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Walking through the Graveyard of “Disruptive Innovation” Failures



“Disruptive Innovation” has always been a buzzword. In simple terms it means to change or upgrade an existing product to add value to it while creating a new market.

Over the past, Disruptive innovation has served its master and had been able to provide an added advantage to the person who applies it to bring benefit to a product or a business, but was it always successful? After following a series of successful disruptive innovations I came across instances were Disruptive Innovation went wrong.

There is a saying that “dead men tell no tales”, but I think otherwise. They tell us a very detailed story as to why they died. Looking back at the drawbacks gives a clear picture as to why these products became failures. See if you can track the reasons yourself!


1. The Motorola “ROKR”


Motorola introduced “ROKR”, AKA “iTunes Phone”. It was designed to play 100 songs. This product was indeed a promising article on paper, but its failing functionality became a big question mark. The product got booed at its launching ceremony leaving the CEO of Motorola stunned in front of the gathering. The memory capacity of the phone was very low. When the song space gradually overtook the memory space the device was useless and slow. The reason for it being a flop is inevitable isn’t it?


2. OQO. The 1st Windows Tablet


OQO was the smallest full-powered, full-features handheld PC (Tablet PC) which supported Windows. Sadly it had an over designed architecture. One glance at the keyboard, anyone can specifically say that the miniature keys are not user-friendly. The product not only became a flop but it also dragged the company towards bankruptcy`. OQO stopped production and ceased operations in April 2009. What a tragedy!


3. The Eyetop Wearable DVD Player


Earlier in 2004, when no one had the notion of Google glass, this product came into play. Let alone satisfying he needs of the customers, the product was a disaster. It had a small screen built into a pair of strange sunglasses, connected through a series of wires to a DVD reader; strapped to the waist of a user. The designers intended to build a spot-on application for the customers to watch a movie on the move, but who watch movies while walking?


4. Google X Homepage


Google X was a version of the Google home page modeled after the Mac OS user interface in 2005. The bottom of the page read as, “Roses are red, Violets are blue. OS X rocks. Homage to you.” It’s hard to imagine Google crafting an ode to apple today! But that was not the issue! There were search icons above the main search bar of the homepage. It’s quite alright to have search icons, but these icons hadn’t any tags as to what they meant. How user-friendly is that! Google X only survived 24 hours.


5. Google Wave


Google Wave was introduced in 2009. It was supposed to embed email, bringing old-fashioned electronic mail together with new technologies like instant messaging and social media. It was over complicated and failed to ride the waves. The application came to a close in 2010. By the way, who wants to check their formal mails while busy chatting informal stories on social media?


6. The Macintosh TV


The Macintosh TV successfully found its way to the Apple museum! It had a 8MB RAM and the system bus was slow, last but not the least who wants to look at a PC screen with a jack and call it a TV! This product is lovingly called as the second-worst-Mac of all time. It only lasted for 4 months.


7. Nokia N-Gage


This was released on October 7, 2003 and sold 3 million units before being discontinued. Why did it fail? The reasons are simply the poor game selection and the poor design. The button layout was confusing to an irritating extent!


8. The BlackBerry PlayBook


While almost all the products which became failures lacked in their design, it was not the case with the Play Book! It was well designed but lacked popular native BlackBerry apps like email, address book and BBM. This is a clear indication that the consumers are looking out for consistency. The new products should complement the old ones.


9. Apple PowerMac G4 Cube


It was a cubed shaped computer suspended in acrylic. The product was as always Expensive ($1600) but it was also under powered. After a year in the market, Apple unplugged the G4 Cube in 2001.


10. Windows 8


It was detested by many for its removal of the Windows iconic “Start” button. Windows had the start button at the lower left-hand corner of the screen from Windows 95, but Windows 8 didn’t have it! Consumers were also confused with the tile-driven metro interface which felt convoluted on laptops and desktops.

Despite being the trend setters in the field of technological, companies in general were victimized by disruptive innovation. The concept as a whole is indeed a stupendous idea, but the way in which companies act it out is the problem. After walking through this grave yard of failures, you might now have a clear understanding as to how disruptive innovation should be applied safely.


- Shenali Welikala -
Faculty of Information Technology ( '14 Batch )