The potential to be spectacular often leads to epic failures. In sports, unfulfilled potential during the early stage of a career can be erased through a mid-career renaissance. Technology gadgets that flop do not get to enjoy the same type of a second chance. A bad first impression can spell doom for a new product or service.
The handheld videogame market exploded more than 20 years ago with the release of Nintendo Gameboy. The black and white screen supported the iconic puzzle game Tetris and a few poorly imitated ports from the Nintendo Entertainment System. The quality of the product was trumped by the popularity of Nintendo characters. Seeking to replicate the success of the Gameboy, the Gizmondo sought to bring handheld video games to a new audience. The Gizmondo sought to be a video game system, MP3 player, DVD player, messaging device and GPS system. Instead it failed to effectively provide any of its promised services. The glitch-filled device came in a $299 version that included ads and a $400 version that was ad-free. The terrible reviews trumped the massive public relations campaign that launched with the product. The company behind the device field for bankruptcy, and to add injury to the insult one of the company’s directors pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement.
While not quite as disastrous as the failed Gizmondo, the Motorola ROKR E1 sought to combine the cell phone with the MP3 player. The ROKR was the result of collaboration between Apple and Motorola. The device proved to be visionary. It was released two years before the iPhone, but it fizzled as Apple released the iPod Nano at the same time. The failure of the rocker caused Motorola CEO Ed Zander to say, “Screw the Nano.” Motorola and Apple no longer work together, and Motorola has not been a significant player in the cell phone market since the failure of the ROKR.