Hostess Twinkie Demise Mirrors Fate of 15 High-Tech Has-Beens

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2012-11-20
 
 
 

Palm

Remember when Palm was the talk of the mobile town? The company's PDAs were hugely popular, and it was believed that they would carry Palm for the foreseeable future. But once the first smartphones hit the market, Palm quickly faded away, unable to survive as a maker of wireless phones or PDAs. Palm was bought out by HP in 2010, but within a year, HP decided to ditch the Palm brand and get out of the mobile space entirely.

Palm

Gateway

Gateway and Dell were in a fight for PC dominance in the 1990s. However, Gateway made the ill-fated decision to open its own PC retail stores. Dell, on the other hand, stuck with Web-based retail. The result? Dell continues on. Gateway, however, has been bought out by Acer and lives on in name only. What worked for Apple in the 2010s didn't work for Gateway in the late '90s.

Gateway

NeXT

After Steve Jobs was let go at Apple, he started another computer company, called NeXT. Although the NeXT operating system was widely regarded as the best in the business, the company was struggling. If not for Apple's wanting the NeXT operating system (which is the basis for today's OS X), the company as well as its technology would have disappeared without a trace. Instead, it was bought out by Apple and quickly closed while the technology lives on.

NeXT

Kodak

Although Kodak is still in operation today, the company is a shadow of its former self. Kodak has been forced to get out of the imaging business, which made it rich and powerful for well over a century. Kodak, which is on its last legs, is hoping that its broad patent portfolio is valuable enough to keep it going. We shall see.

Kodak

Lotus

IBM announced recently that it has decided to shutter Lotus. IBM acquired Lotus in 1995 and since then, has used the branding. However, the company disclosed in November that enough is enough, and Lotus will enter the pantheon of past tech greats that will be forgotten by the next generation.

Lotus

Pets.com

Pets.com represented all that was wrong with the dot-com bubble. The company sold pet supplies to retail customers over the Web. A high-profile marketing campaign made for a big initial public offering (IPO), but after investors realized that the company couldn't generate a profit shipping dog kibble by express mail and had no idea how do so, it shuttered its doors just two years after its founding.

Pets.com

Napster

Napster is arguably the biggest reason digital downloads across the music market are so popular today. However, after being overwhelmed by lawsuits over its peer-to-peer network that allowed users to download songs at no charge, which threatened to utterly ruin the music industry, the company quickly tumbled from prominence. After trying to go legal, Napster couldn't keep up, and now it's remembered for what it once was, rather than what it is today.

Napster

RCA

RCA was arguably one of the earliest and most important technology companies of all time. But like so many companies, RCA failed to adjust to changing times and invested in consumer products, like SelectaVision videodiscs, that went nowhere. Eventually, in the mid-1980s, it was taken over by GE and broken up.

RCA

Compaq

Compaq was one of the most successful and popular PC makers to emerge during the 1980s. However, it stumbled in the 1990s in the midst of the PC price wars led by upstarts like Dell and Gateway. Once it stumbled, it could never recover its footing in the market. Compaq was acquired by HP in 2002 and lives on in name only as another brand in HP's PC business, which is also struggling to remain profitable in a market that is increasingly shifting to smaller, highly mobile and less costly computers sold by the likes of Apple and Samsung.

Compaq

MySpace

MySpace was once the most popular social network in the world and in the process demonstrated what a force digital social networking could be in the world. But after users took issue with its ugly profile pages and seemingly boundless desire for growth without recognizing the importance of innovation, it gave up its market leadership to Facebook. Now, MySpace is a "social entertainment" service. In reality, it's on its last legs.

MySpace

Blockbuster

When consumers around the globe wanted to rent films to watch on a Friday or Saturday night, they went to Blockbuster. However, after Netflix launched in the early 2000s with a mail-based rental service, all that changed for Blockbuster as well as the surviving mom-and-pop movie rental stores in the world. Blockbuster has been forced to close its stores and now tries to compete on the Web as part of another company, Rovi. It's not working.

Blockbuster

Circuit City

Circuit City was one of the big-name brick-and-mortar electronics and home appliance retailers that went under in 2009. After its bankruptcy, a company named Systemax, which operates TigerDirect.com, bought out the Circuit City brand. For a while, Systemax kept CircuitCity.com up on the Web. By the end of 2012, however, the site will be closed and Circuit City will be officially retired.

Circuit City

Sega

Although Sega is still operating in the gaming industry, the company might as well have closed its doors. Sega made its name in gaming hardware, but today is losing money in the software market. Sega also has no plans to launch a new console. Simply put, it's adrift with no chance of making a comeback.

Sega

CompUSA

CompUSA has followed the same path as Circuit City. The company's brick-and-mortar stores went under in 2007, and Systemax, the company that owns TigerDirect.com, bought the brand in 2008. After Systemax opened a few ill-fated stores and the company tried to keep the online site alive, CompUSA will officially be retired by the end of 2012.

CompUSA

Webvan

Webvan was very likely an even bigger business and financial flop than Pets.com during the dot-com era. The service was supposed to be a grocery-delivery company that would make it easier for customers to shop online and get groceries delivered to their doors. But after spending well over $1 billion only to discover that it's tough to make money operating a massive home delivery service in the grocery business where razor-thin profit margins are a given, Webvan went belly-up in 2001. It was never missed.

Webvan

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