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Tech duds of year 2010

india Updated: Dec 24, 2010 16:50 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
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It is almost part of tradition, ritualistic even, that you end the year by doing a recap of the best gadgets, the top devices, technology that has enthralled and excited. On the other hand, another part of the tradition, albeit one that isn’t followed as religiously, is to do the clunkers – the worst gadgets, the turkeys, the losers – gadgets and technology that promised a lot and delivered very little. I shall start the year end festivities by embarking on the latter.

There is a difference though. Unlike most ‘lists’, this one isn’t only about the terrible gadgets that came but never conquered. Some are about hype unfulfilled, announcements that were too premature and about people that made a bad situation hilariously worse. This week, I’ll take up two of the biggest categories.

Tablets that couldn’t be swallowed
The Adam
The Notion Ink Adam had us Indians and the world excited. It came out of nowhere, an India venture, seemed like the ultimate Tablet, had most features covered and yet all that was missing was the actual device itself. After almost a year of pre-production hype, the situation is still the same. The Adam will come out in the year 2011 but exactly when and for how much is still anybody’s guess.

The $35 Tablet
Revolutionising the education of children of this world one Tablet at a time. That was the promise of the announcement by minister Kapil Sibal. That there would be a Tablet device for all children in the country. But it never came! A certain Mr Chandra and yours truly were held responsible by most people as we reviewed the device on our show and gave it the stamp of approval. In our defence as also Mr Sibal’s, the device is real, is out for expression of interest to build and hopefully will be in the hands of school-going children soon. Yet, the delay and the ambiguity has made sure that the $35 wonder is at the moment a clunker for 2010.

Others

Joojoo tabletThe JooJoo Tablet (infighting, legal wrangles and a device that was flawed from the start), the Dell Streak 5 (a beautiful device but too small and released with an antique version of Android), the dual screen Microsoft Courier (yes, it was only a proof of concept but Microsoft had all of us believe it was almost ready for release) to the army of generic and horribly executed $99 Android Tablets that have swept the market – the Tablet market has more losses than wins this year.

Phones that didn’t ring
Google Nexus
The first off the block is a paradox of a phone. By far the best Android phone to date, a techie’s wet dream and a great showcase for Android – the Google Nexus was a big success and a big failure. It was pulled off the market prematurely due to poor sales. Many conspiracy theories abound: terrible marketing and very poor retailing are two. The real story may well be that Google doesn’t want to be in the hardware market. And yet they have the next version of the phone – Google Nexus (The S) out.

This line of phones has an intriguing story of jealousy, subterfuge, scandal and incredibly bad decisions behind it. A phone built for the ‘youngsters’ with a pure foundation of social networking built in. A marketing campaign that made the right noise. A launch that only Microsoft can pull off. And yet the phone was pulled off shelves in exactly eight weeks. Many reasons for this suicidal device are bandied about, including bad data plans, a form factor not appealing to the young and even a internal war with the Windows Phone 7 team.

The iPhone 4
Let me say it straight up so as to not waste time in getting flamed by Apple fanboys and the Steve Jobs Temple of Worship groupies. The iPhone 4 is a good device! The reason it’s here on this list is fairly simple too. The antenna gate factor and the fact that Steve Jobs wanted all of us to believe that we didn’t know how to hold a phone. That the fault was in our hands and posture and grip, not a technical issue with the phone itself. Plus the fact that despite months passing and promises galore, they still cant manufacture a white iPhone. What’s with that?

The 65
That number refers to the sixty five or so new companies that have each launched a brand of mobile phones in India in 2010. None of them manufacture a phone, most don’t have facilities to repair them, but each is a master marketing company mixed with some really edgy (the kind that sets your teeth on edge) advertising campaigns. Why is this a bad thing? Some of them make good phones, some price them very well and some are even being innovative. The rest are just bringing in junk and selling it off as the next big thing. Hopefully, 2011 will sort the good from the bad and leave the
better ones in play.

That’s just two categories of clunkers taken care of. More next week, including other devices, categories that were duds, people that ended up with an egg on their face, technology that bludgeoned itself to death and, of course, a few horribly bad decisions!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni

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