Let’s face it: the tech world is harvesting more than its fair share of flops. Even the most successful companies have missed out on opportunities that seem so obvious to us today. All of the companies on this list had high expectations, a huge grip on the market or were first out of the running blocks, only to squander it and leave their competitors to clean up.
1. Microsoft having a bite of the Apple
Missed: Market monopoly
You may not be aware of the Microsoft – Apple partnership but this actually happened! Ten years ago, Apple was in serious trouble, with Mac sales dropping like a lead balloon and the company running low on funds. They were also looking for a new CEO to replace Gil Amelio.
So what happened?
Steve Jobs, that’s what.
Through Steve Jobs (an Apple advisor at the time) Apple received a $150 million investment from Microsoft to continue developing its Mac Office suite.
Steve Jobs took over the CEO role and… well you know the rest.
If Microsoft had let Apple rot away, maybe we’d all be listening to our WinPod and browsing the web on our WinBook Pro. Microsoft would literally be dominant in multiple markets.
2. A Kodak moment gone wrong
Missed: Too late to adapt
Kodak was the king of the photography world. They were so popular for such a long period of time that their brand had its own widely used phrase: ‘a Kodak moment’. Surely there’s no way such a well-known, respected brand could have problems?
Back in 2001 the digital camera market was taking off as they became more affordable. Kodak didn’t pick up this shift in consumer behavior and adoption until 2005 when they were forced to enter the digital scene due to the death of film. Kodak assumed that digital cameras were just a short-lived trend that would eventually die out.
But by the time they entered the market, there was a huge amount of competition from smartphones and overseas manufacturers who could produce digital cameras quickly and, more importantly, cheaply.
Kodak went from being ranked first for camera sales in the US to number four in a short time frame. In the end, Kodak struggled to turn a profit and filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
3. AOL shooting themselves in the foot
Missed: The ISP of choice
AOL was huge pre-1997 and owned the ISP business. They freely handed out CDs and offered a flat-rate unlimited pricing model as opposed to the other ISP’s hourly charges. AOL even invented the ‘keyword’.
AOL were beating CompuServe’s and were pummeling Prodigy (if you can remember them).
However it all went south in 1997 when AOL were caught off guard by their own success, as it was reported that a massive 60.3 percent of connection attempts ended in failure – mostly due to busy signals.
The ‘busy signal’ problem ruined their reputation and customers began to flee faster than an 80mbps connection!
Today, AOL lives on through a few prehistoric email addresses, nothing more.
4. Motorola not following up on the Razr
Missed: Building upon a great product
Remember the Motorola Razr phone?
It was totally awesome!
This was a product that sold! From its launch in 2004, the Razr had sold more than 50 million units by mid 2006. The phone itself wasn’t that great as its UI was poor and the feature set was… non-existent.
But it didn’t matter.
This thing was THIN!
This was the phone that started the ‘battle of the thin’ as I like to call it, where every manufacturer was trying to shave an extra millimeter here and there from every handset.
Motorola then seemingly gave up. There was no follow up and although the Razr was re-released in slightly different versions, it was too late. Competitors had caught up while Motorola were patting themselves on the back.
Clam shaped phones were dying out and the touchscreen was in.
Motorola completely missed the fact that the mobile world had moved on; it took a further 8 years before they released a half decent phone again.
5. Yahoo letting Facebook slip through their fingers
Missed: Facebook, obviously
Yahoo has done a lot wrong.
And I mean a lot.
Microsoft could’ve bought them out for a lot more than they are worth now. They could’ve extended the popularity of Flickr after they acquired it and they could have had a great platform to be integral to social sharing with Delicious.
But they didn’t.
These missed opportunities don’t compare to the biggie, the one that really got away – Facebook.
Back in 2006, Facebook was a two-year old social network that was considered a digital playground for Ivy League brats. Even MySpace had 92 million more users. It was this time when Yahoo offered Mark Zuckerberg a cool $1 billion and a deal was almost done.
The keyword here is ‘almost’.
Yahoo posted a few bad financials and its stock dropped 22 percent overnight. Yahoo reacted by cutting the offer to $800 million.
The deal was lost.
Today Facebook boasts 1.23 billion active monthly users and is worth in excess of $200 billion.
Bad move Yahoo.
6. BlackBerry rotting away
Missed: Staying as the number one smartphone manufacturer
Hmm, we all know what happened here.
Owned the B2B market.
Owned the consumer market.
Made some below average phones later.
Destroyed their market share in both markets.