Examples of technically superior products that lost out to worse, more popular products
October 12, 2004 11:38 AM   Subscribe

For an e-mail to management, I need some quick examples of technically superior products that lost out in the marketplace to inferior competition, much as Beta did to VHS. I'm drawing a blank, and my mad google skilz suq.
posted by mojohand to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
How about Philips' DCC ? Introduced as an alternative to Sony's MiniDisc, but it also played old tapes.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 11:54 AM on October 12, 2004

Sega Master System vs Nintendo Entertainment System.
posted by Jairus at 12:05 PM on October 12, 2004

Well, not to poop on your meme, but there are some arguments to be made that VHS was *not* inferior to Betamax (e.g., it offered the longer recording lengths that were actually important to people). That being said...

From what I understand, the Amiga computers were extremely advanced and capable of many things that others could match only years later. Yet only a few diehards use them today.

A similar (and no doubt flamewar-inspiring) argument could be made about the Apple Macintosh, I suppose.
posted by pmurray63 at 12:07 PM on October 12, 2004

Eight track vs. Cassette tape?
posted by esch at 12:22 PM on October 12, 2004

And I still believe Beta is used within the television industry extensively (may be less now, I don't know).

As far as end user consumer...

Divx and DVD, almost destroyed Circuit City.
ZIP drives to CD -- outside design professionals people had ZIP drives for only a few years max before CD-Rs won out.
IE and Netscape -- Not the current incarnation, but IE definitely won that battle.

Of course you can't really compare such things. It's not like the money theory which states that if there are two currencies in a market, the weaker won will win out (people end up saving the higher valued currency, actually using the lower valued one).

Very rarely do you have a market segment made up of generics, a commodity market -- at least in the tech consumer world. What boils down to costumers it that they want choice and they want low prices. VHS was made by a ton of companies, IRC Beta, like all of Sony's goods, was strictly controlled. Sure VHS looks like crap on even a mid-priced non-HD set today, but when it came out everything looked like crap on those sets, the difference was nominal to most consumers. Divx also lost out because users don't like being restricted, they want choice -- IE was a truly better product and MS monopolized that into existence.
posted by geoff. at 12:28 PM on October 12, 2004

WordPerfect lost out to Word

and wasn't there a better thing than Excel a long time ago?
posted by amberglow at 12:43 PM on October 12, 2004

Lotus 1-2-3, amberglow?

Oh, and WordPerfect lost out to Word because they completely dropped the ball (read about it from the horse's mouth).

I'd say Cray Microsystems in geneal, and Seymour Cray in particular might be a good example. Cray was an engineering genius -- he developed the first all-transistor computer, built the first Ghz. clock processor -- but more than that, his computer designs were beautiful. He basically invented RISC processing. Unfortunately, as many geniuses, he liked to go solo (almost all the designs up to the Cray-4 were his own).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:24 PM on October 12, 2004

Betamax is the format that lost to VHS, while the Beta format is used in the tv industry, AFAIK.
posted by borkencode at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2004

Betacam's days for the TV industry are pretty much dead. I believe Sony announced officially a year or two ago that they were stopping production by.... 2006 or something. I forget, but it's done.

Minidisc never took off outside of Europe, AFAIK, so it's hard to say it beat DCC (though DCC flopped big time).

Laserdisc never took off but DVD did even though (to my knowledge) LD sported a better picture and sound... but you had to flip it as each side only held an hour or so and they were 12". You could argue VHS beat out LD, though.

What about that Tucker car. Didn't the regular car industry stomp it even though it was better than what they were producing?

Windows over Mac.
posted by dobbs at 2:32 PM on October 12, 2004

Minidisc made it big in Japan. It was basically the U.S. that didn't really pick it up.
posted by swank6 at 3:13 PM on October 12, 2004

The principle behind these is that the good enough is frequently the enemy of the good.

Computers -- Technically superior: Amiga; Market winner: IBM XT & AT clones

Audio encoding for DVD -- Superior: DTS; Winner: Dolby AC-3

Game systems -- Superior: Intellivision; Winner: Atari VCS 2600

Last mile -- Superior: ISDN; Winner by a landslide: POTS

Linux distributions -- Superior: Just about everything else; Market winner: Red Hat

IM infrastructure -- Superior: Jabber; Winner: AIM
posted by majick at 3:24 PM on October 12, 2004

Minidisc made it big in Japan. It was basically the U.S. that didn't really pick it up.

The same goes for Laserdisc. Used ones still sell for quite a bit there, even.
posted by vorfeed at 4:03 PM on October 12, 2004

Civil_Disobedient: Interesting how the same category of people who are today saying that Linux is a toy once said that Windows was a toy.
posted by SpecialK at 4:57 PM on October 12, 2004

Yeah, I imagine it's hard to keep your core values intact when you're getting stock options worth millions of dollars on top of an already staggering paycheck. The tinkerers shall inherit the Earth.

I think the reason Cray remained a mad genius for as long as he did was because all of his business ventures eventually tanked, or were taken over by those with far more business acumen than himself.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:49 AM on October 13, 2004

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