This year has marked the end of the first decade in the 21st century. Or the first year of the second decade of the 21st century, if you're good at math. No Star Trek transporters, Buck Rogers time travel, Matrix-style mind uploads or Jetsons-style flying cars. But we DO have the internet and cooler phones that allow us to be on the internet and more advanced video games that allow us to play with other people... via the internet. So, in this time of still-budding technology, here are the greatest disappointments popular technology had to offer this year. Enjoy, debate and share.
The TSA Body Scanners
In order to protect the United States from f*ture terrorist attacks, the TSA "perfected", then introduced, the new body scanner device to use at airport security. The body scanner was supposedly a step into the f*ture where almost anything that was threatening to airline security would no longer slip by unnoticed.
So what was gained?
People found themselves completely exposed to strangers when reviewed by the scanner, exposed meaning genitalia and all. FAIL. They easily could have made the scanners work in a fashion so that they didn't outline all of the porn-y and religiously-taboo parts of our bodies to the public, but they didn't. They basically look like if you stripped down naked, then had someone paint you as a ghost.
The scanners also carry a risk of radiation and so by eliminating the threat of terrorism, it very well may promote the threat of cancer. Double FAIL.
Of course, Americans are presented with a choice. Either take the scanner or opt-out and receive an intrusive pat-down. Triple FAIL. If you have to institute a new technology on the American public, don't make the alternative worse than the faulty, fallible technology itself.
And finally, the ravaging levels of the pat-down attracted mass media attention, promoting people to question if the simple act of flying has not become a violation of the Bill of Rights. Failtacular.
And in the midst of all this, in the weekend before Christmas of 2010, well after these machines were being used nation-wide and more intense pat-down procedures were being implemented, someone got through TSA security with a loaded gun which was, thankfully, not discovered until the passenger landed. The person said it was a mistake and that they'd forgotten to take it out of their bags.
So these machines not only mark the idea of the terrorists "winning" because certain freedoms are taken away, but the idea that relying on the machines makes actual security people lazier and therefore makes our airports LESS safe. If there's any bigger fail than implementing something that takes away privacy from the American public AND makes us less safe, then please feel free to share.
Digg Version 4 Breaks the Community
This year, Digg.com proved that some of the old timeless values of running a website still apply: Never, ever change the basis of your interface and never alienate your core usership.
Digg used to be a site where users could post any article, image or link they liked and sit back and watch as other users "dugg" up their links and voted on ones that they liked, much like reddit.com, only more algorithmically driven and with less categories, but still ubiquitous and awesome.
But when Digg switched version 4 in mid 2010, they also switched the entire basis of how the site was run. Instead of allowing users to vote, publishers ran their own accounts via feeds, meaning Digg had become a rip-off of something like Twitter where everything was based off of feeds, and they even *GASP* added "Followers"!
This angered almost all of the Digg users, who took up in protest by upvoting every story that came from the rival website Reddit.com. It got to the point where most of Digg's front page material came from Reddit for a little over an entire week. In the end, many accounts of Digg were lost in all the chaos and Reddit gained a lot more prominence. By "more prominence", I mean over 500,000 new registered users and millions of additional pageviews a month post Digg v4.
Click here for Tech Crunch's graph comparing the two.
The debacle was such a huge outrage to the core Digg community, which many complained had fallen to the "gamers" (people gaming the system to get their submissions up to the coveted front page), that not only did they pull the Digg Revolt of 2010 (the whole Reddit thing) and even switched to Reddit (so much so that Reddit actually changed their logo to a picture of their mascot holding a shovel, like the Digg logo does.) All of this called for Kevin Rose to even step down as CEO of Digg to focus on other ventures marking the slow, painful death of what used to be one of the greatest communities on the internet.
The Microsoft KIN
Okay, so maybe it's just cruel to include 2 Microsoft mobile devices on this list, but really, the KIN was such a huge, instantaneous and enormous FAIL as far as technology goes, that it would be irresponsible not to have it on this list.
After *Dr. Evil Finger* One Billion Dollars in development costs, in May of 2010, the Microsoft KIN was available to the public. The KIN was a sleek, round, cute little phone with a keyboard and a side-flip screen and a Windows interface. It was aimed primarily at people ages 15-30 who use social networks and already have applications with which to do the primary function of the KIN on their iPhones and Droids (and even Blackberries, c'mon Microsoft.)
The main problem is pretty much exactly what I just said: you can't market a phone to a demographic whose needs are already filled by less-myopic, more versatile and plainly better machines.
After only 48 days on the market, Microsoft discontinued the Kine line and actually canceled its European release.
