5 Ill-Advised Side Projects By Companies We Thought Had Their Shit Together
Becoming one of the world’s most profitable companies requires a whole lot of business savvy. It turns out that a big part of that business savvy is just knowing exactly how close to labor violations you can get without a congressional investigation, but hey, you’ve gotta break a couple thousand eggs — and their spines, forever — to make shareholders an omelette, right? Those piss bottles have one thing in common with Amazon stock: They’re going right to the top!
Brilliant layoffs aside, even the world’s biggest businesses have still royally stepped in it a couple of times, a thing that usually fills Twitter with schadenfreude for a couple days and leaves tech bros with an embarrassing accessory collecting dust in their closet. These missteps don’t usually result in a wholesale failure of the parent company, partly because they’re bloated, unsinkable fat deposits impossible to fully sink in even the stormiest sea. But that doesn’t mean these occasional high-profile acquisitions of rake by face aren’t still fun to watch.
Here are five failed side projects by companies we thought had their shit together…
Ah, Google Glass. The headset that promised you entry into both the future and an incredible alternate reality, at the small expense of becoming a laughingstock in the real reality of your friends. It launched way back in the early 2010s when the phrase “augmented reality” was enough to get at least one round of seed money by itself. Through Google Glass and AR, the possibilities were limitless! What specific, useful possibilities? “All of them!” Look, just tell me what I’m supposed to do with this thing. “Anything!”
They were impossible to buy and required $1,500 even after being afforded the honor. The people who had them didn’t particularly enjoy wearing them. Wearing one, whether because of their ability to take photos of and record people without any indication it’s occurring or for generally being insufferable, opened you up to getting your shit rocked. The unfortunately perfect assonance of Glass and Ass became “Glasshole” and what was supposed to be the coolest device of all time became something a good chunk of people probably wouldn’t wear for money.
Even among the goldfish memories of tech, where the general pattern is full-sending half-baked ideas and then congratulating themselves post-layoffs for being “light on their feet,” the metaverse feels like a fever dream. Forbes and other publications don’t even bother mincing words, broadly calling it a failure. Worlds of weird, legless avatars running into glitchy geometry at a virtual Dua Lipa concert apparently aren’t the hottest ticket in town.
It’s something, again, that anyone who’d talked to a normal person in the last five years could have predicted. Even heavy enjoyers of VR gaming will probably be quick to admit that it’s nowhere near taking over, thanks to issues of comfort and simplicity. So what if you took the phenomenon of VR gaming, able to thrust you into incredible worlds, and instead, had it thrust you into the regular, boring world, with a lower poly count and mild motion sickness? Yeah, coming from someone that reacts to unexpected phone calls like an air-raid siren, good luck trying to get me to meet you in VR, where I’m even more sure this call is being monitored to sell me $150 sweatpants.
Qwikster is a constant presence on any list of tech’s biggest beefaronis, thanks to it being an entirely unnecessary announcement that blew up in Netflix’s face anyways. Apparently, Netflix felt it important to make a huge deal out of renaming their sputtering DVD delivery arm “Qwikster.” First of all, renaming a popular service is bound to cause confusion. Renaming a service used almost exclusively by people’s parents is borderline masochistic.
Who cares what it’s called? Just keep mailing out scratched-up copies of Good Will Hunting to people’s dads and don’t do anything to spook their $7.99 a month. The whole thing felt completely random, as if they were somehow trying to avoid a cease-and-desist from themselves. That sentiment wasn’t helped when it turned out they hadn’t bothered to lock down or research the availability of the name, getting them into a public purchasing attempt of a seemingly quite high gentleman on Twitter.
Amazon Fire Phone
In the early 2010s, business juggernaut Amazon decided that they wanted Amazon to have a phone. Unfortunately, they didn’t realize that pretty much nobody on Earth wanted a phone from Amazon. The iPhone was more of a monolith than it is today, now that Android and Google have been able to carve out at least the smallest of lean-tos from Apple’s overwhelming market share. From start to finish, Amazon’s foray into the phone market was observed with a mixture of morbid confusion and mild distaste.
Like Google Glass, it suffered from a lack of any clear purpose. It was pretty clear that the most identifying characteristic of the Fire Phone was how bad Amazon wanted you to buy it. Of course, it also gave you access to any Amazon service you could imagine — something also available through “the internet.” As the saying goes, “Come at the king, you best not miss.” I would also recommend, if you are going to come for the king, you might want to bring some sort of weapon that doesn’t suck shit and everybody hates.
Heinz Purple Ketchup
When articles about a product are literally titled “What Were They Thinking?” it’s a safe bet that the debut didn’t go great. This is the case with Heinz ketchup, maybe one of the safest products in the whole of the food business, deciding to make their flagship sauce purple, for… kids? Children thought it was gross, parents assumed the purple color came directly from carcinogens and the entire thing was an abject failure.
Just chill out, Heinz. Was Hunt’s really that close on your tail? Just kick back and enjoy that overwhelming share of the hamburger market.