10 Old Products That Can Be Tweaked to Work Today
10 Old Products That Can Be Tweaked to Work Today
by Don Reisinger
The Motorola RAZR was the most popular phone of its time. And although it preceded the iPhone, which arguably revolutionized the mobile market, the RAZR was the device that set the stage for all the phones that users enjoy now. It could work today, although Motorola would need to tweak its components to get it up to speed with comparable phones on the market. It would also need to install an advanced operating system like Android. With that help, the device, which was lightweight and easily fit in a pocket, could be a new kind of smartphone. It would still be the flip phone, but with Android functionality. It's the kind of small, slimline device that's missing in today's marketplace. And it could sell quite well.
Including Windows ME in this slide show may surprise you. But the software was simply poorly designed and too lightweight for what most folks needed at the time. In a strange way, that could play into Microsoft's favor today. Windows ME was a full version of Windows. If the company could improve it with Windows 7-like features but maintain its lightweight feel, it could be a fine platform for tablets. It might also be a good test product for mobile devices. It might sound like a stretch, but taking some of the Windows ME influence into today's marketplace probably isn't the dumbest idea.
Microsoft Bob is widely considered one of the worst product concepts in the history of the tech business. The software, which was originally designed for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, was supposed to be Microsoft's helping hand to novice Web users who needed an easier interface. It was a bad idea that no one should want to see return. But as a concept, it made some sense. Currently, there are developing countries that need to increase computer literacy rates. Even some folks in the United States don't quite understand how to navigate a desktop operating system. A service that helps novice users achieve that might work well. Just don't name it Bob.
Apple's Pippin was arguably one of the worst products the hardware company ever released. The vision for Pippin was to provide companies that wanted to break into the gaming business with a hardware platform to do so. It failed miserably. But its one redeeming quality was that it ran Mac OS. And although it wasn't implemented well, it was one of Apple's first forays into the living room. With the right device and tweaks, Apple could revive a gaming strategy with the same vision it had with Pippin. The company could make a game console, running Mac OS X, that can compete on any level with the many other living room devices sitting on store shelves around the world. It's not so crazy.
WebTV was simply ahead of its time. The idea behind WebTV was to allow consumers to access the Internet on their televisions. But considering how slow Web connections were at the time, it just didn't make sense. Nowadays, such an idea makes perfect sense—just ask Google. If Microsoft wants to start working toward improving its standing in the marketplace, it should revive the WebTV idea. It's the smart move.
The Sega Dreamcast is one of those video game consoles that failed simply because it was too innovative for its time. The console, which launched in 1999, was the first to offer a Web connection for folks to play online. The only issue was it included a 56K modem, making online gaming practically impossible. After the Dreamcast failed, Sega went into the software business. But the company is best known for the hardware. And by reviving the Dreamcast, updating it for today, and doubling down on its idea to bring online gaming to the market, Sega could give Microsoft a run for its money.
Mac OS X
Yes, Mac OS X might be available now and Apple continues to improve it, but it doesn't mean that it isn't an "old" product. In fact, the strategy behind Apple's operating system is arguably the oldest thing about it. For too long, Apple has stuck with an idea to keep software developers at arm's length in an attempt to bolster the reliability and security of its operating system. In some ways, that has worked. But it has also hurt Apple. If the company finally comes around to accepting developers and starting to play nice with the enterprise—two things it hasn't done—it could transform its business. It's at least something to think about.
The Apple Newton was killed as soon as Steve Jobs returned to the company. But it was the precursor for the iPhone and the iPad. And because of that, in some ways, Apple has tweaked the Newton and made it a viable product in today's marketplace. As Apple has shown, the touch-screen market is ripe for the taking. And so far, it and, to a lesser extent, Google have been able to capitalize. That likely won't change anytime soon. In large part, Apple has the Newton to thank for that. And it's worth mentioning in this roundup.
Just a couple years ago, Digg was sitting atop the Internet. The social-news craze was going strong, and it had a major piece in it. But in recent months and years, the site has lost its way. And in the process, it's losing the kind of influence that it once enjoyed. That's unfortunate, but it's not too late. Digg needs to work on redesigning the focus of its site. It should also get rid of all the garbage posts that make it a less-than-ideal news service. The time for Digg to revamp its strategy is now. With Twitter becoming one of the Web's top news feeds, time is running out.
Apple TV might still be available on Apple's Website, but you know what? It's arguably one of the oldest products in this roundup. The reason why is quite simple: Apple ignores it. Time and again, the company's executives have said that it's a "hobby" device for the living room. Think again, Apple. With Google offering its Google TV service and more and more companies trying to capitalize on consumers, it's time for Apple TV to be something other than a brick sitting in entertainment centers. Apple should bring DVR functionality to the device. It should also consider adding a gaming element. Access to the App Store is another necessity. Apple TV is key to Apple's living room plans. It can't forget that.