7 brilliant tech ideas that completely flopped

6. WiMax
Another technology perennially on the horizon, WiMax is a viable technology for back-haul service for Wi-Fi and broadband, but the promise was always to deliver a city-wide wireless service that runs much faster than mobile broadband. And it's just never happened. In reality, only a few cities in the US have rolled out public WiMax, and there have been scant reports of seeing WiMax in any mass deployments. As with any new replacement technology, it turns out that Wi-Fi and 3G mobile broadband is working just fine for city access, so no one is in a hurry to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist. Intel has also been made to look more than a little silly over the tech – it eschewed incorporating mobile broadband directly into the Centrino platform, instead pushing on with WiMax instead.

7. The standalone PDA
The idea was that we'd all have a personal digital assistant and easily exchange data between them over infrared. But people would buy them, use them for a bit and then go back to paper instead. They just weren't that useful. Early PDAs had limited or non-existent wireless connection options, so the internet was no-go. Apple's Newton may have been ahead of its time, but slow processors on the first PDAs also meant they had limited utility for games or full business apps that could replace the desktop equivalent. Most importantly, buying a gadget just to keep you organised was a short-lived experience – not exactly the kind of thing you get out on a trip to the pub. Smartphones have re-invented the PDA, but the PDA bits add to the voice function and aren't the primary reason you would buy the device.


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John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.