The 9 worst Microsoft products ever

Yesterday, we named the eight Microsoft products that landed on MaximumPC's all-time greatest hits list. Today, we have the nine products whose main claim to fame will be the number of "worst" lists they make.

No. 9: The Microsoft Surface PC

Ok we admit the thing is fun. And we are going out on a limb because the Surface PC won't ship until next spring. But with an anticipated price tag of $5,000 - $10,000, we doubt that people will be camping out at the mall to buy one. Microsoft vaguely says that in three or four years, the price will be low enough for the average consumer. But, will the average consumer want one in the average living room? In the meantime, if you haven't seen this spoof of the Surface PC in a while, hit the play button and enjoy.

No. 8: The MSN Music Store and "Plays for Sure" audio format

About a year ago, Microsoft shut down its MSN Music Store and redirected customers to its Zune Marketplace. People who had patronized the MSN Music Store bought files governed by Microsoft's Windows Media Audio Digital Rights Management 9. Microsoft abandoned that format when it shut down the service, hanging device makers that supported WMA 9 out to dry. Microsoft named Zune's new DRM "WMA-DRM 9.1" ... but that ".1" made all the difference because version 9.1 was not compatible version 9. Microsoft loyalists who purchased Zunes couldn't play music bought from the MSN store on their new Zunes. Ironically, the marketing name Microsoft gave to the version 9 technology was "Plays for Sure."

No. 7: Microsoft Vista Ultimate

So much has been written about Vista that we won't go into details here. The Ultimate edition includes "Extras" that other Vista users don't have. A few service packs from now, users may think Extras were worthwhile. But Ultimate users had to wait until October until the team had released the modest collection of goodies promised in January. For instance, one extra is DreamScene, really nice wallpaper (pictured). Buying an operating system because you like the wallpaper is like buying a car because you like the headlamps. Nice marketing on Microsoft's part - collect the money first, deliver the goods 10 months later.

Notice on the Extras site as of July 3, 2007

No. 6: Microsoft BOB

Here's an oldie but a goodie. Released in 1995, Microsoft Bob was supposed to be some sort of operating system for PC dummies. It featured a cartoon interface which included Rover the Retriever. This cartoon dog called itself a member of a "scrumptious gang of Personal Guides." The guides were there to help you operate your computer. Need we say more?

No. 5: Microsoft SPOT watch

The SPOT watch is Microsoft's foray into wearable computers -- a $0 billion market up for grabs. Well, maybe that snipe at the market is a little unfair. In 2002, the wearable computer market was supposed to generate $100 million. Research firms predicted that it would grow to $563 million by 2006. The SPOT watch was previewed at COMDEX in 2003, with retail versions from watch makers like Fossil (pictured) and Suunto available in early 2004. But unless we are talking about smartphones clipped to belts, most of us can agree that "wearable computers" never made it out of the front door.

No. 4: Microsoft Origami, otherwise known as the Ultra Mobile PC

Launched about a year ago, this handheld PC, originally code-named Origami, was yet another was yet another Microsoft PDA. But have you ever seen anyone actually out in the world using it? (We couldn't even find used ones on eBay.)

There is still an Origami project team out there, writing software and talking to its invisible user base.

No 3: Microsoft Mira

We could make an entire "Microsoft flops" list out of portable devices Microsoft has crafted over the years. Mira, released in 2003, was a touch-screen monitor geared toward home computer users. It was intended to be carried around the house (communicating wirelessly with the PC). ViewSonic, Philips, NEC, Fujitsu all signed on as manufacturers. But the year is now 2007 and Mira devices are nowhere to be seen.

No. 2: Microsoft home routers

In 2002 Microsoft was a router maker. That was the year the company unleashed the MN-500 and MN-700 wireless router lines. What possessed Microsoft to do that? Even Cisco was having trouble dominating the home router market at that time. (Cisco acquired Linksys in 2003.) Microsoft's router families were quickly unplugged and very few people even remember them. (Although you can purchase an old MN-500 on eBay today for as little as $10.)

Finally, the No. 1 worst Microsoft product, ever: ActiMates

Remember the heady pre-bubble days of 1999? It was into this atmosphere that the $99 ActiMates Interactive Barney debuted. The toy sprang to life when a special broadcast of the T.V. show was aired. The toy line eventually included other cartoon characters, too. But parents could hardly stand the televised version of the giant purple dinosaur with the annoying voice; they were not interested in paying $100 for that voice to become a regular part of their family rooms. While we do applaud Microsoft for thinking outside the (television) box, the end result was a toy that was downright creepy. For that reason, it tops our list.


Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)