Many tech newspapers and magazines have year-end wrap-ups of the best products of the year, and at least one does a wrap-up of the biggest vaporware of the year, but I don't know anybody who's doing a wrap-up of the most disappointing products of the year -- products that were hyped like crazy, and which (unlike vaporware) actually materialized, but proved to be duds once the vendor showed us what was actually behind the velvet curtains.
If there were an award for the most disappointing product of the year, the "Origami" would certainly top the list. This was a hugely hyped product in the first quarter of the year, but when it finally came out, you could almost hear the entire computer-using community breathe a puzzled, "Huh?" Our own Andy Dornan wrote a caustic blog post in March, comparing it to Bob -- Microsoft's cutesie-poo 1995 attempt at a non-threatening Windows user interface -- and said, "The most interesting thing about Origami is how Microsoft manipulated bloggers and journalists into hyping it. Far from the Transformer gadget hinted at (Eight toys in one! Changes from iPod to camcorder to computer and back!), the device is just a small Tablet PC."
And yet the Origami -- which became the Ultra-Mobile PC when it was released -- has its loyal fans, and one of them, James Kendrick, writes to defend it.. He says the size, about that of a big paperback book, makes a nice compromise in portability and convenience between, on the one hand, a Tablet PC or notebook computer, and, on the other hand, a PDA or smartphone.
He makes some good points. Anybody who's ever attempted to view the Web on a PDA or smartphone display knows how frustrating that can be. On the other hand, a Tablet PC or notebook computer is a lot to lug around, and takes a while to get started using.
Read James's arguments, and make up your own mind.
James is author of jkOnTheRun,, a very good blog devoted to mobile computing, with the best tagline ever: "... using mobile devices since they weighed 30 lbs."
How about you? Got any computing products that you love and find highly useful, even though the rest of the world thinks those products were stupid flops? Leave a message on the InformationWeek Weblog and let us know.
And, by the way, see here for our sister publication CRN's opinion on best product of 2006, covering Web development tools, security products, networking hardware, and more. It's proven to be a hit for them, so I think you'll like it.