10 biggest tech gambles ever made: the winners and losers

10 biggest tech gambles ever made: the winners and losers
If you're gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right

Without risk-takers, we wouldn't have the technologies we love today: the history of technology is littered with great leaps forward that could all too easily have been massive disasters.

There's a flipside to that, of course: the history of technology is also littered with massive disasters that could all too easily have been great leaps forward.

So which were the smartest bets, and the stupidest? Whose leaps of faith ended in applause while others ended in ignominy? Let's discover the tech firms that bet the farm - not just the big winners, but the ones that lost more than their shirts.

Those that beat the house

Apple iPad

iPad 4

When Apple unveiled the iPad nobody was entirely sure what it was for. "Like 800 people are going to buy the iPad," CNet predicted. "It was [just] a bigger iPod touch," said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. "Apple may have lost its mojo," said FoxNews.com. "No Flash," pointed out the Huffington Post. Somehow the iPad managed to overcome such major flaws and define a new category of computing, destroying netbooks and seriously denting the PC market too.

Microsoft Xbox


Microsoft's 2001 console was a money pit - according to Venturebeat, Microsoft lost $3.7 billion on the original Xbox by 2005 - but Microsoft continued to chuck cash at the gaming division until it finally started making a profit. Microsoft's entertainment and devices division is now a multi-billion dollar business.

Nokia embracing Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 1020

In 2011, Nokia bet the farm on Windows Phone. Get it right and Nokia would be a player again; get it wrong and it would be night-night Nokia. Did it work? Nokia accounts for four-fifths of Windows Phone sales, and Blackberry's ongoing decline means that Windows Mobile is indeed the third mobile ecosystem Nokia promised it would be - so the gamble to save the company seems to have paid off.

Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain

It isn't the most expensive game ever made - that's GTA V, which cost an estimated $137 million - but Heavy Rain wasn't a guaranteed blockbuster like GTA. It cost $16.7 million to make, rising to more than $40 million once marketing and distribution costs were included, and you can be sure that the game's release was squeaky-bum time for Sony. Heavy Rain made over $100 million.

Apple Stores

Apple Store

Apple? Shops? Hahahaha! TheStreet.com said it was "desperation time in Cupertino... Apple products are not getting the retailers' attention... because they are not selling well." BusinessWeek's take was typical: "Jobs thinks he can do a better job than experienced retailers". But Jobs was right, and by 2012 Apple Stores were making more money per square foot than any other US retailer.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.