High Five - The 5 Worst Apple Products of All Time

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There are quite a few lists of "Apple's Greatest Flops" floating around the web. This isn't EXACTLY one of those lists. Some of these products sold pretty well. One was everywhere. Instead, this list focuses on products that didn't have a purpose, that had a tragic flaw or were tragically underpowered - products for which Apple probably wishes they could have a "do-over".

We aren't going to talk about the Apple Newton MessagePad on this list, because at least there was vision involved. That product's failure was in that it arrived too soon (1993) and tried to do too much, and with too little connectivity. It was essentially a PalmPilot, with attempted handwriting recognition, 5 years too early. If you take a Newton, add a cellular radio, and allow it to exist in a world with cellular networks (like, say, 1998), or home wifi (like, say, 2002) it's a phenomenally powerful device for the nineties, right? Basically, a proto-iPhone.

Let's get started with a shining example of 1990's Apple Hubris:




5. Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (1997) - There's an argument that this should be #1. It's hard to express just how wrong-headed this product was. Let me take you back to 1997.

Apple's stock price was a split-adjusted $1.08. A BUCK-O-EIGHT FOR AAPL. Now, there have been only 2 splits since then (2000 and 2005), so its literal price on the street in July 1997 was $3.24. Some analysts were pretty sure that the company was going under. 

I was in college at the time, and my business prof was leading a class discussion about an Apple case study, ranting about how they should get out of the computer business. (I argued that point with him right there in the lecture call. I still didn't think they were going to break out of the spiral, but I hated to think of Apple just disappearing.)

Apple fanboys like me were literally throwing their horrible, overpriced, underpowered Macs away, and buying Compaqs that could at least run Doom and the new versions of MS Office - and all on the innovative, awesome Windows 95! (Seriously, though, it blew OS7 out of the water.)

Through all of this turmoil, Apple decided that what it REALLY needed was to make the most expensive, most underpowered mediocre computer in the WORLD! They'd sell it for $7,499! It would have a 12-inch LCD monitor! It would be delivered to your home by a dude in a limousine!

It's hard to fathom just how tone-deaf this product was. I'd have it higher on the list, but for the fact that there were only 12,000 made... so it was a "limited" problem.

Fun Fact: In the 9th season of "Seinfeld", you can see a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh in the background of Jerry's apartment. (He paid $7,500 for that?!) It wasn't even that good-looking!




4. Apple QuickTake 100 (1994) - IT HELD EIGHT PICTURES. Its resolution was 640x480. It had no LCD preview, so you couldn't look at the 8 pictures you'd taken until you uploaded them to your Mac. IT COST $749.00 (!!)

I am honestly surprised that Apple sold one of these cameras. 



3. One-button mice when they should have known better (1993-2005) There are a lot of Apple mice to pick on here, but let's focus on the ADB Mouse 2 in 1993, which was the first mouse I can remember Apple digging in their heels and saying "NO" to the 2-button mouse, after 2-buttons had become the industry standard.

I have no idea why Apple *refused* to move to 2 button mice in the 1990s - although I like to picture one middle-manager in the Mouse Department, chomping on a cigar, saying "I'm not changing a @*$% thing! It's all a fad! Let 'em have their TWO BUTTONS. They'll come crawling back!" (Thanks Patton Oswalt).

In the 1990s, mouse tech is one area where Windows 95-98-XP were just kicking Apple's tail. Windows added extra buttons, and then scroll wheels, while Apple fans were stuck with a single button. I have literally no idea how we scrolled through web pages. NONE.

The hockey puck mouse takes a lot of flak in most "worst product ever" lists, and it deserves it. Still, I'm almost MORE perturbed by the original ADB Mouse 2. The hockey puck was a hot mess from every angle. The ADB Mouse 2 was perfect in every way except one *obvious, obstinate flaw*.



2. The Apple IIe-to-IIGS conversion kit - Five Hundred Dollars. Apple charged $500 to Apple IIe owners to upgrade their IIe to a IIGS. This was accomplished by swapping out the motherboard and putting a sweet new sticker on the outside. You have to give Apple some credit here - their hearts were definitely in the right place. They'd shipped thousands of IIe systems, and they wanted to help their customers extend the life of a purchase that was likely 6 or 7 years old by that point. 

The problem, of course, is that your FrankenIIGS had no mouse, which was a pretty big part of the entire IIGS experience! And your old IIe monitor was likely monochrome, which means you'd have to go pick up a new IIGS monitor if you wanted to have a color screen. When customers figured all of this out, they decided they'd be better off purchasing a IIGS outright, and the conversion kit program was mercifully put down.



1. The Macintosh Performa / LC Line - The computers that almost killed Apple. It's a cliche to talk about the disgruntled computer owner whose new purchase is obsolete a few weeks after purchase.... it was worse than that with the Macintosh LC. It was obsolete from the moment you turned it on: in my case, it literally couldn't run the software it shipped with. 

I bought an LC3 when I left for college. It certainly looked pretty cool. Slim, the monitor sat on top - floppy drive right up front. But the very first time I fired up MacPaint, a dialogue box popped up explaining that my system didn't have enough RAM to run MacPaint full screen. I was stuck working in the upper-left quadrant of a 14" monitor. To run MacPaint. On a 1-week old Macintosh. In 1994.

Also, how many of these Performa/LC Macs WERE there? A hundred? If you added a bigger hard drive or 16 more megs of RAM, the computer had a different NAME. "Oh, that's the Performa 475. I thought we were talking about the 450." It was like trying to buy a Sony stereo or something.

I rant about the Performa/LC line a lot on this blog - but it's fair to say that when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he could have taken a look at the Performa line, and said "We are going to do literally everything different than what... this thing represents." Make powerful, beautiful computers, and charge enough to make a profit. Cut the number of models in the line down by 95%.

In 1997, Apple was selling a dozen models of Macintoshes, which could be differentiated only by their model numbers.

By 1998, there were iMacs, iBooks, G3 PowerMacs, and G3 PowerBooks.

Ten years later, the company ruled the world. How much fun was that?

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