I’m not sure if it’s possible to feel sorry for a format, but if it is then I think I might actually feel sorry for the HD DVD standard; after living such a short life it has been consigned to the history books having been trounced by the technically superior BluRay format.In order to ease the pain I thought it might help to take a look at some other technologies that the future looked so promising for, but in reality they failed so spectacularly:
Microsoft Bob – I have only used Microsoft Bob once in my life before immediately deleting it from the PC it came bundled with way back in 1995; by my estimation this would have made me thirteen.Bob was an application which sat on top of your existing Windows installation and was designed for making simple tasks such as deleting a file or writing a letter easier for the non technical user.Unfortunately I don’t think it really appealed to any particular demographic hence disappointing sales figures and the application was scrapped before Windows 98 was released.
The cartoon graphics and constant sound effects imply that it was designed for kids, but this is flawed as most kids actually know how to use a computer.Likewise, the average user who simply wasn’t technically savvy would find the application condescending – no one needs a cartoon elephant telling them how’s best to write a letter to their solicitor.By eliminating these two target markets we are left with a demographic of possibly simple people who both don’t know how to use a computer but are willing to take lessons from a series of annoying cartoon animations.These animations were persistent, annoying and don’t allow the user to do anything without their supervision.
Minidisc – Whilst it couldn’t really be considered a total flop, the Minidisc standard which was introduced by Sony in 1992 never really gave the Compact Disc a real run for its money.I think the reason for this is that for most users the format didn’t really offer any real advantages, and compared to the rapidly decreasing cost of CD-R discs it represented a sizable investment.Even to this day I can’t see any reason why the Minidisc standard was created in the first place and certainly how it managed to achieve the sales it did.
DAT Tapes – The Digital Audio Tape was designed by Sony to replace the old analogue cassette tapes back in the mid 1980’s.Owing to concerns in the industry over the ease that users could pirate DAT takes, along with an early user adoption of the recently released CD standard, the format suffered a short existence outside of the professional recording studio scene.
Betamax – We all know this story so I won’t go in to great detail.Whilst Betamax was technically superior to the VHS standard, it was a casualty of one of the first format wars.Betamax was introduced in 1975 and represents another failed Sony format – I’m certain they’ll be relieved at the BluRay format they so prolifically backed has come out on top this time.
Smart appliances – How would you fancy a fridge that monitors its contents and then takes it upon itself to order more milk off the Internet when you’re running low?These kinds of appliances create a real buzz at the trade shows, but in reality I’d genuinely take myself out in to the ‘big blue room’ by walking twenty metres to the garage down the road.
More than anything I’d be worried that I’d chuck something out that I didn’t like and then in a panic it would assume that I’d eaten it and order me more whilst I was down the pub.
About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.