Before the iPhone, there was the Razr, the Segway and the original Mac. You win some, you lose some.
With the release of the iPhone Friday, Apple will complete what some are calling the most hyped product launch in technology history. Whether or not that's true, there's no doubt that the frenzy has reached epic proportions, with constant articles, photo galleries and commentary in this and countless other publications. But the iPhone is hardly the only tech product to launch with a high hype factor and heavy expectations. Here is a look back at some of the other high-profile launches that got the tech industry talking.
Here, Steve Wozniak, a man who knows something about changing the world, rides the Segway, the product that was supposed to change the world but didn't.
Prior to its launch, the Segway was known by its code name, "Ginger," and was expected to change the way people would get around--and even factor in to the way cities were designed. The product was hyped by people like Steve Jobs far ahead of its launch. But while it is a sophisticated product, its high price never allowed it to have the impact its inventor, Dean Kamen, hoped it would.
With its "1984" ad that played during the 1984 Super Bowl, Apple let it be known that its new Macintosh computer would be a force to be reckoned with and would change the nature of the personal computer. While the Mac never has had the sales of Windows machines, it has influenced every computer in the world with its graphical user interface and its mouse.
When it launched in November 2005, Microsoft's Xbox 360 ushered in the next-generation video game console wars. It began with a 30-hour marathon event in the Southern California desert, where gamers could play their favorite titles all night, even though temperatures dipped to near freezing.
In its first month, the new Xbox sold 323,400 units, according to NPD, and after three months had moved 854,300 units. It is now in second place among the three next-gen consoles, ahead of Sony's PlayStation 3, but trailing Nintendo's surprise hit, the Wii.
Based on the tremendous success of its PlayStation 2, the best-selling video game console in history, the expectations for Sony's follow-up, the next-generation PlayStation 3, were huge. But problems with its technology, as well as delays in production and a high price have led to disappointing sales. In its first month, November 2006, the PS3 was nearly impossible to find, and it sold 511,500 units, according to NPD. But after that, sales dropped to 498,000 and then 243,600 in each of the next two months. Today, the PS3 is considered in last place among next-gen consoles, and trails even the PS2 in sales.
With Nintendo's poor performance in previous generations of consoles, not much was expected of the company's Wii. But when it launched in November 2006, just days after the PlayStation 3, the Wii took the world by storm. Partly due to its innovative motion-sensitive controller and its simple design, and partly due to its $250 price tag, the Wii has so far been the runaway winner in the next-gen console wars. In its first month, NPD said, the Wii sold 476,100 units. In the following two months, it sold 604,200 and then 435,500 units.
With a launch commercial set to a Rolling Stones song, Windows 95 became one of the biggest hits in technology history. At its launch on August 24, 1995, it was the first major Windows upgrade for millions of users since Windows 3.1 came out in 1992. And Microsoft supported it until 2000, even after Windows 98 came out in 1998. Win95 solidified Windows' top-dog position in the operating system market, putting so much distance between it and competitors like Apple's MacOS, that it's difficult to imagine anyone ever catching up.
With public perception of its cell phones as dull and uninteresting, Motorola needed a hit. When it launched the Razr in 2004, it finally had one. A thin, stylish device that seemed to spur the imagination, the Razr soon became one of the best-selling phones in the world, a distinction it still holds today, even as other Motorola models have overtaken it. The Razr, which initially cost $500, was seen as a slick, stylish accessory owned by those on the cutting edge, and its advertising ushered in a new era of marketing for Motorola, which has since sought to tie its mobile phones to a cool, hip, spare sensibility.
A new kind of handheld video game device, the Gizmondo included GPS for car navigation, as well as General Packet Radio Service for wireless connections. The manufacturer, Tiger Telecommunications, hyped the device with a huge display at the E3 gaming conference in 2004, a fancy store in London, and expectations that it would become a leader in the field. But the device bombed, the company went into bankruptcy, and an executive made worldwide headlines when he crashed a million-dollar Ferrari Enzo on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, Calif.
The PS2 launch had fans lining up around the corner at San Francisco's then-Sony Metreon. The console went on to become the best-selling video game device in history and still outsells Sony's newest entrant, the PlayStation 3.
After the original World of Warcraft sold more than 7 million copies, Blizzard Entertainment came out with its first major expansion, Burning Crusade. Fans lined up for hours at stores around the country and the world, quickly snapping up more than 2 million copies.