5 Lessons every product owner should learn from recent failed innovations
Learning from mistakes is good. It is especially good when you learn from the mistakes of others, and not from your own. And while speaking of innovations, this is especially true, because according to statistics, out of 20 innovation projects, one succeeds at best.
What dooms innovation to failure? There can be many different reasons - you will see it below, so let's finally tell you about the 5 most sensational failed innovative products and services. You will not regret the time spent, because in each of the cases below there is a huge potential for further analysis and valuable lessons for future.
1. Google Glass
The first Glass announcement took place back in 2012, a year later, in 2013, prototypes fell into the hands of testers and media representatives. However, in 2015, the tech giant announced the closure of sales and de facto froze the project. What made Google close the seemingly promising innovation? There are many probable reasons. First of all, not everyone wants to look like a freak, raising a piece of iron on a futuristic-looking head and giving commands to the void, turning his head, gesturing for no apparent reason.
Moreover, people rather quickly switched from surprise to hostility: it is difficult to understand from the outside whether electronic glasses are active or not, because if they are active, they can record what’s happening - and this is an invasion and violation of privacy. There was even a comic term Glasshole, which meant a person secretly filming through glasses.
Additionally, there is another explanation for the failure, which boils down to simple technical limitations, namely, the equation between the battery capacity and processor power (did everyone understand that it was Moore’s law, yeah, guys?). Batteries have been and remain one of the bottlenecks in computing. In this failed innovation, the size of which are forcedly and understandably limited by the size of the human head, this problem manifested itself most clearly. One can only dream about the whole day of Google Glass working. Those who managed to use them characterize the device’s autonomy as “poor”: an active continuous load discharges the battery in less than an hour! And excessively cruel methods of energy saving lead to the fact that this failed innovation can go into hibernation even after a few seconds of interruption in work.
At the SXSW Music, Film and Technology Conference, Astro Teller, head of the Google X research lab, said the company had made a mistake by provoking Glass's high expectations. According to him, the company didn’t explain that a $ 1,500 computer built into a pair of glasses is just a prototype, not a finished product. “We helped to attract too much attention to the program,” Teller said, talking about company mistakes. In early 2015, Google suspended the project, ceasing to sell failed innovation to consumers, but leaving the opportunity to buy them for corporate customers.
2. Playstation Classic
The idea to re-release the PlayStation Classic, as Nintendo did with NES Mini and SNES Mini, was a complete failure for Sony. Immediately after entering the market, a flurry of criticism fell in the direction of Sony. This failed innovation turned out to be poorly assembled, the library of games, except for five projects, was for the most part completely uninteresting, the consoles themselves were defective. But the main problem was that the games were very slow due to poor optimization of the built-in emulator based on the free version of the ePSXe project. In particular, gamers noted the following console problems:
- A small number of settings;
- Some games had bugs, and the picture got worse;
- Bad sound in some games;
- Some projects were slower at 50 frames per second. The reason is that it was based on PAL versions of games;
- An uninteresting game library consisting of only 20 projects;
- The inability to launch new games from an external drive (as a result, hackers managed to add this feature by hacking the console).
The list can be continued for a long time, because there are many small problems. Custom acceptance testing could provide feedback that would help shape the idea, prioritize functions, and ensure a successful launch. This is a good souvenir for yourself, or a gift for a friend. However, Sony had to take into account that the players who witnessed the first wave of games on the original Playstation were already 30-40 years old. These players, even if they retained their hobby, do not want some cheap memories. They are willing to pay for nostalgia. And the younger generation will not see anything of value in this console at all. Speaking about nostalgia, sit back and give yourself 15 seconds of true audio-visual pleasure.
To create a social network or break down under pressure from Facebook - this idea became the reason for the birth of so-called “Facebook but from Google”. So the creator of this failed innovation Vic Gundotra convinced Larry Page - the co-founder of the company, who at the beginning of 2011 have just returned to the position of CEO - to give the green light to the development of his ambitious failed innovation.
The founders of the company Larry Page and Sergey Brin personally oversaw the development and promotion of this failed innovation. In 2011, when Google+ was introduced to the general public, fierce competition awaited him in the market, and the company had no idea what they could offer to the user without copying Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The new social network was launched without a clear plan and without taking into account competitors. Moreover, Google has made binding of some of its services to the social network mandatory and quite intrusive.
Trying to compete with Facebook was completely unsophisticated. Google tried to do something similar to the product of competitors and for some reason expected that users would want to leave them and come to their social network. A big strategic miscalculation was the delay in the Google+ version for mobile devices. When the mobile version eventually appeared, it wasn’t good enough compared to other social networks. In addition, high-resolution photos (one of the pillars Google strategy was standing on) significantly slowed down the application.
