more employees found work-life flexibility with BYOD programs.

So cheers to progress. But this slideshow ain't about progress.

This is about the worst of times. A tale of 10 losers, if you will. Disappointments. Letdowns. The tech products, companies, events, or trends that fell short of their potential -- or worse, scared or frustrated us.

Security and privacy worries reached a crescendo this year. A 30-year-old contractor blew the whistle on the NSA's Prism program, revealing that the agency has been snooping on our private communications. It was one of the biggest stories of the year.

Another security event that stirred anxieties was a mammoth data breach at retail giant Target where attackers stole 40 million credit card numbers. This was a letdown but with a heavy dose of fear and exasperation for consumers. Also ranking high on the letdown scale: a certain government healthcare website that failed very publicly to live up to expectations.

Poor beleaguered BlackBerry let down anyone hoping that the company could make a comeback. Samsung released a smartwatch before it was ready for prime time. And Microsoft tried in vain to make sense of Windows 8 as the public shrugged.

If there's a silver lining, it's that failing is often the best -- maybe the only -- way to ultimately improve a product or situation. Though the following selections were letdowns this year, they are all salvageable (except maybe BlackBerry). Read on to see if you agree.

Previous
1 of 11
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
J_Brandt
50%
50%
J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2013 | 11:12:55 AM
Actually 11
It's actually 11 disappointments.  Windows 8 and Microsoft Surface were huge disappointments for different reasons, they each deserve their own ranking. :)
Shane M. O'Neill
50%
50%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/27/2013 | 12:00:56 PM
Re: Actually 11
Ha, that's a fair point. But Microsoft has taken a beating this year so I figured I'd be kind and consolidate.
JimT180
100%
0%
JimT180,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2013 | 4:03:38 PM
Re: Actually 11
The problem with the Surface and Windows 8 is that it wasn't all things to all people.  As an IT Pro, I spent 3 weeks researching what would be the most productive device for my work and I ended up buying the Surface Pro 2 in mid Dec 2013. Quick, Quiet, Fast, Simple and Easy and super productive.  I have owned an iphone, nexus 7, macbook pro and multiple windows devices and even tried Windows on a VM in my MacBook so I am not trying to play favorites here. Hopefully 8.2 will bring more users to the OS / Device
Brian.Dean
50%
50%
Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2013 | 3:46:36 PM
Re: Actually 11
Yes definitely, the Surface has its value proposition but thanks to hindsight, it is ahead of its time to gain mass market penetration. If I every give-up using a 23'' inch monitor then I would like to shift to a Surface type product rather than a laptop with a 17''inch display, I guess the keyword that you used is "super productive" because if consumption is the only variable then I don't mind a 5''inch device (Smartphone).
anon9377921761
50%
50%
anon9377921761,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/28/2013 | 3:52:51 PM
Re: Actually 11
The surface pro can run your 23" monitor as well as its own...  Its a real PC.
anon9377921761
50%
50%
anon9377921761,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/28/2013 | 3:46:48 PM
Re: Actually 11
As a traveling user, the one thing it needs is a structural keyboard for use in tight or odd places as a laptop.  Love tough, love the OS, love that it has the power to do anything you want.  I can even run additional monitors off it and have driven whole presentations using touch on stage.  While there are still clear optimizations to be made, nothing else is close to the power and versatility of Windows 8.1.  Also for what it is worth, iOS is pretty good to use, but I hate the Ux of Android.  I do think it is funny that the latest version of iOS totally rips Windows 8.1 off...
anon9377921761
50%
50%
anon9377921761,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/28/2013 | 3:51:31 PM
Re: Actually 11
Windows 8 was the most successful Microsoft OS of all time so yeah, huge disappointment...  You are not going to turn PCs as fast as you will turn Android throw away devices, so hardware sales are slow, but Windows 8 enjoyed the fastest uptake of any Microsoft OS ever.  At least that is what was reported.  Interestingly for anyone not using touch, there was no reason to upgrade, so I was surprised to see the numbers.  Wonder if there might be a 2014 story on Msft faking numbers!
cbabcock
50%
50%
cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
12/27/2013 | 2:22:33 PM
Microsoft will show it's learned from its mistakes?
About number 10, Microsoft: As Michael Endler notes elsewhere, if learning from your mistakes is a forerunner to success, Microsoft is well positioned for 2014.
Joe Stanganelli
100%
0%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2013 | 6:22:48 PM
Re: Microsoft will show it's learned from its mistakes?
Most of the stuff Microsoft gets ripped in the press for doing, Google and Apple and others have already done or are doing -- without any criticism from the technorati.  It's gotten to the point where it's hard to take the punditry seriously anymore.
anon9377921761
50%
50%
anon9377921761,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/28/2013 | 3:42:02 PM
Re: Microsoft will show it's learned from its mistakes?
I agree.  I used iOS, gota few android devices and am now totally back on a Microsoft platform.  I have zero problems with Windows 8.1 and the phone is beautiful.  The ONLY thing I wish I had changed is I should have gotten a laptop with a tear off tablet screen instead of a surface pro.  I personally think you have a few major forces at work.  First I haven't replaced a computer in 5 years because they just work and second; Windows 7 was a collossal hit, so there is no need to move anything forward if you don't want to.  Still Windows 8 has been a huge hit, so where is the disappointment  Windows RT?
moarsauce123
0%
100%
moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2013 | 3:17:35 PM
The NSA should have gotten five spots in this list
The NSA is the biggest disgrace any US government ever committed. Even Reagan's SDI was simply the idiotic idea of a moron. The NSA not only damages US reputation across the universe, not only effectively damages the shaky economy, not only makes every government and business seek for ways to cut off the snooping, but also does the NSA make the haystack illegally bigger to find the same amount of needles. In fact, the NSA makes the US a much less safe place.

