LAPTOP’s Dubious Mobile Achievement Awards 2008

At year’s end we humans take pleasure in looking back over the previous 12 months to take stock of all that we’ve seen and experienced.  Here at LAPTOP, that usually means compiling Best Of lists — like the ones for notebooks and cell phones — and next month our Ultimate Mobility issue will hit the stands.  However, for every great achievement, there are several dubious ones.  Not every idea is a winner, but everyone can learn from their mistakes, right?

Too Little Too Late Award — The Mojave Project

It’s no surprise that the follow-up to Windows XP, the most successful Microsoft operating system of all time, made quite a splash. Too bad it’s been for all the wrong reasons. In response to complaints about sluggish performance, a buggy interface, and annoying pop-ups–not to mention a ruthlessly funny ad campaign by Apple–Microsoft created the Mojave Project. Shot hidden camera–style, Microsoft led one-on-one focus groups with 140 people who had never previously played with Vista. After merely demonstrating some controlled features of a mythical OS called “Mojave,” which was really just Vista, the truth was revealed and participants realize that Vista isn’t all that bad. We’d much rather see the video of these people after they’ve lived with a Vista machine for a month. Better yet, how ’bout Seinfeld?

Brand Dilution Award — Eee PC

Forget about the competition from Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, and others. ASUS became its own competition in the mini-notebook arena this year, flooding the market with the Eee PC 2G and 4G Surf; Eee PC 701SD; Eee PC 900, 900A, 901, 904HA, and 904HD; and the Eee PC 1000, 1000HA, 1000H, and 1000HD. Oh, and don’t forget the Eee Box (mini-desktop), Eee Top (all-in-one PC) and soon-to-be-available Eee Stick (Wii-style motion gaming controller). Then again, we can’t wait to get our hands on the new Eee PC S101, which is just 0.7 inches thick.

Sticker Shock Award — Best Buy

When Gateway announced plans to bring a budget gaming rig to Best Buy shelves, wallet-watching gamers hunting for a nicely speced entertainment system rejoiced. The Gateway P-6831FX was nearly perfect. It featured an Nvidia 8800M GTS graphics engine, 3GB of RAM, HDMI and eSATA ports, and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor for a reasonable $1,349. Briefly. Best Buy saw it had a hot seller on its hands and decided the profit wasn’t enough for such a drooled-over system, jacking up the price to $1,699. The price came back down after much protest, and the upgraded successor to that system, the P-7811FX (see p. 84), is an equally reasonable $1,359 at the big-box retailer.

Head in the Cloud Award — Apple MobileMe Launch

You know an Apple product is half-baked when the company publicly apologizes for its execution. Released at the same time as the iPhone 3G, the $99-per-year MobileMe service replaced .Mac and is designed to keep your, e-mails, contacts, calendar, photos, and more up to date across various devices, including PCs and the iPhone. But many customers were unable to access the site after launch, and some even lost e-mail. This statement pretty much sums it up: “We have recently completed the transition from .Mac to MobileMe. Unfortunately, it was a lot rockier than we had hoped.” The good news: Apple gave every subscriber a 60-day extension.

R.I.P. Award — HD-DVD

Two years ago, Blu-ray and HD-DVD donned their armor, assembled their troops, and took to the high-definition battlefield to fight for the future of optical home entertainment systems. It seemed like this format war would be a stalemate, until Blu-ray released its deathblow of far greater studio support. HP has since switched completely to Blu-ray after dabbling in both formats, but Toshiba, one of the major backers of HD-DVD, is still mourning the loss. As of press time, the company had not integrated the winning format into any of its notebooks.

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