A major strategic miss of the company was the unwillingness to listen and understand their client. Ultimately, on April 2, 2019, the social network was closed. According to the Google employees involved in the development of the social network, it seemed to managers that the next “chip” being developed would certainly help to beat competitors, but its appearance never happened. Perhaps it was worth thinking about it BEFORE this failed innovation was released.
4. Windows 8
A lot of time passed since the introduction of this innovation from Microsoft, and now it is possible to draw an unambiguous conclusion - Windows 8 failed completely. Even Microsoft itself unconditionally acknowledged the failure of the Windows 8, and later there was a lot of talks about mistakes correction, the results of which users saw in Windows 10. Think about it, Windows 8 failed more than even the notorious Vista. If we compare them in the same time frame, then Vista took 4.52% of the total market for desktop operating systems, while Windows 8, for a comparable period of time, was content with a modest 2.67%.
Data from ZDnet, obtained during the collection of statistics from various Web applications.
However, everything isn’t so bad. Firstly, despite the failure, this innovation finally approved the Metro style, which is also called the “flat design”. Flat design as an idea was subsequently picked up by more successful developers and turned into a beautiful and convenient tool that underlies, for example, modern Android. This kind of influence is an interesting example of how one can use an invention better and more efficiently than the inventor himself.
Secondly, the catastrophic UX miscalculations, somehow made by top-class professionals from Microsoft, are a very interesting subject to study, from which an experienced or novice UX specialist can learn many important visual lessons.
Thirdly, in addition to miscalculations regarding usability, Microsoft conducted a very weak and slurred campaign to promote its new product.
From the conceptual point of view, this failed innovation was a brave attempt to erase all the boundaries between fundamentally different platforms - desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone. The idea of creating a single space, and therefore a single user experience for all devices, is certainly very attractive. And it was especially attractive in the distant 2010s, when many, especially Microsoft, thought that the time was coming for hybrid devices, and the main input method was touching the screen with your fingers. Having relied on this idea, Microsoft wanted to enter the future as winners who managed to anticipate the next UI revolution in time, but the concept of a single environment for all types of devices turned out to be doomed to failure due to fairly obvious and trivial reasons. Remember that software innovations sometimes need to be developed in small steps, and users need time to adapt. Attractive visual design can attract people, but usability is what actually creates or destroys user experience.
5. Kodak KashMiner
A couple of years ago it seemed that the whole world went bananas about cryptocurrencies. Almost every startup in one way or another was connected with cryptocurrencies and blockchain, there were talks about legislative regulation of cryptocurrency at the state level, and even gray-haired men from distant Eastern European regions seriously thought about purchase of “digital money”. Is it any wonder that the company, which is mainly known as a manufacturer of camera rolls, offered its own solution for the extraction of treasured bitcoins?
The Kodak KashMiner was presented at CES 2018 and made a lot of noise, as Kodak is one of the few brands with a worldwide reputation that shows its interest in the cryptocurrency economy. It was assumed that the machine will be available for rent in exchange for the initial lump sum and half the profit from mining. The equipment rental was $ 3,600. Presumably, the invested money with a stable cryptocurrency rate should have brought its investors about $ 9,000 in return after 3 years.
According to the information given in the leaflets handed out at the event, Spotlite Energy Systems, based in California, received a license to use the name of a well-known company in the name of the this failed innovation. Spotlite CEO Halston Mikail assured that he planned to install hundreds of devices at Kodak's New York headquarters to take advantage of the cheap electricity received from the local power station. According to him, 80 devices have already been put into operation.
However, the calculations made by experts were already much more pragmatic even then. Income, taking all costs into account, should hardly amount to $ 1,000 in two years. And this is taking into account the stable growth of digital gold. Ultimately, the US Securities and Exchange Commission responded promptly to the potential risk of fraud and banned a dubious scheme of this failed innovation. A spokesman for Kodak completely denied any connection with the miner, saying that the failed product is not a licensed brand and has not been installed on the premises of the company. All in all, this failed innovation was never implemented. Perhaps if all the parties involved in this project would pay more attention to scaling - everything would have turned out differently.
Each of the above failed innovations has its own reasons for failure. For some, these are serious technical flaws, for others - poor planning and forecasting, and somewhere, the cause of the tragedy was lack of original ideas. Perhaps part of the mistakes could have been avoided by good performers and decent technical implementation of the project, as well as an integrated approach to development. But what you can talk about with confidence is that creating an innovation you need to plan every nuance, starting with the idea itself. Read how to create ideas correctly in our article Idea Development: How to Create and Implement Innovative Ideas.