The other five places should go to Congress for still funding the mindboggling amount of spying three letter agencies that took on a life of their own without any benefit to anyone but themselves.

Dumb ideas like smartwatches, glasses, or Surfaces are of no real concern. Over time they will either provide value or disappear. I'm not so sure about the clowns spying on us.
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
12/30/2013 | 11:21:39 AM
Re: The NSA should have gotten five spots in this list
SDI, the "idiotic idea" of that "moron" Reagan, helped bring the Soviets to the negotiating table, where they made real concessions as they realized they didn't have the resources to go toe to toe in the arms race. Whether SDI ever had a chance or not isn't important. it was a bargaining chip. 
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 11:15:44 PM
Re: The NSA should have gotten five spots in this list
And, lets not forget that things like the Patriot Missile Do work. Could they have been possible without SDI?
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
1/3/2014 | 3:04:56 PM
Re: The NSA should have gotten five spots in this list
@moarsauce123
"Dumb ideas like smartwatches, glasses, or Surfaces are of no real concern. Over time they will either provide value or disappear. I'm not so sure about the clowns spying on us.
deny giving direct server access"
I like this paragraph, and I agree with it, I would use "Some ideas" instead of "Dumb ideas" though.
 
In any case, why the NSA snooping qualifies as a disappointment?
It seems that the Prism program is working quite well.

Disappointment that the tech companies deny giving direct server access to the government. Yep, More of a joke and sadness, really,
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
12/27/2013 | 6:24:14 PM
Problematic indeed
I have a friend who decided to not get health insurance and pay the penalty specifically because of the problems logging in to the Website plus the privacy breaches and concerns.
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2013 | 11:23:32 PM
Lithium Ion Batteries
I know I'm going a bit far afield here, but this is the product that dissapoints me the most - not because they're a complete failure, but because they weren't the success that everyone hoped they would be. With solar cells well south of a buck a watt, imagine where solar energy would be by now if their were an even half-way efficient way to store electricity - no one would even be thinking natural gas, let alone coal or nukes. Gas power cars would be going the way of vacuum tubes.
mak63
50%
50%
mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2014 | 1:52:57 AM
Re: Lithium Ion Batteries
@Gary_EL
Excuse my ignorance, but aren't the lithium ion batteries (LIB) almost 10 years old already? or are you referring to the lithium vanadium phosphate battery or LVP; which is the successor of the LIB?
Gary_EL
50%
50%
Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2014 | 11:51:56 AM
Re: Lithium Ion Batteries
The disapointing lithium batteries that temporarily grounded the Dreamliner and the lithium batteries that still take so long to charge that most potential electric car buyers consider the venture to be impractical. Not a complete failure, just disappointing, and improvements such as you suggest are always possible, but I'll bet that investors have a bad taste in their mouth by now.
WKash
IW Pick
100%
0%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
12/31/2013 | 11:34:08 AM
Yahoo vs HealthCare.gov
No question, HealthCare.gov not only deserved a spot on this year's list, but probably will earn a spot when you compile the biggest tech disappointments of the decade. 

But it's also interesting to note how little outrage there was surrounding some of the year's other incident's, most notably Yahoo's massive email outage in December. Critics are quick to say the failings in government would never happen -- or be tolerated -- in the private sector.  Maybe I missed it, but if that's the case, where were the calls for Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer's dismissal.  (Hopefully, the take away from this list is that things can and will go wrong, or fall wildly short of expectation, no matter how good your management team is; and that it's how you recover and keep trying that matters most.)  

 
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/2/2014 | 10:54:03 AM
FB, too bad.
It's a shame Facebook hasn't followed through with its news feed redesign. I hear users complain all the time about noise in their feeds; the redesign helped to solve some of this by adding tabs to browse news stories, posts from your friends, and more.
8 Steps to Modern Service Management
8 Steps to Modern Service Management
ITSM as we know it is dead. SaaS helped kill it, and CIOs should be thankful. Hereís what comes next.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.