Technology Tuesday: Worst Tech “Things” of 2012

Week after week, I have tried to highlight products, gadgets, apps, services, hardware or other tech items that I think you will love. Hopefully you have found a few items worthwhile and even checked some out to make your life “easier, better, more enjoyable and just plain more fun” (from the mission statement of the column as articulated in its first week). Unlike most tech blogs that can throw up dozens of posts per week, I have but one. This really forces me to focus on things that I love! No sense wasting space on crappy products or shitty services. Yet my blood often boils with terrible decision making and weak products.

Barring an occasional Twitter rant, I usually keep the editorials and poor product reviews to myself. I figured this would be a good opportunity to highlight the worst tech “things” of 2012 and get it all off my chest so I can focus on all the rest of the good stuff in coming weeks! So bear with me as we look at the Worst of 2012.

And as a friendly reminder: I am always open to suggestions for future columns. My contact info is at the bottom of the column every week and I’d love to hear from you if you have a product or service you really love that would be worth sharing with everyone. I plan on doing a few more tutorials as well in 2013, so if there’s something you’d like to see- also let met know!


Twitter Locking Down

If anyone follows me on Twitter, you know I love the service. It is one of the best things to happen to the web since Google figured out search. However, Twitter faces the very real possibility of becoming another MySpace if they continue down the path that they have been forging in 2012. This week’s Instagram kerfuffle is but the tip of the iceberg. Everyone gets it: Twitter needs to monetize. However, to do it at the expense of the openness and ease with which developers could harness the awesome power of Twitter’s stream is not the right way to go. App.net is gambling that the continued closure of Twitter’s API will push people towards being willing to PAY for a social sharing site. We’ll see what 2013 brings, but if 2012 has been any indication, there are some dark times in the future for Twitter.

Most Android Tablets

Of the dozens (hundreds?) of tablets released with the Android operating system this year – let’s face it: most of them suck. They suck so bad it is absolutely mind-boggling that they could have been given the green light at all. I was recently at a large Best Buy in New York with a dozen plus Android slates for sale. I’d be shocked if any but one or two of them actually sell even one. With terrible touch screens, poor build quality and terrible design aesthetics – why in the world would one drop $200+ for an off brand or lower tier tablet? The lunacy of these products is most stark when comparing against fantastic tablets with unbeatable price points like Google’s Nexus 7 for a paltry $199.

Facebook IPO

Not much to say here- though it wasn’t a failure for many: the fat cat bankers and Wall Street muckety-mucks still made their millions. The insiders who had options for pennies eventually made their millions. Sadly, the everyday investor got screwed when Zuckerberg and company failed to disclose that there was a little bit of an issue with mobile: generating revenue. While the stock initially hit prices at half of what it opened at, it has since recovered some. Yet it is still only roughly 2/3′s of its initial offering price leaving many licking their wounds.

Sony Play Station Vita

I remember the halcyon days of Sony. Nothing they did was wrong, products were always quality and you could trust them. What the fuck happened? I shun Sony products like I do someone with the plague. My son was eager for a Vita when it was ready to go on sale earlier this year. Thank God we held off. Miserable battery life for a handheld game and price gouging on proprietary memory (necessary for playing!) are not the biggest of issues with this hand gaming unit. Frustratingly, previous games from PSP are not compatible unless they were digitally released as there is no UMD drive and there’s a dearth of quality games. No wonder Sony’s predecessor (PSP) is outselling the Vita. Sony gave a middle finger to its customers and its customers gave a middle finger right back.

iOS Maps

Not much needs to be said here. Cupertino was embarrassed and continues to be with this mapping solution that even governments are recommending that people don’t use. While things eventually will be ironed out, in the meantime many users are left wishing they still had native Google Maps. Hilariously, only a few weeks ago I was meeting a friend before a concert at the Hub Pub which as  bar near the Orpheum in Boston. My friend arrived a bit late. He placed his iPhone on the bar in front of me. It showed the Hub Pub, with the correct address, but IN ANTARCTICA! ANTARCTICA! Jesus. I snapped a quick picture of his screen and Tweeted it out as I thought it was just too funny. One of my followers responded back that had also previously been sent to Antarctica when looking for a different restaurant. Equally troubling wasn’t just the poor mapping, but the corporate battles leaving the end users as the big losers.

