Vaporware 2002: Tech up in Smoke? 

By Vaporware Team  |   Also by this reporter Page 1 of 3

10:27 AM Jan. 03, 2003 PT

As 2002 ends, there is a lot of unfinished business in various corners of the tech world. We are referring, of course, to vaporware: hot, must-have products promised but never delivered.

Wired News put out a call to readers for the technological wonders they most looked forward to in 2002 but never saw because developers delayed release or, in some cases, abandoned them altogether. Then we tabulated nominations and selected the top 10 -- or should we say bottom 10? -- most-waited-for-in-vain products.

For the first time, there were quite a few winners that also made last year's list. In the fast-moving world of technology, it's unusual for products to be hung up long enough to qualify two years in a row, but a number of hard-working companies heroically managed it.

This year, game titles stole about half the list -- a testament, perhaps, to the extent to which the video game industry relies on prerelease hype.

It's also worth noting that about two-thirds of the nominations were spam. We received thousands of messages about penis and/or breast enlargement aids, work-from-home schemes and great deals on a Thomas Kinkade Santa figurine. So much for progress.

And now for our winners:

10. Silicon Film's Electronic Film System: For the third year in a row, Silicon Film Technologies makes the list for failing to deliver its long-promised "digital film" system, which turns film cameras into digital ones.

The company's website admits the technology still isn't available, but invites visitors to sign up for an e-mail notification when it is.

"I e-mailed them a year ago and it's still not available," wrote reader Nono Felipe. "They should change their site's statement to: 'Wanted: people who can actually make this product a reality.'"

9. The new Amiga: Earlier this year, fans of the Amiga were in a tizzy about the prospect of a revival of the comatose platform: Both new machines and a new operating system were promised. Suffice it to say, neither are readily available.

"Some retailers and the Amiga website are taking orders for systems, but 'selling' and 'shipping' are two very different things," wrote reader Russ Van Winkle.

Swift Griggs added: "I've heard promises now for three years. Amiga Inc. has delivered nothing but lies and hot air now for three years, just like everyone who has come before them in the post-Commodore Amigan holocaust."

8. Ubi Soft's Shadowbane: An ambitious online role-playing game set in a post-apocalyptic world, Shadowbane has been in development so long, readers said, it is now referred to as "Shadowwait." (Although the game has been in beta for a couple of years, it qualifies as vaporware because it hasn't hit store shelves as a shrink-wrapped product.)

"It promised to revolutionize gaming, but it has been in progress the past five years," wrote Sue Tillery. "Every other month open beta and release are pushed further and further away."

Another reader added: "The game is in a perpetual state of impendingness that never comes to fruition."

7. QuarkXPress for Macintosh OS X: Quark's page-layout system, QuarkXPress, is probably the most eagerly anticipated application awaiting conversion to Apple's new operating system, Mac OS X. Wisely, Quark hasn't committed to a release date, but, as readers noted, the OS X version has seemed just around the corner for the last couple of years. Clearly, many graphics enthusiasts thought it would appear in 2002. Alas, it did not.

"Quark, which has given new meaning to the term 'customer-hostile,' is now damaging Apple with their way, way, way overdue Mac OS X-native version of QuarkXPress," wrote Michael Stango. "Their ineptitude at keeping up with the pace of change in the Mac market is doing more to sell copies of Adobe InDesign than anyone in Adobe's marketing department."

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