It’s been 25 years since Electronic House started publishing information for consumers about home technology. During that time, we’ve seen plenty of huge successes: flat-panel TVs, the transition from analog to digital, built-in speakers, Wi-Fi and Apple iDevices. However, there were also plenty of flops—not necessarily bad products, simply technologies that never seemed to hit a chord with consumers. Here’s what some key industry people pegged as some of the biggest flops:
Will West, CEO of Control4: Frox: the first vision of the inevitable (a precursor to the smart TV). It was ushered in (in the early 1990s) with amazing fanfare, and in fact had many of the concepts right. The technology was a little ahead of its time and died a quick death. If processing power and software had been what it is today, Frox might have been a game-changer instead of a flash-in-the-pan.
Larry Pexton, founder and president of Triad Speakers: We had high expectations of our InWall Sconce product line, which combined sound and sconce lighting. It received good editorial attention, but never achieved significant unit sales.
Jeffrey Smith, president and CEO of First Impressions Theme Theatres: Installing a $200,000 spec theater in the wrong model home.
Sandy Gross, president of GoldenEar Technology: It may be the one we are in the middle of right now: 3D TV.
Jay McClellan, president of Home Automation Inc.: Unlikely combinations, like a refrigerator with a built-in TV or computer. Seems unlikely that [anyone] could sell a computer in a refrigerator. Many have tried but it’s never taken off.
Tricia Parks of research firm Parks Associates: CEBus (Consumer Electronics Bus) – [People in the industry]talked about this [networking standard] for a really long time. There were so many smart people doing so much hard, good work, but the nature of the market wouldn’t let it happen.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.