The bigger FAIL? The fact that the KIN is back and that you probably didn't know about it. KIN devices are now about $50 or $20, making for great lower-end machines, but putting Microsoft on the low-end of the mobile spectrum once again.
Embedded here is the now-sad campaign for the KIN that featured a girl who supposedly went around the country meeting all her internet/social networking friends -- something nobody who values their life/psyche should never, ever do.
Playstation 3 Move Controller
Sony decided that this was the year to take its loyal base of Playstation fanboys and make them dance around with a glowing lollipop.
Well, technically, Sony wants to rival the Wii and the XBox 360's Kinect, but really what other image will the "Move" controller provide? The accuracy of the PS Move is touted to be unparalleled and a breakthrough in gamers using their entire bodies to play a game.
And yet many gamers have now returned to standard controls for most games. Why? Well, the asking price is a bit too high, considering the Wii thrives on lower-pricing, has been around for longer and (this is weird to say about the Wii) has better games (at least better games than the ones on the Playstation 3 with Move capabilities.)
The Move also happens to be the exact same thing as the Wii, despite an aggressive marketing campaign trying to tell us it's not, as well as light up magic wands. And finally, there aren't many games available for the Move, meaning it must take quite bit of convincing for the casual gamer to pick one of these up. Doesn't help that the Move has to re-calibrated all the time, either.
And the end of the day, Sony still has the balls to publicly ridicule the Xbox and Wii in this commercial, which makes this a huge FAIL.
Why? Well, because the XBox Kinect is already sweeping the holiday season in sales, will soon replace the Wii as an exercise/party game, and already had a better, bigger following than the Move will ever have. The PS3's Move takes Wii's technology and applies it better... where as Microsoft reinvented the active gaming system with the Kinect. PS3, for once, has developed something that is late AND behind the curve.
Now, this won't sink the PS3, but with the ubiquitous nature of the Wii and the game-changing Kinect, the Move definitely stands a chance... to FAIL.
In Google's quest to constantly innovate their software came this bright idea.
Released in May 2010 to the general public, Google Wave's mission was to synchronize everything the Internet brought to its users. The idea was that the Wave would be a real-time collaborative process between any number of users. In a way, the Wave would of been like Google Docs, except for documents, the Wave would use e-mail, instant messaging, social networking,and wikis as its key tools.
The hype for the Wave was incredible, billed as the new face for Internet communication. If only human beings could have comprehended how to use it, perhaps Google Wave would have been a success.
However, the product turned out to be way too ambitious in its making and average users would left confused on how to use it and what its purpose really was. The image to the left shows how cluttered and confusing the interface actually was.
So despite great hype, the Wave washed upon the shore dead 3 months later in August when Google announced it would no longer develop the Wave.
Angry Birds for the Droid aka the Droid Marketplace in General
The Droid Marketplace overall is like your local Swap Meet/Flea Market.
Remember when your parents used to take you out to these places and you'd catch a Batman and Robin toyset which clearly included Batman and Robin, but without capes, and the packaging would read "Bat Hero and Companion" or you'd find a vintage-looking Superman toy with no "S" on his chest with a box marked "Super Alien Hero"? That's what most apps for the Droid are.
One of the most popular apps for the iPhone, Hipstamatic, which allows people who fancy themselves photographers to add annoying grain/darkness to their pictures so they look "artsy" has a competitor on the Droid marketplace called "Retro Camera", the top played game on the Droid market for a long time was a simple, unimaginative (yet arguably really addicting) Tower Defense game called, wait for it, "Robo Defense."
It's a wasteland of cheap versions of slower-working iPhone apps, except for your bare essentials (or those apps with more money behind them) like TweetDeck, Facebook, FourSquare and the like.
So, the one, shining example in 2010 of this, and a moderately sound argument for hardware exclusivity, is the fact that the Google Droid interface, in late 2009, was added to a barrage of different non-Google devices. Everyone from Motorola to HTC started making a bunch of different clones of each other to support this great, potentially iPhone-killing interface.
GREAT, right?... Wrong. When some of the best mobile games are made/developed, they are seldom made for the majority of Droid users, and when they are, they're made for the Droid users with the most powerful Droids on the market (aka, not "most" of the market.)
The best example of this was Angry Birds. Easily the most popular new mobile game of 2010 and arguably the most addictive, Angry Birds was the Plants vs. Zombies of 2010 in that every iPhone gamer held it over every Droid would-be gamer's head that they couldn't have it (NOTE: there are no Droid gamers, there are little to no good games for the Droid that you wouldn't get in a crappy computer-game bundle from the 80s from your Aunt at Christmas.)
