It is less than two weeks to Christmas and less than three weeks until we will be ringing in the new year. Time to wrap things up for 2006 and take another look on what was hot - and not. We are starting our mini series with what we felt did not live up to its hype and turned out to be a major disappointment. Here's our Top-10 for this category.
Admitted, we have seen twelve months of great innovation; and if computers and electronics get you excited, it was one of the most entertaining and exciting years in a long time. But clearly, not everything was perfect and 2006 was also a year of huge blunders. There was no lack of products that remain well behind there pre-launch hype, technology trends that are heading into the wrong direction and companies that had bad luck glued to their backs.
We have taken a close and rather subjective look at 2006 and selected ten contestants that, in our opinion, can only improve in the future. Join us in a discussion to set our head straight our let us know what we missed. The link to our discussion is on the last page of this article.
#10: Apple iPod
What? How dare we put the iPod (yup, it's really the iPod) on this list? Why would something be wrong with a product that has sold 100 million times?
(Editor's Note: Before you take this personal and send me an angry email, give me a chance and hear me out. The iPod couldn't really escape what I remember as one of the most disappointing tech products of this year. And hey, it's only #10, so it's really not that bad, right?)
Back in 2001, when Steve Jobs pulled a plain white box from his jeans pocket and sold it to journalists as the greatest thing since sliced bread, I was sure that Steve had lost his mind, finally. But playing with the iPod for a few minutes made it clear that Apple had a winner on its hands - a product that addressed virtually all what MP3 player buyers were asking for at the time. Plus, Apple was able to wrap a stylish package around its music playing hard drive. It took a while, but, today, we all know that the iPod has become a marketer's dream and synonymous for the term "MP3 player."
But times change and it appears that Apple may have been playing its iPods too loud or perhaps spent too much time playing in the piles of cash the iPod keeps producing. There wasn't much news, let alone innovation, around the iPod this year. We have seen a video iPod with 80 GB of capacity, a restyled Shuffle and a face-lifted Nano with more memory capacity. But let's be honest, those 80 gigabytes were overdue anyway and the new design of the Nano corrected a design no-no (it scratched easily) that never should have been there to begin with. Yeah, it looks nice and it has more space for music (but only half of what would be great), but let's get real: The iPod is in real danger of losing its sex appeal.
Needs more spice: Apple iPod
We have seen several new MP3 players this year that are much better in certain disciplines than the iPod. They take the kind of risk in design and innovation the iPod has lost. Take Sandisk's Sansa, Samsung's K5 or Microsoft's Zune. All those players have some nice features that, combined, are superior to those of the iPod. Apple really lucked out that neither Microsoft nor Sandisk have figured out yet how to put those features into one package.
Be careful Apple, you can afford to miss one or the other trend. But the writing is one the wall and you can't afford another year of slow iPod innovation. For next year, we hope that we finally see Wi-Fi, a touchscreen, Bluetooth and perhaps a new product line that takes more risk and brings back the iPod's wow! factor. And, could someone please kill that ugly iPod Hi-Fi?