Windows 8

Cupertino wasn’t the only one with a big turd on their plate in 2012. While Apple’s problem is a relatively minor one in the whole scheme of things, Redmond has a bigger issue. Their phones aren’t selling well, their tablet sales are off to a dismal start & users simply don’t like Windows 8. I installed it on a machine that I don’t really use much just to check it out. Bottom line: it wasn’t designed well and certainly not intended for someone who uses a keyboard and mouse. Perhaps in time, those will be as antiquated as floppy drives, but until that time, you simply can’t design an operating system meant for gestures, touch-screens and mobile devices and expect desktop users to be happy. No way do I plan on “upgrading” to Windows 8 on my primary machine. Yet when the time comes that I need to replace it, I will have a much stronger inclination to switch back to a Mac rather than suffer with the Windows 8 mess. The video of the slightly tipsy woman hilariously demonstrates the problem. “Can I just write the fucking e-mail? How do I do that?” (2:18 is particularly funny as she learns how to get back to the desktop)

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“How a Drunk Woman Uses Windows 8″

Boxee TV

I did review this item in the Fall but had to highlight it again as one of the worst tech failures of the year. Without re-hashing all of the failures of the product – let’s put it this way: The new Boxee should have been re-named and re-branded with a completely new name as it has zero resemblance to its predecessor. While the first Boxee allowed one to access pretty much any video digital content either locally owned or on the web, the new Boxee simply records broadcast channels as a DVR. Who wants to pay $15 per month to have the ability to record network channels only? If you are interested in this product for Christmas, there’s no need to run to the store – there will be plenty there as it can’t possibly appeal to many people.

Blackberry 10

Failure here is obviously simply the inability to push out this much needed update. While early reviews of the browser and the operating system are getting decent reviews – it simply doesn’t matter. Research in Motion will be used as a classic case of missing the boat and poor leadership in business schools for decades to come. With droves of users, government agencies and big business bailing on Blackberry already, it will be literally impossible to reel them back in regardless how cool the apps are or how innovative the browser is with Blackberry 10.

Pebble Watch

Like the Facebook IPO, everyone didn’t lose out on this one. The company got a fat $10 Million+ in their coffers to push out a watch. Oh, that’s right. They haven’t pushed it out yet. The Kickstarter thing became huge in 2012 with some pretty impressive products. Yet for every success story there were an equal amount of failures leading more people to question tossing money at these campaigns. Technology races ahead at amazing speed. Oddly, earlier this year, this watch seemed pretty amazing. By the time it is released, I’m not sure it will be seen as compelling to the people that ordered it. And there’s no getting around the fact that it is atrociously ugly and it needs to be charged every few days. I’m not even sure I’d want a watch that needed to be charged monthly – but every couple of days? Forget about it. $150? Um, I can practically get a Chromebook for that price these days.

Airtime

“The platform for great video conversation”. The problem for Airtime, the wildly hyped video chat service started by Napster founders, is that for a conversation you need at least two people. I’m not sure the service has enrolled that many people yet as users. What’s the point? Semi-random chat with people you are sort-of connected to on Facebook? Why not simply use Facebook video calling? For that matter, Skype, Google Hangouts & a slew of other services already offer more options and better features. And if it is totally random chat with naked strangers that you desire – Chat Roulette is still around as far as I know. There’s simply nothing compelling about Airtime and all the buzz and hot air earlier this year has already dissipated. Time will tell if Airtime will be able to build in enough features to make it worthwhile to use.

Zynga

Amazing how what was once a brilliant star in the mobile gaming world is now such a goat. Zynga raised over $1 Billion in their IPO a year ago but 2012 has been a miserable one for the company. With a stock that was once selling near $16/share, Zynga now finds themselves trading at but a fraction of that at $2 and change. With $53 million in losses in just this last quarter alone, the future looks dim. The unethical practices (blatantly ripping off other developer’s games and re-branding as their own), dated games that never get updated, glitchy products and poor management all caught up with Zynga in 2012. I know that, like many, simply don’t even bother downloading a game anymore with the Zynga name on it – not worth the bugs and assault of ads. Good riddance.

Well that’s what I came up with. Any other tech disasters from 2012 that I missed?

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4 thoughts on “Technology Tuesday: Worst Tech “Things” of 2012

  1. Rob S. Reply

    I have to admit, I was really pumped when Tech Tuesday first started posting on Hidden Track – the first few reviews were geared towards tech-music products/ideas/etc.

    Unfortunately, I’d have to add “Tech Tuesdays” to the list of “Worst Tech ‘Things’ of 2012″ -

    Improvements? How about a comparison of the 10 or so music streaming services? You’ve touched on one or two, but there seem to be more every day. Bluetooth vs. Airplay? iTunes Match?

    I hate to be so negative, but the content just isn’t up to Hidden Track snuff.

  2. Parker Harrington Reply

    Thanks for the feedback Rob S and the suggestions for future columns. I am always eager for column ideas as I don’t have the luxury of a budget or tech companies tossing me sample items.

    Out of the past 52 columns- I’d say probably 40 were directly related to music: services, apps, headphones, hardware, etc. I did a couple on video or cameras and a few on automotive or travel that I thought would resonate with the users.

    Thanks again for the feedback.

  3. Todd J Reply

    I absolutely love this weekly column and look forward to it every single week. I can honestly say that I have gotten something useful out of everything you’ve done here. Its extremely useful for people like me that love to utilize technology but don’t know that much about it. Keep doing what you’re doing, can’t wait for the next one.

  4. Brandon Reply

    I too enjoy this column, particularly the variety of topics. Thanks to Parker’s review of the Nest thermostat, I got one myself and love it. Keep up the good work tmwsiy!

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