Three Interesting Failures in IT History

For each success story there is a couple of failures, in the IT field there is many of both. In this post I’m gonna talk about the three interesting failures (imo) and why they failed.

Google Glass

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Google Glass technically hasn’t failed yet, as they are still in production and as recent as 2019 announced a new edition (Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2), so this is more my subjective opinion. The glasses were Google’s first entry into the wearable tech market announced in 2012, with a prototype selling in 2013. They are what is called “smart glasses” a small computer put into a pair of glasses (known as an optical head-mounted display (OHMD)) and have the capability of reflecting projected images akin to AR technology while allowing the user to see through it. It was met with hype on social media but also with criticism, siting privacy concerns. (For example, violating the DPA and GDPR) Another fallacy of the glasses is that the don’t really offer anything that average people really want, let alone need which probably is the reason the consumer edition was discontinued in 2017 were they simultaneously announced the first enterprise edition. There has been many tries to find a use for the glasses in the enterprise world, like for diffferent kinds of consultation, surgery and helping children with autism, none of which seems to have stuck and have the glasses become a household object. If there is a future for Google Glass it is in the enterprise world, the consumer edition was a total failure and I don’t think they will ever be viable for consumers.

Sources:

Everything you need to know about Google Glass

The many ways Google Glass users risk breaking British piracy laws

Google Glass saves time, helps me focus on patients

First US surgery transmitted live via Google Glass

Google Glass device treat autism

Phonebloks / Google’s Project Ara

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The concept of a modular smartphone started around 2013 and got widespread attention when the Phonebloks concept, created and designed by Dave Hakkens, started getting support on social media. The idea was to have a phone made of different components that you could put together like Lego and independently upgraded or replaced with the aim to reduce electronic waste and repair costs while making the phone more personalized as you could customize which parts you wanted to give most space. Phonebloks gathered over 900.000 followers but was later cancelled due to not being economically and technically feasible and potentially increasing electronic waste, the opposite of what it’s creator set out to do. Later the same year Google announced “Project Ara”, a similar concept that addressed some of the production and development issues of Phonebloks as it had OEM backing. In 2016 however the concept was revised and no longer had upgradable components, most likely stemming from the same issues that Phonebloks had, removing in my opinion the best part of the concept. I think the idea and concept was great, who wouldn’t want to be able to upgrade a component in their phone instead of buying a new one, but there is a reason that the phones we have today are made as they are and in the end this was just another futuristic “social media” tech concept that wasn’t feasible. And when even Google can’t make it reality, trying for several years, it’s time to put down the idea. Maybe in the future we will see a similar concept being developed once the technology is there, but for now there is too many issues for this concept to be made.

Sources:

Phonebloks - The Smartphone for life

Why lego design principles don’t work on smartphones

Building blocks - How Project Ara is reinventing the smartphone

Google+

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Google’s infamous social media platform that never really took off. Launched in 2011 to compete with other social networks like Facebook. They combined Google+ with their other services like Gmail, Drive and Youtube, in my opinion to drive up their user statistics heavily. They proclaimed to have 540 million monthly users across their platform, heavily inflating their number of Google+ users as they according to Comscore only spent around 3-5 minutes there per month in 2012 and not increasing by much the next few years. It never really took off, not even after the redesign in 2015 that split some of the platforms functionality into standalone services (Google Photos & Hangouts) further abstraining the network from useful and meaningful services. Facebook dominated the market when they launched and still did when Google+ was shutdown in 2019. I think one of the main reasons for it’s failure was Google’s vision to focus on their users that already used their services and connecting the social network with every other Google service instead of building a standalone application that was worth using.

Sources:

Google hits 300 million active monthly in stream users, 540 million accross Google

Google plus comscore

Written on January 31, 2021