5 Reasons Tech Companies Make Bad Gadgets (An Inside Look)

#2. Software Makers Don't Take Advantage of Your Hardware

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In 2007, mainstream PCs went from single core to dual core -- basically two processors in one. It's like having a second head making decisions for you, except with slightly less bickering. Then they went to quad-core processors, the implication being that you were getting four times as much horsepower. So let me ask you: Is your quad-core PC four times as fast?

Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
How many times in the last year have you said, "My computer sure is running unexpectedly fast!"

Hell, no. That's because the software you're using doesn't give a shit about your multiple cores, or how fast your PC/phone runs in general. The Facebook app has zero knowledge of the email app, and both have no knowledge (and don't give a shit) about your pending high score in Candy Crush. Facebook just knows that it wants to do an update and claims whatever resources it thinks it needs to do that. Email does the same thing. And that's why the home screen on your four-core, 2.3GHz smartphone freezes whenever your playlist switches songs. Without software designed to take advantage of them, your multiple cores are just so many bull nipples.

The same thing happens with your PC. You have a ton of power, but for a lot of you reading this, if you open Word and Warcraft at the same time, you might as well go make a sandwich. That's because every application you run is designed with the bizarre assumption that it's the only thing you'll have running.

Adobe
Seetharaman Narayanan is a bit of a narcissist.

So adding cores became a great selling point, and chip makers were happy to keep cramming more of them in there. But you don't see the benefits, because the people writing the software have no motivation to take advantage.

#1. Innovations Get Killed by Corporate Politics

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

It's easy to think that the main problem with a big company like Microsoft (or Nokia, or Hewlett-Packard, or ...) is that they don't have any new ideas. But that's not true -- at any given moment, they've got tons of awesome things in development. So many, in fact, that the bad ideas crowd out the good ones. There is only so much staff and money to go around.

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty
Hewlett-Packard labs, where groundbreaking technology meets shit nobody wants.

For instance, remember back when Microsoft had the most popular smartphone on the market? No? It was as recently as 2007. Ever wonder what happened with that?

Well, in 2008, Microsoft figured they could remain king of the hill by purchasing Danger (makers of the Sidekick), with the aim of building an awesome new smartphone to compete with the newly launched iPhone and Google's unreleased Android operating system. These were the pioneer days of smartphones, and being pioneer days, most of us never quite made it to the cellphone equivalent of Oregon. Instead, we ended up with Razrs. Which are, what, cholera in this analogy?

Dante Alighieri
Yeah, sounds about right.

But not to worry -- the team from Danger was going to build Microsoft a smartphone so good, it'd make Steve Jobs turn his blue jeans brown. Microsoft called their uberphone the Kin.

The Kin came. It sold a total of 8,000 units, not even one for every 10 Microsoft employees. The company lost $62,500 per phone sold.


You gotta spend money to make money! And also to lose millions, apparently.

So what went wrong? Well, for starters, Microsoft took all the brilliant and innovative minds they'd bought from Danger and said, "Knock all that creative shit off." Half the Danger team wound up working on the Kin, and the other half got shuffled into developing Windows Phone 7. You see, giant corporations are the same as the character in every laugh track sitcom who winds up dating two women at once: They'd rather fuck up two things than focus on one and do it right. Microsoft had people who knew where the future of smartphones lay. But they also had Steve "If It's Worked Once, It'll Work Forever" Ballmer, a man who throws chairs when he gets angry.

It was the same with tablets. Way back before the iPad launched, photos of a Microsoft project called Courier leaked out to the tech press. It appeared to be a sort of dual-screen digital notebook, and every blogger in the gadget world ejaculated in unison. But if you're wondering why there are no Courier tablets today, it's because Steve "Chair Chucker" Ballmer didn't want any hit products that weren't run off the Windows operating system.


"Fuck this noise. Tiles, the people want TILES."

So, sure enough, the Courier was shelved in favor of Microsoft's Surface tablets, which were so innovative that nearly a billion dollars' worth of them sit unsold in warehouses right now.


Christopher Daed is a tech industry veteran and also awesome. Robert Evans is Cracked's head of Dick Joke Journalism and also writes about travel for Vagabondish. For more dirt on the tech industry, he recommends TechEye.net.


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Related Reading: Want more of Cracked's investigative journalism? Click here. If you need another reason to be scared of the tech industry, read about the horrors of Apple or Google. And did you know the Internet could die at any moment? Because it totally could.

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