The new millennium was born amid an Internet bubble that soon burst, not a good omen for the technology industry. The sector rallied, however, and continued to produce a remarkable run of new gadgets.
But it had more than its share of flops, as well. Here are the 10 biggest debacles of the decade:
About the size of a Chihuahua but a lot less annoying,
The dot-com bubble had just burst when this cutesy Internet appliance from 3Com hit the market in 2000. The computer did what it was supposed to, which was access the Web, E-mail, and other Internet services. But Audrey didn't do it any better than a mainstream PC and cost nearly as much at
This little feline launched as the missing link between print publications and the Web. The idea was that readers would scan a special code on the page and not have to type in a URL to find related information on the Web. But using the scanner, leashed to a PC, was even more awkward, and the CueCat soon died. Some users also had worried about privacy since each cat had a unique serial number. Millions of the scanners were later sold at auction; they can be readily found as cheap bar-code readers.
Piggybacking on FM radio signals,
One of the more awkward attempts to combine devices,
The marriage of music and cellphone seemed natural. So there was much anticipation when Apple, maker of the almighty iPod, was working with
It seems nobody with dreams of a high-definition media can get along. While disk makers fought over the successor to DVD video, the same players fought over the successor to audio CDs. In this case, though, neither DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD won; instead, audio disks lost ground to Internet downloads, both legal and illegal. Still, audiophiles swear by the added channels and fidelity of the high-def formats. Players can still be found, and new releases trickle out. Maybe they'll survive in niche markets, but nobody forecasts them going mainstream.
Imagine a computer as small as a paperback but trying to run Windows and other software that's designed for today's huge monitors. Sound like a nightmare? It was to the few manufacturers who bothered to try. The computers were too small to be practical and too large for a pocket. Their nascent market was smothered by bigger, more practical, and cheaper netbooks. Even today's smartphones, with their limited Web browsing, do a better job than do the UMPCs. Only a few targeted applications in the business world are keeping the little computers on life support.
After years in development, Vista tried to do offer something that Windows had never managed--a safe, secure computing environment. The software instead was criticized for being bloated, buggy, and unfriendly to old hardware. It even beat out Windows Me, an earlier debacle, but one that could be avoided by most users. Vista, on the other hand, came installed on all new consumer PCs. That helped win the system some market share (and consumer resentment). Businesses had more choice and avoided Vista.
[Dispelling myths about Windows 7.]
Mobile Tech That Stole the Decade
If the '90s were the Internet era, maybe the '00s were the mobile decade. Technology packed ever more power into ever smaller devices, putting portable electronics at the leading edge of innovation this decade. With freedom of movement in mind, here are the top tech innovations of 2000-2009 ...
The Yearbook Faces Competition from Facebook
Challenged by the amount of time and energy today's teenagers devote to staying up to date on their friends' Facebook or MySpace pages and Twitter feeds, the traditional school yearbook is facing an identity crisis. The extent to which today's students will prefer to share their high school reminiscences via online social networks a few years from now is unclear
Entrepreneurs Take On Sexting and Child Safety Online
Kids are often more tech-savvy than their parents, so no tool can provide perfect oversight. But parents' concern over sexting, cyberbullying, and other online threats is driving businesses to improve protection. Several other start-ups are now competing to offer products to help parents keep tabs on their kids.
(c) 2009 U.S. News & World Report