I just read a great slide show by Eric Lundquist about Technology that failed -- because it wasn't really well thought out or perhaps because it was just ahead of its time. Not surprisingly it included lots of tablets and operating systems.
It reminded me of a class I used to teach at the University of Pennsylvania in a graduate program on Organizational Development. The class was about Winning and Losing in technology markets and I picked about a dozen examples of a technology failing abysmally in one case and (the same technology) succeeding beyond anyone's imagination in another case. Then I got the students to prepare a presentation comparing a winner and a loser in their own industry.
The point, of course, was to understand what happened. Often, it was a lack of insight into what customers might want to buy and how much they were willing to pay for it. At other times, it was simply a matter of being ahead of what the technology could do or what the market was ready for.
Lots of Lundquist's failure were, in fact, half of my pairs. In some cases. he's got a more modern example of a failure. For example I compared the success of WIndows 3.0 to the failiure of IBM's OS/2. He talks about Vista -- I would have compared it to Windows 7 and its success.
The real question, of course, is whether you can take away a lesson and avoid failing. So with operating systems, I was speaking about the fact that technical superiority does not trump great marketing and the creation of a vast ecosystem.
Today you could use that same issue to compare Motorola's Xoom tablet to the iPad. I have both (I got the Xoom because at the time I got it I would have had to renew my relationship with AT&T -- I was waiting for the iPad to be supported by Verizon.) The Xoom has some features that are missing on the iPad but nothing trumps iPad's long battery life and the AppStore which has everything I'm looking for.
I suspect that some of the other tablets that are in the wings will have similar failings, especially in the area of how many apps they attract how soon. I'm waiting for my KindleFire to arrive, to see whether I think it will be a winner (cutting into iPad's market share or forcing Apple to consider some repricing) or whether it will fail to attract apps and be the new failure to replace the Xoom.
I think of this as a never-ending lesson on how to predict winners in advance. Maybe I'll take all those class notes I have, update them for the latest examples, and turn this into a webinar. Might be fun.