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Top 5 Product Engineering Fails of All Time

By Rizwan Ahmad - 10 January 2013 2 Comments
Not all products are designed equal. Many of history’s greatest product flops can be traced to poor design and crippled functionality. Compiled here is a list of five of history’s product engineering failures.

1.Apple Maps
When Apple couldn’t reach an agreement with Google over use of Google’s turn-by-turn directions on the iPhone, they decided to go it alone and produce an in-house mapping service. The result, covered heavily by the media in the days following the launch, was disastrous. The maps 3D features mangled buildings and scenery, while the driving directions had users taken to far-off locations. In one particularly bad instance, several people were stranded after the mapping software directed them to the center of Australia’s barren Murray-Sunset national park. Apple CEO Tim Cook later apologized for the service and offered third party mapping alternatives.

Apple Maps Goodness - How Flinders Street Signal Box D, Federation Square gets the Apple 3D Treatment

2.Windows Vista
Designed as a next generation operating system to replace Microsoft’s aging Windows XP, Windows Vista had several inherent problems that led to its poor commercial reception and widespread disapproval amongst computer users. Windows Vista increased the complexity of the operating system by over 20 million lines of code, making it slow and unwieldly. Even worse, compatibility problems were rampant and made accessing existing Windows XP programs challenging. Enterprise users were especially rattled by the change, which made many existing programs flat-out impossible to use.

3. The Reliant Robin
First manufactured in 1973, car maker Reliant’s three-wheeled vehicle was marketed as a simpler and less expensive alternative to conventional four-wheeled cars. The Robin, however, ended up earning a special place in history as a comical and impractical car due to its tendency to rollover on sharp turns. While the three-wheeled design cut down on costs and made the car smaller, it ended up making the small fiberglass vehicle a dangerous and rollover-prone toy rather than a practical vehicle.

4.Apple USB Mouse
While it certainly complimented the simple plastic curves of the all-in-one computer it shipped with, Apple’s infamous “hockey-puck” mouse ended up as the butt of jokes rather than an example of good design. It’s not hard to understand why: the mouse was challenging to hold and left the user’s hand cramped after long periods of time. This, coupled with an impossibly short cord, led to the mouse becoming widely regarded as one of Apple’s worst mistakes. The mouse was mercifully replaced by the Apple Pro Mouse in 2000.

5.Palm Foleo
Just before the age of net books  Palm touted the PalmFoleo. A “sub-notebook”, the device had all the size and weight of a laptop with the limited functionality of a smartphone. The Foleo, despite featuring Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, could only receive E-mail when tethered to a Palm phone. This, coupled with its inability to run Palm OS applications, caused production to end before the product even launched. The device was one of Palm’s last attempts at regaining relevancy in the face of declining market share. Palm was eventually bought by HP in 2010.

Russell Baker is a structural engineer and guest author at Engineering Management Review, where he had contributed guides to top-rated online engineering management degree programs.

License: Creative Commons image source 
Rizwan Ahmad
About the Author:
This article is contributed by Russell Baker and posted by Rizwan Ahmad Author and founder of, He is a tech blogger from India and he loves to share his thoughts by writing articles on this site to the different topics related to technology world,

2 comments to '' Top 5 Product Engineering Fails of All Time "

  1. Great article! 10/10 would read again!