Market leaders that might have been

We spent a lot of time covering the big product launches of 2002 — Microsoft’s Tablet PC operating system, Intel’s second Itanium processor.

What we may have missed were the many departures from several vendors’ product lines. These were tools that almost always marked an important departure

from the vendor’s usual strategy, and sometimes were intended to capitalize on emerging market opportunities.

The biggest shifts in product lineup came from HP, which kept some tools and combined others with Compaq’s devices, depending on what was stronger. Here are seven others that won’t survive the new year:

IBM TransNote (February 2001 – February 2002): Sales failed to meet expectations for this mobile device, which used a portfolio-style format with a ThinkPad computer on one side and a touch-screen notepad on the other. Intended to bridge the gap between handwriting and typing, the TransNote was an interesting forerunner of the tablet PCs many OEMs would offer this year.

iPaq Home Internet Appliance (2000-February 2002): Compaq didn’t give many details on its decision to discontinue its Web-surfing tools, which integrated with its popular handheld product. It mentioned vague plans for another generation of non-PC Internet devices shortly before its merger with Hewlett-Packard was complete.

NetAction software (February 2001-July 2002): Hewlett-Packard, which has struggled to make headway with its own applications for years, decided to drop its e-business software for handling Web transactions just before the Web services market gained attention. It has since decided to work more closely with Microsoft and BEA Systems instead.

MaxAttach (October 1999-August 2002): Maxtor had wanted to compete with Quantum when it launched this line of network attached storage server appliances, but then it lost US$50 million on the line in 2001. At first it tried to sell off the MaxAttach business unit, but couldn’t find a taker. More than 230 employees were laid off as a result.

SmartStep (October 2001-August 2002): Dell sent its line of value-priced PCs direct to the remainder bin after only 10 months. The fixed-configuration machines were part of an aggressive campaign to compete at retail, but they eventually gave way to set versions of the company’s Dimension line, though the brand lives on, inexplicably, in China.

AnyPoint (April 2000-August 2002): Intel may have bitten off more than it could chew when it decided to go up against D-Link and Netgear with a line of wireless home networking cards and access points for consumers. Executives said there was little “”point”” in the products after the release of Windows XP, which automatically detects and sets up wireless networks anyway. AnyPoint was one of several markets Intel left behind this year with the closure of its Consumer Business Unit, joining the herd of firms focussing on core competencies — like chipmaking.

DC5000 Zoom (2000-August 2002): Kodak recalled an estimated 75,000 units of one of its first digital cameras after receiving approximately 12 reports of owners receiving a mild electrical shock while recharging its memory card or batteries.

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