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RIP technology: 10 products and services that died in 2011

Steve Fox | Dec. 28, 2011
Humans are list-making animals. At no time is that impulse more prevalent than December, when we set ourselves the task of churning out year-end retrospectives.

Humans are list-making animals. At no time is that impulse more prevalent than December, when we set ourselves the task of churning out year-end retrospectives. In the tech universe, those lists generally call out the best products, the splashiest debuts, and the most promising technologies of the year (see, for instance, PCWorld's own "100 Best Products of 2011"). But there are tech losers each year, too--products, concepts, and services that kick the proverbial bucket. Some, like the vile Rustock botnet (taken down in March), we were glad to see go.

Other tech demises evoke genuine regret: good products lost in the ferocious market of 2011, tech initiatives that grew too expensive to retain their sponsor's funding, even well-engineered gear that simply never caught on with the public. Herewith, my respects to 10 tech goners that we at PCWorld are truly going to miss.

The Flip: Starting in 2007, Pure Digital's ultraportable camcorder kicked off a revolution, putting video in the hands of everyday folks, and probably enabling the creation of more YouTube cat videos than any product in history. But a 2009 sale to networking heavyweight Cisco and the rise of video-capable smartphones combined to bury everyone's favorite pocket camcorder. Cisco pulled the plug in April.

Verizon's unlimited data plan: If you're a Verizon customer, you've likely been keeping close tabs on your mobile downloading habits since July. That's when the carrier scrapped its all-you-can-eat option for a smorgasbord of mobile data-usage plans. With overage charges costing $10 per gig, movie and music streaming can get very expensive. And as the year closes, various pundits are predicting that Sprint may soon discontinue its unlimited data plan. Come back, DVDs: All is forgiven.

HP WebOS: To borrow the words of The Princess Bride's Miracle Max, HP's mobile operating system "is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead." Indeed, there may be life after death for this promising multitasking OS, which was installed on commercial flops such as the Palm Pre and the HP TouchPad (see product number 99 in our Best Products of the Year list). For months, rumors circulated that HP would sell off the OS. Then earlier this month, HP announced that WebOS was going open source. Here's hoping for a spirited revival.

Zune HD: Two reactions greeted news that Microsoft had finally pulled the plug on its portable media player: 1) gnashing of teeth from the (few) faithful, who deemed the Zune superior to the iPod; and 2) surprise from most music fans, who didn't know it was still being produced at all. Then again, maybe the Zune isn't completely gone, since its revolutionary "Metro" interface figures prominently in Windows Phone 7, the Xbox 360, and Windows 8.

 

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