The tech world trades in potential. Shiny new devices and services come with the promise to change things, make other things easier, and become a regular part of our lives. But for every company that succeeds in any of those goals, many more do not. Here are nine companies that had a lackluster 2013 that will most likely result in a very quiet 2014.
At the tail end of 2012, Myspace made a splash for what may be the very last time. With a closed beta that debuted a striking new design and some cultural cachet from celebrity investor Justin Timberlake, the once-popular social network received a lot of attention and a lot more skepticism. The company soldiered on regardless, officially ending its beta period this past summer with a $20 million ad campaign and a renewed focus on creatives and editorial content. It never really caught on.
In November of this year, Valleywag reported that huge layoffs had hit the company, and the prognosis doesn’t look good. The reasons why 2014 won’t be the year Myspace got its groove back are many and complex, but the simplest one? Probably that it still calls itself Myspace.
December was when Patch, AOL’s long-troubled hyperlocal news venture, seemed to meet its demise. Known for being AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong’s pet project and for its unrealistic approach toward covering local news, It looked as if AOL was finally going to cut Patch loose. Leaked memos and further news coverage suggested the opposite, though--Patch isn’t over yet. Despite Armstrong’s continued optimism, it would be quite the surprise if 2014 doesn’t finally put Patch out to pasture.
Like most exciting Kickstarter projects in tech, Ouya was supposed to be disruptive. In reality, it was exceedingly polite, receiving a tepid critical consensus upon its launch over the summer and listed as a disappointment at the year’s end. It may be a bit premature to call the console a lost cause--as CNET points out, the console has the support of indie game developers and the company has continued to update the OS since release--but if we hear from Ouya at all in 2014, it will probably be after the company spends a lot of time back at the drawing board.
With the holiday launch of the PlayStation 4, Sony’s place on this list may seem puzzling. But Sony does much more than make game consoles, and none of their consumer technology can seem to find traction. In 2012 the company tried to improve performance in the consumer electronics market by streamlining its product line and renewing its focus on the premium market. While finances improved, demand remained stagnant and Sony Electronics president Phil Molyneux will be stepping down in the new year. In an effort to further streamline its immense sprawl, the company is also considering the sale of audio-recognition service Gracenote. Sure, in 2014 Sony will have its name attached to plenty of games and movies and join in on current hardware trends at CES, but the electronics maker that gave us the Walkman doesn't seem like it's ever going to rock the consumer gadget space again.
The latest venture from Napster founder Sean Parker, Airtime sought to inspire conversations and connections through a mostly random video chat service. Officially launched in the summer of 2012, it only took four months before its user base began to stagnate and its executives began to leave. However, in March of this year Parker indicated that he was prepping for a relaunch--but nothing ever seemed to materialize. Don’t hold your breath.
Funny thing about Craigslist: Good year or bad year, its rare to hear anything about the actual company. With only 40-odd employees on its payroll and the same man in charge since 2000, the company has become known for not talking much about financials and its lack of interest in maximizing profits. However, recent trends like the rise of Airbnb and the sharing economy are beginning to cut into the only two kinds of listings that Craigslist makes money off of: housing and jobs. Whether or not they pose a legitimate threat to Craigslist's continued success remains to be seen--but chances are the company will stay quiet about it either way. In New York, at least, Craigslist went from being the centralized clearing house for everything to, well, a shitty alternative to other apartment rental and classified goods sites. And where New York goes, the rest of the world usually follows.
Technically, we should be expecting to hear from Clinkle in 2014, because we barely heard about it in 2013. After raising $25 million in investment funds this past summer, 22-year-old Lucas Duplan quickly became a fixture on tech blogs for his forthcoming app, which promised to “modernize mobile payments.” But that’s a crowded field, and Duplan’s product--or lack thereof--has been criticized for the excess of hype behind it when its launch date remains entirely up in the air. As the new year draws closer, Clinkle’s situation appears more worrisome. The company laid off a quarter of its staff in December, and rumors that the app isn’t all it’s cracked up to be continue to persist. It wouldn’t be shocking if all Clinkle has to show us in 2014 is this painfully tone-deaf ad.
After BlackBerry 10, the mobile OS that was supposed to revitalize BlackBerry in an iOS and Android world, completely flopped, the company’s hope of recapturing much of the smartphone market share seemed to sink with it. But the former mobile king isn’t quite dead in the water just yet. Right before the year’s end, the company struck a new five-year deal with manufacturer Foxconn to develop a new smartphone and boost its presence in Far East markets. There is also a small but potentially viable interest in BlackBerry from smaller businesses and cross-platform app development that could help buoy the floundering company.
BlackBerry will stick around, but in quieter corners of the smartphone market.
Once the king of social gaming with the then-ubiquitous FarmVille, Zynga has been steadily losing ground for almost two years. In April, the company would be beaten at its own game by King, makers of the wildly popular Candy Crush Saga. Layoffs and management shake-ups would soon follow. Unfortunately for Zynga, the social gaming landscape is now a much more crowded place, and while the next year may see it push out a major new release, it’s going to have to try a lot harder to get anyone’s attention.