Products that bombed in the 1990s

CIOL Bureau
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It was a varied lot that made up our Top Ten list of failed products but the jury was unanimous on selecting OS/2 as the biggest flop of the 1990s. Somehow disasters like Microsoft Bob and the IBM PC Jr were not perceived as being in the same league, perhaps because these products weren't hyped quite as much as OS/2 or the Network Computer (No 4. on our list).


OS/2 - Windows Killer, Not!

OS/2 was to be the second generation OS that would replace boring old 16-bit DOS with a 32-bit OS. Windows was meant to be the interim solution that would give way to OS/2. Then IBM quarreled with Microsoft who refused to kill off Windows. The two companies went head to head in the OS market and with Windows 3, Microsoft dealt a body blow to OS/2 from which it never recovered. IBM rallied and released OS/2 Warp a little earlier than Win 95. Warp even ran Windows 3.x applications but somehow it just couldn't catch the public's eye, not least because it was a hog (even when compared to Windows 95). Warp did have some good points, it was very stable. But it was also a real pain to configure. Installing a CD-ROM drive meant hacking through a 60 line Config.sys file and placing four files in precise locations on your hard disk. Compared to this Win 95 would detect the same drive on rebooting. OS/2 lives on in banking circles where its stability has won it a niche. But, as far as killing Windows goes, it failed miserably.

Microsoft Xenix

With all this talk of Linux beating NT and taking over the world of servers its easy to forget that Microsoft once had its own flavor of Unix named Xenix. Unfortunately MS was never serious about promoting Xenix which soon died unmourned. A pity, perhaps, as it would have been interesting to see how the product would have evolved had a Windows shell been developed for it. Microsoft however, went with MS-DOS and later built Windows NT from the ground up to make up for the lack of a server OS in their stable.

WordPerfect for Windows

In the beginning there was DOS and the word was WordPerfect. Alas, poor WordPerfect. When the time came to convert to the new upstart shell from Microsoft, Windows, the chaps at WordPerfect refused to create a Windows version of their product though Bill Gates pleaded with them to do so. Microsoft responded by bringing their DOS and Macintosh heavyweight, Word to the Windows platform as part of MS Office and that was the beginning of the end for WordPerfect. The WPers realized their mistake and finally brought out a Windows version of WP but it was too little, too late. WP for Windows was a very clunky product that was a halfway house between the WP for DOS product and a Windows Word Processor. Not surprisingly it lost market share. However, WP still lives as part of Corel's PerfectOffice suite and in recent years it has made a comeback of sorts. However in India, as the results indicate, it is a failure.


Network Computer

Larry Ellison loves to hate his fellow billionaire, Bill Gates. Therefore he decided to bring the WinTel combine to its knees by creating a breed of cheap thin clients called NCs that would change the way people computed. Oracle even built a prototype and the NC OS was created in Bangalore, India. Sadly, by the time the first NCs got to the market, PC prices plummeted to below $1000 very close to the $700 for which NCs such as the JavaStation were selling. That, more than anything else, killed the NC market before it was born.

Net PC

The Net PC was the WinTel PC makers' answer to the NC. It was supposed to be a thin-client WinTel machine that would work with Microsoft Windows Terminal Server or Citrix Winframe. While the Net PC had some limited impact, it was a half-hearted effort with most of the big companies not really heart and soul behind it. So when the PC prices dropped, PC makers buried their Net PCs without shedding a tear.

Other product failures that came lower down the list were the Apple Lisa that pioneering graphical personal computing but at a incredibly high price tag of $10,000 and the Apple Newton that was an early palmtop which failed due to poor handwriting recognition. Lastly, there was LAN Manager that was around in the early days of networking before NetWare elbowed it out of the scene.