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Into the dustbin of tech history

Another year, another round of the tech-related dead, dying and watch-listed for 2018. From AIM to Xbox Kinect, we've said goodbye to these in 2017 -- and some we may be saying "hello, again" to in 2018.

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RIP 3D TV

Or, as David Katzmaier puts it, the "Shambling corpse of 3D TV finally falls down dead." The last of the major players, LG and Sony, dropped support for the feature in their new TV lines this year, pretty much closing the curtain on the technology -- at least for now.

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The future catches up with Microsoft Kinect

Despite assertions in 2015 that it had no plan to abandon it, Microsoft's motion-sensing Kinect camera for its Xbox series of gaming consoles is now kaput as the company ceases production of them. This was probably inevitable as the capabilities delivered by motion-sensing technology have moved into other Microsoft-platform-based devices, such as VR and mixed-reality headsets.

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Adobe Lightroom 6 goes to perpetual rest

Adobe really, really, really wants your photos in its cloud. So the company released a sadly undercooked version of its Lightroom software that's really a mobile app for the desktop, and branded it Lightroom Creative Cloud (CC), while rebranding the older, more powerful version as Lightroom Classic CC. 

At the same time, it killed all future updates for the perpetual-license version (you know, the one you don't have to subscribe to), making the two-year-old Lightroom 6 the last that will remain on sale, "for an undetermined amount of time."

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AOL Instant Messenger signs off forever

In October, Verizon announced it would be shuttering AIM, one of the most popular messaging applications in the days before texting, on December 15, 2017. I never liked it, but I used it for work, not play; some of the folks at CNET who were kids when they used it waxed nostalgic, though.

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Apple iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle sing their swan songs

MP3 players have long been going gentle into that good night (though there are still a few left), and in 2017 we bid adieu to the iPod Nano and Shuffle as they quietly slipped off the Apple Store. They leave behind the two-year-old iPod Touch to carry the torch, which -- as the only one to run iOS -- is really more of an iPhone anyway.

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Doppler Labs red-shifts

Doppler Labs' vision of the hearable future seemed prescient -- in-ear computing with AI. However, the company had trouble turning that vision into a profitable reality. It made a big splash last fall with its Here One earbuds, but just over a year later, the company announced it was closing shop

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Google Maps calorie counter burned almost one mini cupcake

Google released what had to be the most obnoxious and ill-thought-out feature of 2017: an indicator in Maps of how many calories you'd burn if you walked (cutesily translated into mini cupcakes, too!). Vocal critics helped to force Google to kill it in about a day.

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Facebook's AI chatbots talk themselves out of a job

Chatbots are all the rage these days, though most are simple with rule-based responses; AI-based chatbots are, of course, the grail. Training an AI to learn to conduct a natural-feeling conversation is hard, and just like with a human, you never know what kind of lessons an AI will learn from its interactions. Microsoft's Tay turned into a horny, racist, druggie-tweeter on Twitter last year, and this year, Facebook's Alice and Bob started learning from each other, which resulted in their own language. Not only is that kind of "Black Mirror"-level scary, but it doesn't help much for teaching to interact with humans. Facebook shut that down fast.

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Juicero gets mocked out of luxury juicer business

Remember the one about the $700 Wi-Fi-connected juice press from March 2016 that Bloomberg discovered you could bypass by squeezing the prebagged contents yourself? People laughed, the price dropped, investors fled, and by September 1, 2017, all that was left was a company home page saying "we need to focus on finding an acquirer with an existing national fresh food supply chain who can carry forward the Juicero mission."

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Logitech Harmony Link disconnects in 2018

When Logitech announced in September it would be killing its not-very-good and pretty old Harmony Link (a device that let you control your TV via a phone), it wasn't really a surprise. The surprise was the way Logitech handled it, telling people that a device they bought would simply cease to function after March 2018 -- i.e., it would be bricked -- and offering a puny discount on a better Logitech replacement. A subsequent Redditstorm ensued, at which point Logitech offered to do what it should have in the first place -- replace them for free. (The rest of Logitech's current Harmony remote line hasn't changed, and remains totally supported.)

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Nikon DL series permanently on the DL

A year after it was announced in February 2016 and eight months after they were supposed to ship in June 2016, Nikon stuck a fork in its promising-looking DL series of one-inch sensor compacts. In a press release on February 13, 2017, Nikon basically said that it couldn't ship the cameras at a market-friendly price and still make any money on them. Sony announced the RX100 V later that year, which had similar specs to the DL24-85, but priced at $300 more than Nikon's $650 estimate, which gives you some idea of how much Nikon would have had to charge to make it worthwhile.

