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80,259 News Articles

The 10 silliest technology blunders

iPod? No, that's never going to work

We look at the 10 silliest tech blunders that have left companies kicking themselves over missed opportunities.

6. Recording industry plays the same old tune

Perhaps no other industry has missed more tech opportunities than the music business.

In 1999, Shawn Fanning's Napster made it incredibly easy for people to share music online. The record companies reacted by suing Napster for contributing to copyright infringement.

Then-Napster CEO Hank Barry called for the music industry to adopt a radio-style licensing agreement that paid royalties to artists for music distributed via the net. His calls fell on deaf ears.

Napster fans quickly moved on to other peer-to-peer file-sharing networks such as Gnutella and Grokster, and music ‘pirates' became the RIAA's public enemy number one.

In 2000 MP3.com launched a service that allowed members to upload songs from their own private CD collection and stream them to any PC. The recording industry sued MP3.com for copyright infringement and eventually won. MP3.com was sold and changed business models.

Add to all that the RIAA's suits against Grokster, Morpheus, Kazaa, and some 30,000-odd music 'pirates'. Talk about your broken records.
Today, of course, music-subscription businesses and streaming services dominate digital music.

Had the record companies partnered with Napster, MP3.com, or any of the other file-sharing networks instead of suing them, they might control digital music sales today - without nearly as many problems with piracy.

7. Compuserve blows its chance to dominate the net

Look at today's interactive, social-media-obsessed, user-content-driven web, and what do you see? A spiffier version of CompuServe circa 1994. But instead of dominating the online world, CompuServe got its butt kicked by AOL and that company's 50 billion 'free' CDs.

In the early 1990s the Compuserve Information Service had "an unbelievable set of advantages that most companies would kill for: a committed customer base, incredible data about those customers' usage patterns, a difficult-to-replicate storehouse of knowledge, and little competition," says Kip Gregory, a management consultant and author of 'Winning Clients in a Wired World'.

"What it lacked was probably... the will to invest in converting those advantages into a sustainable lead."

Then AOL came along, offering flat-rate 'unlimited' pricing (versus CompuServe's hourly charges), a simpler interface, and a massive, carpet-bombing CD marketing campaign.

Organisations that had an early presence on CompuServe forums moved over to the web, which CompuServe's forums were slow to support. In 1997 AOL acquired CompuServe, and 'CompuServe classic' was finally laid to rest last June.

CompuServe's failure wasn't due to a single missed opportunity so much as a collection of them, says Gregory.

"I really believe [CompuServe is] an important example that reinforces a critical lesson - never stand on your heels in business."

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NEXT PAGE: Newspapers don't predict Craigslist

  1. The missed opportunities that have left some tech companies kicking themselves
  2. Sony and Toshiba disagree over HD
  3. The recording industry plays the same old tune
  4. Newspapers don't predict Craigslist
  5. Microsoft saves a rotting Apple

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