7 History-Defining Product Fails To Never Forget

It’s all well and good to take an outside of the box approach to the world of product design. However, there are certain product designs that just will never make any sense to us. It’s almost as if whoever was behind the design’s original conceptualization was just trying to pull a fast one on the rest of the world. It’s either that, or they really had no idea what they were doing.

For instance, Colgate’s whole brief stint into the world of TV dinners. We’ll get more into that later, but back in the 1980s someone at Colgate thought they might have an in with the whole TV dinners game, and could be able to cater to both students and working parents. Suffice to say, consumers weren’t intuitively associating a renowned toothpaste company with new lines of TV dinners. We’ll now take a closer look at some of the most notable design fails throughout history that will echo their failures into eternity. 

1. Sony MiniDisc

An image of a throwback Sony MiniDisc.

RaeAllen/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 DEED

One of the main themes you’ll see run rampant throughout this list for common catalysts for ultimate failure is the price point. Sony marketed its MiniDisc back in 1992 as a newfound way to thoroughly enjoy an uncompromised sound quality of a CD, while not having to worry about any instances of a scratch or skip. The problem is they priced it out at $500. Then a quick fast forward to the later 1990s, and with the dawn of recordable CDs as well as MP3 players, the MiniDisc was doomed. 

2. Segway

An image of a group of people using Segways outside.

Peter Miller/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

The original inventor of the Segway Dean Kamen could’ve used a quick rundown on the proper ways to engage with the press leading up to the release of a groundbreaking technology. Kamen simply refused to disclose any details with the press, investors, and even regulators. That alone would be enough to make the market get a bit shaky. Then, when the Segway actually made its debut it came out of the stables at a turtle-like pace, and felt terribly unsafe at moderate distances. There were only 140,000 Segways actually sold before the production was halted in 2020. Ouch. 

3. Apple Pippin

An image of Apple's Pippin console.

Flávio Dechen/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED

It’s pretty wild to think that Apple hasn’t fully overtaken the gaming console scene. Yet. Just give it some time. There was a time however back in the days of 1996 when Apple launched the Apple Pippin. It was named for the tart cultivar, as a quick fun fact, and was both manufactured and marketed by the Japanese toy company, Bandi. It also ended up costing $400 more than the Nintendo 64, which was taking the market by storm. Suffice to say, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the Pippin had its production swiftly halted. 

4. Macintosh TV

An image of a throwback Macintosh TV that's been zoomed in on.

30pin Pictures/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Apple took a bit of a cannonball dive into the deep end of failure with their attempt at a Macintosh TV. The goal was to melt together a personal computer with integrated television capabilities. A big issue was that it was not capable of showing television in a desktop window, but it could capture still frames to PICT files. Perhaps, it was ahead of its time? A mere 10,000 units made it off the assembly line before Apple decided to cancel the short-lived projected altogether. 

5. Colgate TV Dinners

An image of someone preparing food in a kitchen.
Abbey Houston/unsplash

As mentioned at the onset of this list of smashing failures, Colgate missed the mark when they took aim at the TV dinners space. It was back in the 1980s, and Colgate was in the process of losing to Proctor & Gamble in the personal care market. Colgate tried to pivot with with its Colgate Kitchen Entrees, which were explicitly marketed to college students and parents working jobs.

Consumers just couldn’t seem to get behind a dinner product being sold by a company so notoriously associated with selling teeth cleaning products. Suffice to say, Colgate pulled the whole line of TV dinners very quickly. Lastly, there have been doubts expressed by some folks online that the whole Colgate TV dinners thing was but a myth given wings through conspiracy theorists. Well, take a look at this 1966 copy of Television Age Magazine, and it should put those doubts to rest. 

6. Microsoft Zune

An image of a few different Zune 1's next to each other.
James Chao/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

When Apple unveiled the iPod back in 2001, Microsoft took its sweet time (5 years) to debut its own take on a digital music player. Microsoft gave the Zune a bigger screen, a fancy radio tuner, and the ability for its users to share songs. However, there was just that Apple magic missing. What’s more is that Microsoft completely blanked on including a design feature to account for leap years. This translated to a moment at midnight on December 31, 2008, when tens of thousands of Zune devices froze. That alone was enough to awaken unrest and widespread doubt amongst potential Zune consumers. When Microsoft finally decided to halt production for Zunes in 2011, the Zune had just an eighth of what iPod had in terms of market share. 

7. Google Glass

A close-up image of someone holding a Google Glass device.

Michael Praetorius/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

At least we can’t deny the fact that Google had unleashed max hype levels for the Google Glass in 2013. Just the fact that users were able to walk around with the Google Glass prototypes and explore the internet using voice commands was enough to drum up excitement. However, the technology itself had its shortcomings, and with the added element of the product being $1,500 a pop, in addition to privacy violations, the larger public couldn’t get behind the Google Glass. Things escalated to such an extent that users were called names like “Glassholes.” The devices were also prohibited in casinos, locker rooms, and movie theaters. Google Class halted production in March 15, 2023.

About Author