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Snap Spectacles sales not so spectacular

I wouldn't be surprised if we saw the last of these in 2018, though I can imagine Snap trying again with another AR-focused design. Snap, Inc. engineered a remarkable buzz for its first hardware launch at the end of 2016, the sunglasses-with-camera Spectacles; its faux-scarcity approach using pop-up vending robots before general shipping was an inspired way to get media attention. Fast-forward to October of 2017 and reports of hundreds of thousands of unsold units and some poor quarterly financial results.

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The end of an era for Windows phones

In October, Microsoft finally cut its losses and declared that Windows 10 Mobile just wasn't worth it anymore; in marketing-speak, that new features and hardware were "no longer the focus" and "the volume of users is too low for most companies to invest," though the company will continue to support existing products with bug fixes and security updates. Despite some nice hardware, like the budget Lumia 650, Microsoft just couldn't gain the traction in a market where two majors -- Google Android and Apple iOS -- sucked up the majority of development resources for applications.

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Microsoft Groove Music gets the axe

In retrospect, it makes sense that Microsoft announced it was shutting down its own Groove Music streaming service about the same time it decided to throw in the towel on Windows 10 Mobile -- after all, don't we mostly stream music on mobile devices these days? 

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Kanoa goes silent

Fact of life: crowdfunded products occasionally fail. One high-profile flameout was Kanoa, which made a huge splash at CES 2016 with its novel-at-the-time completely wireless earbuds. By August of this year, the company had filed for bankruptcy, leaving behind frustrated supporters and allegations of having misled buyers.

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Jawbone's consumer products take a punch

A lawsuit from competitor FitBit complicated an already difficult financial situation for this fitness-band startup, and the company liquidated its assets in the spring -- at the same time as the CEO pivoted it into a new company in the medical device market, Jawbone Health Hub.

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Lily Drone's near miss

Another high-profile crowdfunder that failed, Lily Robotics' tossable follow-me quadcopter launched in 2015 and crashed in March 2017, about the same time as it was being pressured to refund $34 million to unsatisfied customers who paid for a product that never shipped. When Lily liquidated, Mota Group bought its brand and customer database (the patents went elsewhere), relaunching something that looked like the Lily, but which lacked the features that made it notable; you couldn't toss it to launch and it was no longer waterproof, for example.

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Microsoft Paint's near-death experience

Microsoft's lightweight, simple 2D painting app -- a staple in its Windows operating system since day 1 in 1985 -- was destined to be put out to pasture with the Fall Creators update as the company increased its push to 3D. It's been in Windows 10, but Microsoft hid it and urged you to try its new 2D and 3D tools in the initial Creators Update instead. But enough people expressed wistful nostalgia that Microsoft hastened to clarify that Paint would still be available for free in the Windows Store. 

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Phone headphone jacks: On life support?

The headphone jack hasn't disappeared entirely from good phones, but increasingly, your connection choices are to buy new wireless headphones or use an annoying dongle. At the moment, the most popular current phone that still has one is the Samsung Galaxy S8, and LG and OnePlus are also sticking by the ol' 3.5mm jack. But Apple, HTC and Google have already started to move on. If Samsung decides to chuck it from its next phone, it's likely that most of the other manufacturers will follow. No matter how bitterly people complain, it rarely translates into the dent in profits necessary to make companies reverse course.

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Apple iPad Mini to waste away in 2018?

Rumor has it that the 7.9-inch iPad Mini is going to be discontinued, That's unsurprising given that it's getting squeezed from above by more powerful iPads, from below by increasingly large phones, and from all around by its high price and a generally shrinking tablet market.

Apple did not respond to our request for confirmation.

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Sony Aibo: Returning from the dead in 2018?

Sony put its Aibo robotic dog out of its misery in 2006 at the age of 7; unsurprisingly, since the project was way ahead of its time and very expensive. Now, thanks to more advanced AI technology, internet-of-things infrastructure and, well, more robots, it looks like Aibo's time might come. It's expected to launch in 2018 -- at least initially just in Japan and still pretty expensive, but should be a lot smarter this go round.

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Apple to think different about the Mac Pro and displays in 2018

The current Apple Mac Pro design, circa 2013, was definitely one of those products where the company thought way too much about form and too little about function. However, until April 2017 when Apple upgraded the processor and memory, the Mac Pro has gotten no love. But the company said around the same time that it was working on a modular system redesign. It also backed away from its declaration at WWDC 2016 that it was out of the Apple-branded monitor biz. 

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Apple Mac Mini stuck in limbo

Like the Mac Pro, the still-popular Mini hasn't gotten a real update in a while. Tim Cook assured a fan via email that "we do plan for Mac Mini to be an important part of our product line going forward." Normally, I ignore executive statements and look at a company's actions, in which case, I'd usually give this one a snort. But a relatively inexpensive, compact Mac desktop really is essential to Apple's product line, and I bet it's learned a lot of useful lessons from its phone development to make it even smaller. So in this case I think we're just waiting for Apple to decide what that's going to look like, and my gut says we'll see a new one in 2018.

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