Even though it hasn't even been a month since the release of Apple's HomePod, it's safe to say that this is not the launch that Apple intended. From the less-than-enthusiastic reviews to the rings the home speaker leaves behind, this latest Apple product hasn't really made a strong first impression. It's still possible for Apple to improve some of the HomePod's flaws, like Siri limitations and Apple Music lock-in, via updates, but the missteps at launch are going to linger for some time.
Still, the HomePod launch isn't the first time Apple has stumbled. Go back through Apple's four-decade history, and you'll find multiple instances of poor execution, unforced errors and this-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time moments. Here's a look back at some of the worst fails in Apple's history.
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The Apple III, possibly the company's first real failure, was plagued by hardware issues that included faulty circuit boards and heating issues. At one point, Apple instructed users to lift and drop their computers about 6 inches to reseat chips coming out of the circuit board. This was way before the advent of the Genius Bar. Things got so bad that Apple recalled every existing machine on the market (about 14,000 units at the time). The company reintroduced the machine with new parts a year later. — Andrew E. Freedman
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Call this one a noble failure. Apple's Newton PDA was certainly innovative when it debuted in 1993, but it was also pretty expensive, at $700, and its marquee feature — handwriting recognition — just didn't work in early iterations. When your product gets roasted on the Simpsons and in a week's worth of Doonesbury comics, you know that something's gone horribly wrong. Steve Jobs certainly realized it when he returned to Apple in the late '90s, killing the Newton to focus on Apple's core Mac business and devoting the company's mobile device efforts to phones and tablets that would eventually pan out. — Philip Michaels
"Apple should use its expertise to build a TV!" some analyst usually decree when talking about potential opportunities for the company. "No, Apple should not," counters anyone with any memory of the Macintosh TV, the product of a shotgun wedding between a Mac and a CRT TV set where neither member of the happy couple really wanted to be with the other.
This 1993 release added a cable-ready TV tuner card to a Macintosh LC 520, letting you turn your Mac into a television set. But you couldn't watch TV and work simultaneously, nor could you capture any incoming video; expandability options were about as limited as the character development on a daytime soap opera. The Macintosh TV remains a painful reminder that cable-ready doesn't necessarily mean ready for prime time. — Philip Michaels
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You think the current MacBook Pro's keyboard is troublesome? In 1995 — decades before the FAA sent Samsung notes about the Note 7 — Apple shipped the PowerBook 5300 with exploding (Sony-made) batteries. That forced a product recall while earning Apple's laptop the "Hindenbook" nickname. This wasn't the 5300's only issue, though, as customers opened D.O.A. units, and other models arrived cracked. Oh, and its expansion bay — yes, Apple used to ship laptops with easily interchangeable parts — couldn't fit the optical drive the company made for it. — Henry T. Casey
The advent of CD-ROM as a multimedia standard produced a litany of long-forgotten video game consoles in the mid-'90s, including Apple's Pippin. Co-developed with Bandai, which initially sought out Apple to produce a low-cost Mac designed for gaming, the Pippin somehow mutated into a $600 PlayStation alternative that also had aspirations of being an internet-connected set-top box by the time it was released in June 1996.
The Pippin was intended to be the start of a platform, with Apple licensing the hardware and software to other electronics-makers so they could produce their own Pippins. That dream was dashed almost immediately, and after shipping a total of just 12,000 units in the U.S. by some estimates, Apple mercifully put Pippin out of its misery when Jobs rejoined the company 15 months later. — Adam Ismail
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Remember how the original iMac was a perfect combination of style and functionality? The "hockey-puck" mouse — officially, the Apple USB Mouse — that accompanied Apple's landmark all-in-one is what happens when style and functionality have a brutal falling out and are reduced to speaking to each other only through their respective legal teams.
An ergonomic nightmare that was as difficult to grasp as it was to orient, the hockey-puck mouse deserved to be on the receiving end of a blistering Mark Messier slapshot. Thankfully, two years later, Apple replaced it with something that wasn't designed by a committee of sadists. — Philip Michaels
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When you're selling a computer whose primary appeal is its striking appearance, you'd better make sure that appearance isn't marred the second you take it out of the box. But that's what happened with the G4 Cube, a compact desktop computer that looked like it was floating on top of a square pedestal. That's the good news about the Cube's looks; the bad news was that visible cracks appeared on the corners and top of the Cube's case.
Apple dismissed these as mold lines that occurred naturally from the manufacturing process, but try telling that to people who paid $1,799 for a computer whose looks were supposed to be as flawless as its performance. The Cube had other issues — it wasn't very upgradable, and it tried to court a midrange market that really didn't exist — but it was those cracks that likely played the biggest roles in its sinking sales. — Philip Michaels
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