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12/27/2013
09:06 AM
Shane O'Neill
Shane O'Neill
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10 Biggest Tech Disappointments Of 2013

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

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mak63
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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,
Gary_EL
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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.
Kristin Burnham
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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.
mak63
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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?
WKash
IW Pick
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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.)  

 
Gary_EL
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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.
Gary_EL
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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?
RobPreston
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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. 
anon9377921761
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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
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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!
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