2023 was an especially significant year for the world of tech, with new AI innovations dropping left, right, and centre. But life is not without death – the year also saw the demise of a bunch of tech products that faced insurmountable challenges or simply failed to catch on.
From Google’s visionary but doomed Glass to Lenovo shuttering its Legion gaming phone line, we look back at the innovative yet ill-fated tech that met its end this year. Though full of promise, these pieces of tech could not escape their fate in an unforgiving market.
Read on for the tech that died in 2023.
Google Glass Enterprise Edition
Among the tech products laid to rest in 2023 was Google’s augmented reality headset Google Glass Enterprise Edition, marking the final nail in the coffin for Google’s visionary but ill-fated foray into AR glasses. First publicly announced in 2012, Google Glass was meant to usher in a new era of wearable computing, giving people working in agricultural, medical, and factory settings a heads-up display that would provide them with information while keeping their hands free. But the $1,500 price tag, lack of clear functionality, and privacy concerns doomed the Explorer Edition among consumers.
Google tried to revive Glass for businesses in 2017 with the Enterprise Edition, sold for $999. The headset found niche adoption in fields like manufacturing and medicine, where hands-free computing was useful. But ultimately, Google Glass failed to achieve mainstream success or change how we interact with technology day-to-day.
Lenovo’s Legion Gaming Phone Business
Rumours about Lenovo shutting down its phone business started flying in at the start of the year. Then in March, a Lenovo spokesperson confirmed to Android Authority that it indeed had been shut down. The spokesperson stated that the decision stemmed from “a wider business transformation and gaming portfolio consolidation.”
It seems gaming phones have struggled to carve out a distinct niche as regular flagship phones have gotten better and better at providing great gaming experiences even during long play sessions. Companies tried to attract buyers through gimmicks like cooling fans, RGB lighting and massive amounts of RAM, but to no avail. Lenovo’s Legion gaming phones were well-reviewed devices with top-tier specs, but ultimately couldn’t compete with more mainstream options. The company seems to be shifting focus to handheld gaming devices instead and unveiled the Lenovo Legion Go in September.
The gaming phone market in general seems to be on shaky ground – Xiaomi’s Black Shark division has gone quiet after layoffs in January this year, though brands like ASUS continue to see some success with their ROG Phone series. While they arguably pushed the boundaries of mobile gaming, Lenovo’s Legion gaming phones are yet another piece of tech that did not pan out in 2023.
Amazon Halo Brand
Did you know that Amazon had a line of fitness trackers? Probably not. So it didn’t come as a surprise when Amazon decided to pull the plug on its Halo line of health and fitness trackers in July 2023, marking the end of the company’s attempt to break into the wearables market. Launched in 2020, Halo was Amazon’s play into the competitive fitness tracking space dominated by Apple, Fitbit and others. However, it failed to gain significant traction against entrenched rivals.
Halo had three products: the Band, the View, and the Rise. The Band was a basic fitness tracker that launched in 2020. It had some controversial features, such as measuring body fat with a 3D scan and analysing voice tone. The View was a smartwatch that came out in 2021. And the Rise was a sleep tracker and alarm clock that launched recently. The company announced that it would refund customers who bought a Halo device or accessory in the last year, stop charging for the Halo subscription, and delete all the data it had gathered.
Cortana on Windows
After years of gradually scaling back support, Microsoft discontinued the standalone Cortana app in August 2023, redirecting users to its new Bing Chatbot and AI Copilot features instead. Cortana’s shutdown marks the end of Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Siri and Google Assistant in the voice assistant space.
Originally launched in 2014, Cortana was designed to provide hands-free voice control and predictive information on Windows devices, similar to the capabilities of Apple and Google’s assistants. It expanded to Android, iOS, and Xbox over the next few years. However, Microsoft struggled to get consumers excited about Cortana. Usage remained niche compared to the competition. By 2021, Microsoft had already ended support for the iOS and Android apps, removed Cortana from the Windows taskbar and stripped out most third-party integrations. Its focus shifted to productivity features rather than general assistance.
With new AI chatbots like Bing Chatbot and Copilot taking centre stage, Microsoft no longer saw a need for the standalone Cortana app. Its removal streamlines the Windows experience while freeing up resources for Microsoft’s new AI priorities. For now, the original Cortana lives on solely as an AI companion in Microsoft’s Halo videogame franchise.
The humble text editor WordPad is finally meeting its demise with Microsoft announcing it would no longer update the app and deprecate it with a future version of Windows. It was included for free on Windows PCs for over 25 years. While never as feature-rich as Word, the no-frills WordPad allowed users to compose documents, edit fonts and formats, and save files as .doc, .rtf or .txt. For students, office workers, and home users alike, WordPad struck a nice balance between capable and uncomplicated.
But with Word and Notepad improving over the years, Microsoft has decided WordPad’s time has passed. The app was already optional starting in 2020 before its looming removal from Windows was confirmed this September. Though it never had a large user base compared to Word, the soon-to-happen discontinuation of WordPad closes the book on an unassuming yet capable writing tool many grew up using. For those wanting more formatting options, Microsoft suggests its Office suite, while Notepad remains for basic text needs.
The once-popular online chat platform Omegle announced in November that it would be shutting down operations after over a decade of connecting strangers for random conversations. Omegle founder Leif K-Brooks cited financial and psychological unsustainability as reasons for closing the anonymous chat site. Since its launch in 2009, Omegle had become a go-to destination for those seeking random connections online. However, the platform increasingly became a target for grooming and online abuse despite its original innocent intentions. Short-form video app TikTok even banned sharing Omegle links due to concerns over child safety on the platform.
While Omegle’s anonymous nature allowed for positive cultural exchanges and advice-seeking for some users, the lack of oversight made it difficult to control misuse. After years of fighting uphill battles, Omegle founder K-Brooks decided the platform could no longer bear the attacks and shut it down.
Hyperloop One, the ambitious transportation startup aiming to develop a network of tunnels for levitating pods travelling at speeds up to 760 mph, has ceased operations after nearly a decade of work. Despite raising over $400 million in funding and demonstrating a working prototype, the company was ultimately unable to secure any customers for its futuristic vision of transportation. After layoffs in 2022 and the withdrawal of investment from Sir Richard Branson, Hyperloop One was simply unable to sustain itself financially. The company’s assets, including its test track in Las Vegas, will be liquidated as its story comes to an end on December 31, 2023.