Once Angry Birds (easily the most beloved new mobile game of the year) DID come out for the Droid, though, over half a year later, it worked for the most powerful Motorola models, but not for most of the lesser HTC models that most people who were looking to save money ended up buying in 2009. People with lesser Droids were forced to wait for a release that would seemingly never come... until it did. Amazing. Finally everyone could play the best game around, no matter what their touch-screen smart phone (Blackberries don't count right now.)
Once this did happen, though, people found that their phones could not run the game properly, so much that it was unplayable and that this game that would EASILY run on the iPhone, illustrating how a great operating system is currently being run on millions of incapable machines.
This entire thing served as a microcosm for not only how behind the Droid market is to this day (they couldn't bring ONE thing over) and how superior the iPhone is as a basic machine and as an operating system... at least for the time being.
And yeah yeah yeah, you can mod the Droid operating system and you can do all kinds of great stuff with it -- if you're a huge techie. If you're an average consumer (read: most people), then the Droid does still pale in comparison to the iPhone because all people really want is to run an app successfully, to have a fun, well-known selection of games and fun (Netflix Instant exists for the iPhone, not for the Droid) and to feel like they have the top of the line technology.
Having a Droid is a constant reminder of what you can't have. It's like when you brought that fake Batman toy to school, just so all the other boys and girls could see the inferiority of what you ended up buying and so you could feel (and learn) that you should have known better.
I'm not an Apple fanboy by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that people who own Droids can't enjoy even 10% of the same cool stuff people can with an iPhone is just ridiculous. As soon as this changes, Droids will start winning an edge, but until then... FAIL.
The Apple iPad aka the iPhone Call-Less
Apple is making a serious bid at ruling all of the technology world (or at least the technology that's used in TV and movies.) After unleashing the game-changing iPods and iPhones, Steve Jobs set his attention on defeating another technological milestone: the art of digital reading. Namely, Jobs wanted to kill the Amazon Kindle.
Enter The Apple iPad.
When released, people wondered "what is it exactly? A very big iPhone without the ability to make a call? A small laptop with no keyboards?" It became quickly apparent that Steve Jobs thought we were back in the 80's where carrying around boom boxes instead of a Walkman was cool.
The iPad comes off as an annoyingly oversized iPhone with all the apps and the touchscreen and the Internet access, yet still no Flash. Pretty much everything that could already be found on the iPhone. For 300 bucks more. The iPhone Macro, if you will.
In his attempt to make his product more distinctive and "cooler" than the Kindle, Jobs forgot the reason Kindles probably sell so well in the first place: People can read any book they want peacefully and pleasantly without almost no distractions from life. They can also read comfortably in the sun without being bothered by pesky (beautiful/shiny, but ineffective) reflective screens.
Over the year, and with the implementation of Netflix's Instant Play app for the iPhone/iPod/iPad, the iPad has quickly become a luxury item (not a useful tool) for those who travel frequently and like to have slightly bigger screens. It's kind of a cool thing if you want a closer view of your Angry Birds game, or if you want to check out that episode of 30 Rock while you're waiting for the bus, but not so much if you want to do things like "work" or "read" unless you bought it specifically to read comic books, in which case, this product is perfect for you.
Otherwise, though, this thing is not a game-changer, rather, a great toy for a generation of people who are sick and tired of the books they read the Cliff's Notes for in high school anyway.
Honorable mention: The Apple iPhone 4's Antenna Placement
This really wasn't that big of a FAIL due to the scope of how successful and stable of a machine the iPhone 4 really turned out to be. Also, the antenna doesn't do that much more damage than having AT&T does as it is, which is why it doesn't get its own item on this list. The iPad was a HUGE opportunity to revolutionize the way people see laptops, something that people need for business and their every day lives, yet is now something that people need as much as they did MP3 players in 1998.
Russian GPS Satelite
Ready for another In Soviet Russia joke? There will be plenty coming from this story for years to come.
Ready to launch GLONASS (look, there's an ass in the title, go nuts late-night crowd), the Russian equivalent to GPS, all of Russia stood proud to finally release their very own global navigation system to the world. In fact, it was even added to the list of 2010's most important space achievements. All that was left was the final launch of all three GLONASS satellites to join several others already in space.
After launch, the rocket carrying the satellites malfunctioned. It first veered off course, then separated from its booster engines at a higher altitude than planned. And so, thanks to a failing rocket, the satellites never had a chance to deploy and instead the 160 million dollar investment plummeted back down to Earth into a non-navigable area of the Pacific. The closest port? Honolulu.
Just when it seemed Russia was done competing with the U.S., they crash land into the arms of their "competitor." GLONASS now waits for its next launch in 6 months. For that amount of noise made about this story, it's safe to say that at least in 2010, this was a complete, unfortunate FAIL.
Click here for the full report.