Ever rush out the door (and wait in line) for the newest, shiniest gadget ... only to realize that the thing itself feels like it was rushed out the door? Sure, sometimes these beta products receive fixes later on and go on to become useful products everyone loves. But, sometimes those much-needed fixes never come, leaving these under-developed products standing as a testament to many a manufacturers' launch date decisions.
Recently, Google released the Chromecast HDMI streaming dongle. It's a solid device that does what it does well. However, what it does is only stream a couple of video sources to a TV. The hope (of both the consumer and Google) is that over time Chromecast will grow into a media-streaming powerhouse... but, per our Chromecast review video, it's just not there yet. Will enough consumers and content providers jump support its use and help turn it into a success? Or will the Chromecast be quietly forgotten about? Or become the punchline to a tech-insider's joke?
Though the story of Chromecast is still largely unwritten, we can think of more than a few technologies that upon their release, were less than fully-baked. Some stuck it out and became full-fledged consumer-adored products; others faded away. But all of them make for an interesting story, cautionary tale, or at the very least, just a laugh.
Apple TV is, in our opinion, the poster child of a critical product turnaround and the best example of a poorly received device living up to its full potential. For a while after it was announced, Apple TV was such a (respective) failure that Steve Jobs took to the stage during a keynote and called it Apple's "hobby" product. Meaning: Don't expect great things from this, it's just a toy. Fast-forward to 2013 and, after adding a host of new content channels, that "hobby" commands 56.1% of the streaming devices market, according to a recent poll.
At the opposite end of the media receiver spectrum is Google's Nexus Q. Whether or not this odd, spherical device — which only streamed content from Google Play and YouTube to a TV or stereo — had any real potential, we're not sure; the Google Nexus Q never even really saw the light of day. It was announced in June 2012 and pre-orders were priced at $299 — three times the cost of all other set top streaming boxes on the market at the time. Further adding to its half-baked-ness, most other media receivers offered a wider variety of features (like streaming Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Video). We'll never know if the Nexus Q could have become something great because the product was discountinued four months after its debut and having never gotten into the hands of the general populace.
Ever since its record-breaking Kickstarter (which raised over $3 million), the gaming world has had high hopes for this tiny, cheap, and open source gaming console. That's why it was such a shame when the first units shipped out and the reviews started to come back negative. CNET summed it up nicely when it noted that the OUYA has "unstable software, lacks compelling games, has a dearth of useful media apps, and low graphics performance."
If developers decide to stick with the OUYA's development and not write it off as a failure that no one will want, then this gaming console could see a resurgence in popularity. Helping its allure is its $100 sticker price — a pittance for a game console — that could lead to continued sales, despite its flaws.
Logitech Revue / Google TV
We don't mean to keeping dumping on Google, but it's kind of hard not to: the company keeps releasing not-ready-for-prime-time devices! Plus, one can't talk about half-baked products without mentioning the Google TV. Meant to revolutionize the way we watched both streaming and live TV content, Google announced its $299.99 set top box in June of 2010. The only hitch? It failed to establish relationships with any content providers. A critical failure, Google TV is still around today, but it's unclear why — especially since Google is now championing Chromecast as its stream-to-TV solution.
Most operating systems these days are released before their time, but we may never know why. Surely we can speculate that it's because companies just want something new to market, or because a product simply can't beta test enough internally to catch all the bugs. As a result most software goes out the door with a couple minor — and several major — glitches.
Vista being a half-baked, glitchy mess shouldn't have been a shock, yet it was, simply because of the degree of which it was so poorly designed. Vista was bloated, slow, and the User Account Control was draconian, often locking users out of their own system. Microsoft would go on to release countless service patches that would attempt to alleviate such problems, but it never fixed the underlying issues. It wasn't until Windows 7 shipped that we got the "fix" that we were waiting for.
At this point in time, sure it's fun to point and at laugh at the cavalcade of historic tech failures. But these stories should also serve as anecdotes for how to approach burgeoning technologies and first generation products. Those who forget tech's past are doomed to repeat it! In an effort to never forget, look upon new products with a critical eye and really evaluate whether or not a product is fully baked before buying it.
Specifically, we ask you to pay mind to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. With these consoles we, at least, know that their manufacturers are dedicated to the brand, and aim to keep their consoles in households for as long as possible. The question is: Will these game systems work right out of the box, or will we see widespread issues? (Need we remind you of the rampant "Red Ring Of Death" issues when they modified the Xbox 360?) That said, it might be best to hold off on buying the Xbox One or PS4 for a few months. Let other gamers experience any day-one hardware or software issues while you sit back with discounted previous-gen games that work perfectly and avoid all the headaches. Plus, the longer you wait, the more likely you are to find deals on the Xbox One and PS4 consoles.
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