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79,796 News Articles

10 technology upgrades that went badly wrong

When bad things happen to good products

PC Advisor brings you 10 major upgrades that went awry, the consumer revolts they prompted, and how the products involved recovered - or didn't.

9. Hotmail (2007)

The product: Founded in 1996 and owned by Microsoft since 1997, Hotmail is the original free webmail service, and it remains one of the world's most popular ways to send and receive email.

The bad things: In 2005, Microsoft began beta-testing an all-new version of its email service, initially code-named "Kahuna". The service's look and feel were reminiscent of the company's Outlook email client, and Microsoft announced that it would retire the Hotmail name in favour of Windows Live Mail.

Unfortunately, many users found the new interface cumbersome and liked the old Hotmail - including its moniker - just fine. In short, they were far less enthusiastic about the changes than Microsoft was.

The aftermath:
One benefit of lengthy beta-testing periods is that companies have more time to undo unpopular decisions - even ones they've been proudly trumpeting. In February 2007, Microsoft announced that Hotmail would be changing its name to... Windows Live Hotmail.

And by the time the company began rolling out the official version in May, it had also decided to leave the old Hotmail interface in place as the default. The new interface it had been toiling on for so long became strictly optional.

Broadband Advisor

10. iMovie '08 (2007)

The product: Apple's decade-old video-editing package is one of the stalwarts of the company's Apple iLife suite, whose excellence is one of the most compelling arguments for buying a Mac. Over the years, iMovie has also influenced plenty of video editors for Windows.

The bad things: To hear Steve Jobs tell it, iMovie '08 started out as a side project by an unnamed brilliant Apple engineer but was so impressive that it became iMovie '08. It was less an upgrade from iMovie HD 6 than a new product that happened to be called "iMovie".

It had a different interface and omitted scads of iMovie HD 6 features - you didn't even get a timeline of your movie. David Pogue of the New York Times called it "a step backward" and an "utter bafflement". And his assessment was polite compared to the response of some iMovie enthusiasts.

The aftermath: The chorus of disapproval over iMovie '08 was so deafening that Apple did something most unusual: it made the old version of the app available as a free download for disgruntled users. More important, the "brilliant engineer" (video-editing genius Randy Ubillos, we later learned) went back to the drawing board and came up with iMovie '09 - an upgrade that earned positive reviews.

Former PC World Editor-in-Chief Harry McCracken now blogs at Technologizer.

  1. DOS 4.0 and Ashton-Tate dBase IV
  2. Polaris Packrat 5.0 and Microsoft Word 6.0 for Mac
  3. The Starfish Sidekick 99 and Netscape 6
  4. Intuit TurboTax 2002 and the PalmOne Treo 650
  5. Hotmail and iMovie '08

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