Even big brands fell flat

<p>Some of the biggest names in consumer technology launched products this year that flopped — big time. Others are poised to self-destruct next year. The biggest losers are those companies that went head-to-head against Apple’s iPad. But no gadget category ended the year unscathed, including MP3 players, phones and TVs.</p> <p>Here’s our list of the top gadget flops in 2011.</p>

RIM BlackBerry Playbook

<p>The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet got off to a rocky start at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. The pricey 7-inch tablet made an appearance at an opening reception, but the device was kept out of reach by the RIM rep. The PlayBook was not ready for the public. Three months later, the PlayBook was released, and criticized for its lack of built-in apps for email, contacts and calendar, critical functions for the typical BlackBerry business. Only BlackBerry phone users could sync their email with the tablet, and that was possible only with a bridge app.</p> <p>RIM sold 200,000 PlayBooks during the second quarter of 2011. The company expects to sell approximately 1.5 million units by the end of the year. Apple sold 9.3 million iPad 2 tablets in the second quarter alone, and is expected to sell a total of 40 million tablets by year's end.</p> <p>The PlayBook ended the year with a 60 percent price cut on the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, that brought the price down to $200 from $500. However, RIM has not given up on its tablet. The company has popped the price back up to $500 and says it will upgrade the PlayBook’s system to handle business functions in February 2012.</p>

Dell Streak

<p>Earlier this month, Dell pulled its Streak 7, a 7-inch Android tablet, from its online stores. The smaller 5-inch version had been discontinued in August. Dell says it won’t abandon the tablet market altogether. It plans to offer its enterprise tablet, the Streak 10 Pro, in the U.S. next year, a tablet that the company currently sells only in China.</p> <p>Back in the U.S., consumers have not been won over by tablets aimed at business users. RIM failed with its PlayBook, QUE never made it to market in 2010 and Lenovo’s Thinkpad faces an uphill battle against the iPad, which has already captured the business market from health care to construction, leaving little room for competitors.</p>

HP TouchPad

<p>In late June, HP hosted launch parties across the country for its TouchPad tablet, running webOS (an operating system HP purchased from Palm for $1.2 billion). But even celebrity endorsements from Russell Brand, Jay-Z and Nick Cannon couldn’t persuade consumers to buy. On July 1, HP released the Touchpad and seven weeks later, HP discontinued the device.</p> <p>When HP slashed the price of 16GB TouchPads to $99, consumers bit. Within hours, TouchPads sold out at HP outlets, Amazon and Best Buy. HP revived its $99 fire sale on eBay on Dec. 11., offering refurbished 16GB units for $99 and 32GB units for $149, presumably the last of HP’s TouchPad inventory. This time, HP sold out in 10 minutes, according to a report from TechCrunch.</p> <p>HP will continue its struggle with webOS in 2012. The company announced that it will open the operating system to developers for creating new apps. The open-source strategy worked for Google’s Android, but it may be too late for webOS.</p> <p>The HP debacle shows that consumers want cheap tablets. Those who can afford a $500 tablet, buy Apple iPads. Otherwise, they want a cheaper device like Amazon’s Kindle Fire for $200. In just two weeks since its November launch, the Kindle Fire rocketed into second place behind the iPad and is expected to sell nearly 4 million units, according to analyst firm IHS.</p>

Motorola Xoom

Motorola’s Xoom was the first tablet to run Google’s Honeycomb operating system and grabbed the spotlight at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Tech journalists raced to the Xoom stand to get their hands on the device after Verizon announced it would carry the new tablet as part of its 4G lineup.</p> <p>Priced the same as an iPad and released just a month before the iPad 2, the Xoom failed at retail. The company sold between 25,000 and 120,000 units during the second quarter of 2011, which represented between 5 and 15 percent of its stock, according to a Global Equities analyst. Meanwhile, Apple sold more than 9 million iPad 2 tablets over the same period.</p> <p>However, Motorola has not given up. Verizon released the Motorola Xyboard for pre-order on Dec. 9, a renamed and slightly retooled Xoom. The 4G-capable Xyboard starts at $530 for the 16GB version, and that’s with a 2-year contract from Verizon.</p>

Microsoft Zune

<p>Just shy of its five-year birthday, Microsoft discontinued its Zune music player and encouraged users to move to a Windows 7 phone.</p> <p>From the start, Microsoft Zunes fell short compared with Apple iPods, but the gap widened in 2007 when Apple launched the iPod Touch. Zune sales dropped $100 million between 2007 and 2008. GameStop stopped selling the Zune. In 2009, Microsoft released a touch-screen Zune, the Zune HD. But by that time, the focus had moved from hardware to apps and Zune had zero.</p> <p>Though the players have been discontinued, the Zune Marketplace continues to be available on Windows phones, computers and Xbox Live consoles. Subscribers pay $10 for unlimited music that can be synced across their devices, but even the Zune service could be in jeopardy with the rise of free streaming music from Spotify and others.</p>

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

<p>Sony Ericsson launched its Android-based Xperia Play, aka the PlayStation phone, at Verizon in May and its AT&T model in September. Instead of a slide-out keyboard, the Play’s back piece slid open to reveal a portable gaming device. The hardware was there, but the games were not. The Xperia Play lacked integration with Sony’s PlayStation Network and offered a handful of old first-gen PlayStation games. Further, it featured a single-core processor at a time when dual-core processors have become the norm for smartphones.</p> <p>Less than two months after its release, Verizon slashed the phone’s price from $200 to $100 as part of its back-to-school promotion. Sony Ericsson executives said that Play sales have met expectations as of October and hope to see increased sales through the holidays.</p> <p>While not a complete failure, the Play’s prospects for 2012 are poor. The company quashed hopes for a more powerful dual-core device in 2012, insisting that “it's [the Play] not going to be outperformed that quickly,” in an interview with Eurogamer.</p>

3D TV

Consumers failed to embrace 3D HDTVs with anywhere near the same enthusiasm they showed for James Cameron’s 2010 blockbuster movie "Avatar", the movie that promised generate enough excitement to convince viewers 3D was a must-have at home. Two years later, that still hasn't happened.</p> <p>Even Sony has lost its love for 3D movies. In September, the company announced it would no longer pay for glasses to be distributed to 3D theatergoers, effective May 1, 2012. And consumers don’t want to pay for 3D glasses in the movie theater any more than they want to pay for them at home.</p> <p>“3D movies have dramatically declined in the last year and 3D TV sales have been dismally low,” Philip Swann, TVPredictions’ founder, wrote on his blog. “Americans seem to be saying that they have grown tired of the 3D fad.”</p> <p>NPD Group researchers found that despite more consumers gaining exposure to 3D content at cinemas, retail venues and in the homes of friends and family, overall awareness and purchase intent for 3D TVs declined in May 2011, compared with October 2010.</p> <p>But 3D TVs won’t go away in 2012. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Vizio and Panasonic have built 3D capability into their high-end sets, so buyers who want a top-of-the line TV will get 3D. Will they use it? In a Nielsen report, 57 percent of people said they would not buy a 3D TV because they didn’t want to wear 3D glasses and nearly 90 percent of respondents said watching 3D TV would hinder the other tasks they engage in while watching TV, such as checking email or surfing the Web.</p>

7 Big Gadget Flops in 2011