Earlier I told you about the times Apple launched some hardware products that didn’t go anywhere. However Apple hasn’t only had hardware failures before. No, there’s also been a fair few software clangers as well. After all, not only does Apple put out two major OS’s (OS X and iOS), it also makes a number of apps for mobile and desktop, as well a internet services.
But as Primus tells us: They Can’t All Be Zingers. And Apple, like every other technology company, has had its fair share of absolute turkeys. And most of which are services that Apple dreamed up in order to replace or, at least, compete with existing market-leaders in fields like email, social networking and mapping solutions.
And while many of their software offerings are the best on the market (arguable, OS X and iOS) lets not forget the company has had a number of software failures over the years. Here’s four of the biggest.
Remember Ping? No? No one else does either. That’s because it sucked. Ping was Apple’s first—and so far only—foray into social networking, first introduced on September 1, 2010. Ping lived inside iTunes on the desktop and was meant to create a social network around music recommendation.
As Steve Jobs described it at the time, Ping is “sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes.” And that’s about as detailed as you could describe it. No one really knew what to do with it. Jobs’ description made it sound like MySpace, which was nose-diving into the floor at the time, so it wasn’t a really good way to pitch your fledgling social networking site.
Though Ping boasted 1 million users in its first 24 hours of launching, Apple never released user numbers after that, suggesting 999,999 of those users were, in fact, technology bloggers who signed up for the service because they needed something to write about.
Within six months Apple stopped talking about Ping and officially canceled the service on September 30, 2012.
Apple has some really, really good iOS apps: Keynote, Garage Band, Remote, and iTunes Movie Trailers just to name a few. However, from time to time they seem to release an app that is DOA—and it’s hard to figure out how they couldn’t have foreseen the inevitable. One such app is Cards.
Originally released in October 2011, Cards, according to its release notes, let you “create and mail beautifully crafted cards personalized with your own text and photos — right from your iPhone or iPod touch. Take a quick snapshot and with a few taps and swipes, an elegant letterpress card is on its way to any address in the world. Each card is just $2.99 when sent within the U.S. and $4.99 when sent to or from anywhere else. And that includes postage.”
While Cards would seem like a good idea from a third party app developer, one wonders why Apple decided to be the one to make it. Apple has been pushing digital for so long—even being among the first companies to say CD and DVD burners were a thing of the past—it was an off move for them to release an app that allowed you to make physical products from your digital photos, instead of sharing them through Apple’s online services.
Maybe it would have been a good idea if people were demanding an easy way to send greeting cards, but in my 6 years as a technology journalist, I’ve never heard one person ask for that. Seems the Cards app didn’t change that. Apple discontinued it this autumn.
Maps, above all others, is Apple’s indisputable king of software failures. Introduced in iOS 6 in 2012, Apple’s new mapping solution replaced the reliable Google maps that had been on iOS ever since it launched way back in 2007.
To be sure, Apple’s Maps were well intentioned, it’s just they didn’t allow enough time in development to make them useful. Google had a ten-year head start on Apple, painstakingly collecting mapping data for the entire planet. For Apple to think they could simply acquire lesser mapping companies, pool their resources all together, and put out a better mapping solution was naive.
And it showed. When Apple Maps launched, it was a PR nightmare for the company. Entire cities were misplaced, airports appeared in fields, and shops that had been closed for ten years showed up on streets that no longer existed.
In the year since Maps debuted, it has gotten better. Part of that is because Apple now runs “ground truth” teams to double-check locations of local places in cities around the world. It’s also gathered a ton of user data from iOS devices to improve its services.
Maps in iOS 7 is leaps and bounds better than in iOS 6. But though I have no doubt Apple’s Maps will one day be as good as Google’s—it’s not there yet and will remain far from it for a least a few more years.
MobileMe was Apple’s first large-scale attempt at internet services. It branched from Apple’s .Mac and iTools services before it. Rebranded as MobileMe in July 2009, it was hailed at the time as the only online email, calendar, and contact service you’d ever need—and people really thought it would be because it was made by Apple.
The problem is MobileMe was plagued with problems as soon as it launched. There were misdirected emails, push notifications that never got sent, and sync conflict galore. But instead of going through all of its issues in detail, I’ll just relate the story of what happened when Steve Jobs grew frustrated with the service.
As Fortune reported at the time, Jobs was growing frustrated with all the negative reviews of MobileMe so he called all the MobileMe team members into a meeting room on Apple’s campus and asked them the following: “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?”
They replied that it was a user’s one-stop shop for email, calendar, web sharing, and syncing.
Having given their answer, Jobs then said, “So why the f**k doesn’t it do that?”
Classic Jobs. RIP big man.