Nothing is permanent in this world, especially technology. This past year, as we saw some wonderful innovations that kept us connected to the outside world, we also lost a number of products and services from the past. Some of them had been on their deathbeds for quite some time, others slipped to sudden deaths shocking many. The discontinuation of a product, or service shouldn’t be seen as a complete failure, but it highlights the market forces at play. In a year that had its low and high points, we look at the tech that we lost in 2021.
LG quits the mobile phone business
LG brought in many firsts in the smartphone market, but called its quits earlier this year. A lot of this has to do with the confusing business strategy the Korean company followed for many years. But it also puts focus on the lack of acceptance of new ideas at the industry level. The South Korean behemoth introduced many smartphone models including the LG Wing but it never got the acknowledgment which it deserved. Some believe LG’s efforts came a little late and by the time it had innovative products to show, it was too late. LG was, in fact, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker in 2013 but in recent years it had struggled to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung at the premium end of the smartphone market. The exit of LG from the smartphone market is a loss not only to the industry but also to the creative ideas and passion for products that are slightly edgy.
Original Apple HomePod
Although it didn’t come as a shock to tech insiders, Apple killing the original HomePod was always on the cards. The HomePod might not have been a failure, but it wasn’t a smash hit either. The problem with HomePod was not its steep price, but its positioning. The HomePod is a great speaker and it sounds wonderful but it’s not as smart as competitive products from Amazon and Google. The HomePod may have gone, but the HomePod mini exists and it’s a great little speaker. Siri still needs a bit of work, but is that enough for Apple to make a strong comeback in the smart speaker segment? Only time will tell.
After the original HomePod, another device that got discontinued by Apple was the iMac Pro. When the iMac Pro was launched in 2017, Apple promised “Workstation-Class Performance in an iMac Design”. It served the purpose then, but had started to look a bit pointless of late. The iMac Pro was an experimental product aimed purely at the professional community but somewhere down the line when the Mac Pro arrived two years later, the all-in-one desktop computer lost its purpose. We don’t know if Apple has a sequel to the iMac Pro in the works, especially when Cupertino’s entire focus is on pushing Macs with its custom silicon. The M1 iMac is fine for casual users, and the successor to the Mac Pro (if it comes) would be more than enough for “pro” customers. In that scenario, there is no need for a separate iMac with “pro” branding.
Earlier this year, Google’s parent firm Alphabet put the brakes on Loon, a high-profile venture aimed at beaming the internet to people in remote areas of the world. A futuristic project by Google that started a decade ago had to be shut down owing to high costs and an unsustainable business model. After self-driving Waymo, Loon was one of the most hyped projects to come out of Alphabet’s innovative “moonshot” factory. The idea behind Loon was simply to bring cellular connectivity to those areas where building a traditional network was nearly impossible. Loon, the Alphabet subsidiary, used giant balloons to beam internet but running the operations proved too costly even for a company as cash-rich as Google. The software powerhouse first started working on Loon in 2011 and launched the project with a public test in 2013. Last year, it started the first commercial deployment of the tech in Africa in partnership with Telkom Kenya.
The Houseparty app is dead. The social video app that saw a massive uptick during the pandemic was discontinued in the month of October. Houseparty, a video chat service, was launched in 2016 and was acquired by Epic Games in 2019. In a blog post, Houseparty said it will be absorbed into Epic Games to work on “creating new ways to have meaningful and authentic social interactions at metaverse scale across the Epic Games family.” Last year, the app was integrated into the game experience of Epic’s hit game “Fortnite”, enabling players to see and chat with one another over their smartphones while they’re playing.
Periscope, the live-streaming app owned by Twitter, went offline earlier this year. It didn’t come as a shock to many when Twitter pulled the plug on the Periscope app, which many thought was already dead. Periscope was a sensation when it was introduced, although with the arrival of TikTok and Instagram the app lost its charm. Twitter bought the start-up behind Periscope in 2015 in a deal reportedly worth up to $100 million. The core features of the Periscope app are already integrated into Twitter in the form of Twitter Live. According to Twitter, the cost of maintaining the app has become high while the platform continues to lose users.
While many saw it coming, the shutdown of the messaging app Hike was a big letdown at a sentiment level. Hike was launched in 2012 by Kavin Bharti Mittal as India’s answer to Facebook’s WhatsApp but the app struggled to beat its biggest rival in the communication and chat space. Things weren’t bad till 2015 when the service had nearly 70 million users. In fact, the startup was valued at $1.4 billion in 2016 but earlier this year the messaging app went off the air with no real explanation from the promoters. The lack of a homegrown app that rivals WhatsApp is where India lacks against China, which has successfully managed to create a “super app” in the form of WeChat with over a billion users. The demise of Hike StickerChat means users have no option to keep using WhatsApp, which has a complete monopoly in India.
Google Stadia games development team
Google’s Stadia game streaming service is on steroids, although the chances of its success seem bleak now after the tech giant announced earlier this year that it was shuttering its internal game studio. From the very beginning, critics had doubts about Google’s cloud-based gaming service but no one thought that the company would scale back its ambitions. The fact that Google won’t be developing its first-party games for the marque gaming service is a sign that just by having resources does not guarantee success in the competitive gaming market. It is a combination of creativity, access to the best talent, and patience besides a clear vision.