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Continuing from where I left off in my previous article, Tech World’s Top 10 Mistakes – Series I, let us now look at the remaining half of the technology world’s top ten blunders – counting down from number 5 to number 1:
5. IBM PS/2 a little too late
IBM was indeed very late to put to action its pro-active idea of counter-attacking its competitors. IBM’s break-through concept of bringing a computer to every office desk in the world worked very well until competitors like Compaq and others began to hit back during the era of the 3rd generation of the PC market. What the competitors did was they started to fabricate a PC clone of IBM and started to eat away IBM’s PC sales whose prices were, as per business consumers, pretty high and hence they did not mind buying working PCs without the IBM logo on them.
In order to get back into the PC marker groove, IBM gave birth to a new idea and named it PS/2 which was supposedly ‘a completely new PC with a closed micro channel architecture that would force the cloners to start again from scratch’. This could have been fantastic, considering competition would suffer till the time they found a new way to hit back. But the worst part of the entire scenario was that even consumers would have to start from the scratch in terms of getting compatible with the new system. IBM thought that they had enough influence that can pull this idea off. But they were wrong. Another basic mistake that IBM made was the non-realization of the fact that the time for earning more margins on hardware products was long gone and now software is where the real money lies.
4. Iridium hiccup
This should probably be considered as a brilliant technological breakthrough backed by stupid execution tactics. The idea of never having to experience spotty mobile phone coverage and dropped calls surely would be much appreciated and loved by consumers. However, this seems as a dream yet to come true for users, for the team that launched the Iridium satellite went through nightmares to come up with its execution. A mobile network which would cover the entire globe was launched in the year 1998 and nine months post that they had to file for bankruptcy. To achieve the set ambition, they had to actually launch 77 orbital satellites on which the Iridium satellite would rely on. Launching one satellite itself costs loads, so multiplying the loads of cost into 77 would result as quite a large expense. Hence, the bankruptcy. The mission is now seen as a specialist service for remote applications like that of Ocean Vessels and rescue operations.
3. Itanium case
A simple case which focused on engineering optimism and lacked business sense. Intel’s huge investment during early 2000 went into fabricating Intel’s first 64-bit chip. Similar to what IBM did with its PS/2, Intel did with Itanium. Intel did not realize the essence of backing their hardware product with the requisite software application which would enable better deployment and usability of its 64-bit code. This is exactly what competitor AMD did – Operton chip; a chip that combined 32 and 64-bit operations and beat Intel in understanding the exact business trend at that time. Technological business firms are always paralysed by the inability to distinguish between “can we do this?” and “should we do this?”
2. Sony’s ‘deadly’ battery
Now this one is quite different from the already mentioned blunders which either caused user dissatisfaction or created financial losses. Sony apparently developed a battery during 2006/07 which was so deadly that it could have killed users. These battery-packs were made for computer makers like Dell, Apple and Acer and were of lithium-ion make. Once if the computers of laptops were slammed hard on the floor, the battery cells would heat up to the level of creating a small time blast due to a violent combustion. The computers made up of these batteries were recalled and re-fabricated with to ensure there were no dangerous elements in the systems.
1. Intel Pentium Zero processor
One of the most premium inventions that ever took place in the computer hardware-world is Intel’s Pentium processor. But there was a huge blunder that Intel committed and that was a technological flaw supported very well by pathetic engineering and PR planning. During 1994 Intel was doing very well with its Pentium processor earning very good accolades with its astonishing 66MHz clock speeds. But one mathematics professor’s problem with the processor turned out to be disastrous for Intel. He’d installed a few Pentiums in a system being used to enumerate prime numbers, but had been getting very dodgy results back ever since. Intel already knew what the problem was, but chose not to rectify it reasoning that the problem wasn’t an issue unless you were really performing high level mathematical functions. The issue was with the chip’s floating point unit and they presumed they would sort the entire predicament out later. But it was too late too ugly for them.
So there you go, the list of the top ten most obtuse technological blunders made by some of the most renowned technology players in the world.
There can never exist an industry in this world that can survive from making mistakes. And an industry that needs to be very meticulous in fabricating every product, service or solution can also not escape the ugly part of making blunders – I am talking quite obviously of the technology industry. There can be errors made by any and every person in this planet and technologists also cannot get away with a clean chit. Take the beginning of this very financial year for example; there was the counterfeiting of the Apple prototype iPhone. Also, reported during the same month was the blunder made by McCafe. Though it is a cliche statement it is worth mentioning here that ‘to err is human’ but should we be kind enough so as to ‘forgive the blunderers and be divine’.