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Benjamin Franklin probably has one of the most widely recognized quotes about certainty. His quote was “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes”. Well I’d like to add one more thing that is certain - over-hyped products.

Every year it’s a given that there’s a handful of products where so much noise was made you would have thought they solved world hunger and poverty. And this hype isn’t just being shouted from the product brands; media companies and journalists who have personal favorites (or large advertisers) exacerbate the hype, giving credence to these products and more media coverage.

Well Retrevo has gone through all the announcements, claims and coverage this year and selected the top five over-hyped products for 2008 that simply failed to live up to their hype. Now we’re not saying these are all bad products just that there was too much noise made of them and once the actual product launched, well, it was anticlimactic. Check out our Top-5 Over-Hyped Products of 2008 here.

Apple Macbook Air MB003LL/A
Macbook Air

The way Steve Job’s had introduced the Macbook Air at Macworld you may have thought the Air was going to change the entire thinking of what a Laptop was, just as the iPhone has completely reshaped smart phones. But the Air has fallen short in many areas. Now, if this had been any other brand they would be severely criticized from everyone in such language even the staunchest Apple fanboys couldn’t defend. But we all know only Apple can get away without such criticism. Of course Apple fans will simply never admit Apple has a weak product – even when it’s not ready for prime time. (As a Fan of Apple, it even pained me to include them on this list).

I wonder what portion of Apple’s $486 million advertising budget for 2008 was spent on Air. Maybe Apple should listen to their own message of attacking Microsoft Vista and put the money into fixing the Air rather than on elaborate Hollywood style product launches and clever ads.


 

Microsoft Zune
Microsoft Zune

Microsoft, you are a software company, a hardware company, a search engine, an Advertising network, a casual games network and a music retailer (I think I even missed a few). How is each of those businesses doing guys? Have you ever heard of the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”?

Seriously, if anyone in Redmond is listening (Robbie Bach?), please get some focus. I’m not saying go back to being just a software company, but pick the things you can do well (like the Xbox 360) and be either number 1 or 2 and sell off the rest or find strategic partners to do your bidding.

According to Ad Age, Microsoft has spent over $68M Advertising the Zune player and service. Yet, according to NPD Group, Zune has captured just 3% of the portable Digital Player Market (as of June 2008). Maybe that money can be used with your other products?


 

Sony XEL-1
Sony XEL-1

For only $2,500 you can be the first to own what will completely redefine television sets as we know them today. With an impressive 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and only 3mm thin, this TV is sure to look great on any wall you wish to hang it on. Oh, wait a minute, it’s not meant to be hung on a wall it sits on your table or desk. Now this isn’t because it’s too heavy, the TV weighs in at just over 4 lbs, it because the TV is only 11 inches!

Now Sony, as a long time owner of many Sony branded products over the years even I can’t let you go on this one. An 11” TV for $2,500 bucks? Other than the desire of certain people to buy this as a trophy so they can claim to be one of the first to own this new TV technology, there was no reason at all to make such a big splash at CES in 2008 and announce that it was available at Best Buy. Maybe you should have just told those people that if they really wanted to waste money they could buy this novelty direct from Sony rather than shoving it down a mass market channel.


 

Magellan Triton 2000 GPS
Magellan Triton 2000

While the Magellan Triton 2000 won an award for innovation at the 2008 CES, one must remember not to confuse awards for innovation with awards for good, functional and dependable products.

The Magellan Triton 2000 GPS boasted a slew of new features unseen on a GPS device – touch screen, 2 Megapixel camera, voice recorder, compass, and even a barometer – yet failed to deliver as hyped. The customer dissatisfaction of the Magellan 2000 isn’t simply due to the repeated launch delays, if the product delivered as promised all may have been forgotten. The real problem with the unit was a result of a poor implementation – they simply were trying to make this thing into a Swiss army knife that did everything yet failed to deliver a GPS that held up to what users expected. I think this is when hardware manufacturers wish they had beta programs :-). Keep working at it Magellan, I hear version 3 is usually the magic release.


 

Canon EOS 1D Mark III
Canon EOS 1D Mark III

Anyone that attends sporting events has probably noticed the number of photographers with a couple of Canon cameras slung around their necks. I was at a San Francisco Giants game and happened to be right behind home plate where one of the photographers was there with about 3 Canon cameras taking pictures of the pre-game batting practice.

I struck up a conversation and asked her what she thought of the EOS 1D Mark III and to my surprise so was not very happy with it. She mentioned that it had serious focus issues that we’re caused by some AF tracking problems and in her business this was just not acceptable – she couldn’t trust it. Not good if you’re livelihood is taking pictures.

Well I guess she’s not alone and Retrevo found this problem being discussed on the Forums and Blogs and has affected their community rating. Although Canon fixed the problem can they recover their users?


 

As consumers, there’s one thing that’s important to remember about awards and using them to influence your purchase decisions. When a product wins awards BEFORE it is released, well, just throw those awards out the window because they don’t mean anything. Only after a product has a real selling price and has been in the hands of real users and THEY clamor on about how great it is, can a product really be given an award. So Retrevo has also compiled a list of the real winners in its 2008 Retrevo Pulse Awards given to the best products by value, users’ interest and user satisfaction AFTER they’ve owned and used them.

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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

You're talking about the wrong camera. The autofocus issue was one that troubled the 1D Mark III, not the 1Ds Mark III. The 1D version is a sports and action shooter camera capable of shooting 10 fps. The ability of that camera to hold focus on an object that was moving toward or away from the camera is important. Canon fixed the problem some months ago, and I don't think it's an issue any more. That problem did not render the camera a failure. Far from it. As to the 1Ds -- the focus tracking (AI Servo) was never a problem; it was resolved before 1Ds' release. Further, the 1Ds is not geared to sports/action. It shoots at a much lower frame rate, and with it's 21 megapixel sensor, is the choice of many fashion, commercial, and even landscape photographers, who aren't likely to have much use for the AI Servo.

Canon EOS 1D Mark III

Gerard - You are correct. This was supposed to be the 1D and not the 1Ds. I think there was some confusion when gettng the images and it was thought the 's' stood for the sports version. We will fix this today. -Robb

How could you miss the Dash

How could you miss the Dash Express? It should top the list!

Dash Hype

The Dash was a short listed candidate...maybe we should have done 10 :-)