Apple's long history of lousy first reviews
Though the iPad has drawn some harsh reviews, it's hardly the first Apple product to get trashed (at first). A look back at 25 years of "flops"
Just as noticeable as hype surrounding the Apple iPad's grand unveiling has been the backlash that's simmered ever since. By one reckoning, it took "about seven minutes for the disappointment to set in" — as stories such as "8 Things That Suck About the iPad" and "Why I (Now) Hate Apple" went viral online. But Apple CEO Steve Jobs can take consolation in the fact that all Apple products — even classics like the Mac and iPod — first met with a chilly reception. A look back:
THE MACINTOSH (January 1984)Details: Apple launched its Mac with a $15 million ad campaign (including an immortal Super Bowl commercial). Priced at $2,495, the product pioneered the use of a desktop mouse. "Steven P. Jobs," the company's chairman, was quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune describing the Mac as "insanely great."What critics said: As the Wall Street Journal reported, the mouse was considered a miss: "Useless," said Charles L. Mauro, president of an engineering firm. "It isn't all that easy to learn," said Amy Wohl, president of a corporate consultancy. "I think it's awkward," added Clem Labine, a newspaper publisher. "Since it doesn't get you away from the keyboard altogether, why go back and forth?" What happened: Demand for the Mac — now considered a revolutionary invention — wildly exceeded expectations: Apple sold 70,000 units in the first 100 days.
THE NEWTON (August 1993)Details: Before the iPhone, there was the Newton. An early PDA, the "Newton MessagePad" was supposed to transform communication with its stylus pen and much-vaunted handwriting recognition. It hit the market in a blaze of publicity, priced at $800.What critics said: "Even after five days of pretty heavy usage and training, the machine isn't all that much better at reading my handwriting than it was in the first five minutes," said Rory J. O'Connor in the Seattle Times in September 1993. "The title PDA ought to stand for productivity draining apparatus."What happened: The device never gained much mainstream traction. Though Apple sold 50,000 Newtons in 1993, it abandoned the Newton in 1998. To this day, hardcore Apple nerds still swear the Newton was brilliant.
THE iMAC (May 1998) Details: Apple's new harddrive-and-monitor-in-one computer first appeared — famously egg-shaped — with a $1,299 price tag and colorful translucent casings. "Think Different," commanded Apple's un-grammatical ads.What critics said: "All the good looks and good intentions in the world can't make up for slow application performance, poor sound quality, and no upgrade path," said PC World in December 1998. "Apple tells users to 'think different.' We advise Apple to 'think again.'"What happened: For the next four months solid, the iMac out-sold all other personal computers in the U.S., doubling Apple's share of the PC market to 10 percent.
THE iPOD (October 2001)The details: When Apple began teasing a mysterious new product in the summer of 2001, some Apple fans feared another Newton. Jobs surprised the world by unveiling a portable mp3 player with a 5 GB hard drive — priced at $395.What critics said: It costs too much. "This is a pretty competitive category," said analyst Stephen Baker, who doubted that consumers would cough up $395, even for a "robust" features set. They won't, said another analyst, Tim Deal of Technlogy Business Research. "Apple lacks the richness of Sony's product offering. And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be priced attractively."What happened: Sales were initially modest, but, by 2005, Apple was selling over 20 million iPods a year, and claiming a 65 percent market share. It currently sells over 50 million iPods a year.
THE iPHONE (July 2007)The details: In January 2007, Steve Jobs confirmed Apple's long-awaited entry into the cellphone market — a smartphone with up to 8GB of memory, to be priced between $499 and $599.What critics said: "Revolutionary" but "flawed." In a typical "good but not great" review, David Pogue at the New York Times wrote: "[The iPhone] does things no phone has ever done before" but also "lacks features found even on the most basic phones."What happened: Apple sold 1.12 million iPhones in the first three months, quickly making it the third most popular phone in the U.S. — and triggering a race among its rivals to create the Holy Grail, "iPhone Killer."