While Microsofts outgoing Chief Software Architect Bill Gates has been ahead of the curve in predicting many technology trends, he also has backed some notorious flops.
Now that Gates officially has announced plans to relinquish his day-to-day company responsibilities by July 2008, we thought it would be a good time to look back on some of the less popular products and technologies championed by Gates during his 31-year Microsoft tenure.
Some of these, like Microsoft BOB, have gone to their graves. But not one to retreat from what might look like a losing battle, Gates has continued to beat the drum for more than a few of the items on our "flops" list.
In no particular order, here are nine less-than-successful technologies Gates backed—plus one he didnt that he should have but didnt—that will be part of his technology legacy.
1.Microsoft BOB (and son of BOB—Clippy): BOB, a product Microsoft released in 1995, was set to be the next-generation interface for Windows 3.1.
BOB was Microsofts first foray into making user interfaces more interactive and intuitive. (Clippy is the talking paperclip character that Microsoft users love to hate.) Interestingly, it was Bill Gates wife, Melinda French Gates, who managed the BOB project.
2.Windows ME: Microsoft has rolled out a lot of versions of Windows since good old Windows 1.0 back in 1985. The most maligned of the bunch was Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows ME, which Microsoft introduced in 2000.
ME was seen by many as a buggy upgrade with next-to-no compelling features. It was eclipsed rapidly by Windows XP, which Microsoft rolled out in 2001.
3.Tablet PC/Pen Computing/eBooks: While there is definitely a vociferous contingent of Tablet PC fans out there, the technology has been buggy and more expensive than expected.
Many have been disappointed by the kinds of Tablet PC form factors—including the new generation of Ultra-Mobile PCs (aka "Origami") devices—that have made their way into the market. Microsoft recently decided to make Tablet PC functionality part of the base Windows Vista operating system, rather than to continue to champion it as a separate SKU.