At PC World, we spend most of our time talking about products that make your life easier or your work more productive. But it's the lousy ones that linger in our memory long after their shrinkwrap has shriveled, and that make tech editors cry out, "What have I done to deserve this?"
Still, even the worst products deserve recognition (or deprecation). So as we put together our list of World Class winners for 2006, we decided also to spotlight the 25 worst tech products that have been released since PC World began publishing nearly a quarter-century ago.
Picking our list wasn't exactly rocket science; it was more like group therapy. PC World staffers and contributors nominated their candidates and then gave each one the sniff test. We sought the worst of the worst--operating systems that operated badly, hardware that never should have left the factory, applications that spied on us and fed our data to shifty marketers, and products that left a legacy of poor performance and bad behavior.
And because one person's dog can be another's dish, we also devised a (Dis)Honorable Mention list for products that didn't quite achieve universal opprobrium.
Of course, most truly awful ideas never make it out of somebody's garage. Our bottom 25 designees are all relatively well-known items, and many had multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns behind them. In other words, they were made by people who should have known better. In fact, three of the ten worst were made by Microsoft. Coincidence? We think not.
The first entry in our Hall of Shame: The ISP that everyone loves to hate...
1. America Online (1989-2006)
2. RealNetworks RealPlayer (1999)
3. Syncronys SoftRAM (1995)
4. Microsoft Windows Millennium (2000)
5. Sony BMG Music CDs (2005)
6. Disney The Lion King CD-ROM (1994)
7. Microsoft Bob (1995)
8. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (2001)
9. Pressplay and Musicnet (2002)
10. dBASE IV (1988)
11. Priceline Groceries and Gas (2000)
12. PointCast (1996)
13. IBM PCjr. (1984)
14. Gateway 2000 10th Anniversary PC (1995)
15. Iomega Zip Drive (1998)
16. Comet Cursor (1997)
17. Apple Macintosh Portable (1989)
18. IBM Deskstar 75GXP (2000)
19. OQO Model 1 (2004)
20. CueCat (2000)
21. Eyetop Wearable DVD Player (2004)
22. Apple Pippin @World (1996)
23. Free PCs (1999)
24. DigiScents iSmell (2001)
25. Sharp RD3D Notebook (2004)