We can all make mistakes, as long as those mistakes don’t cost billions of dollars and screw people up. But it can happen, it has even happened historically that brands or big companies get screwed over because of a contract, a new product or a failed operation. So we’re going to talk about it today with a few fairly iconic examples where we wouldn’t have liked to be in the decision-maker’s shoes.
1. Microsoft and the US Army Command
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Very recently, the US Army ordered $22 billion worth of augmented reality helmets for its soldiers in order to stay at the top level of “advanced equipment that is used to kill people”, a lucrative market that no longer only concerns weapons, vehicles and that kind of stuff but also geek stuff. The helmets were supposed to help soldiers get HD night vision, spot enemies more easily, get a whole bunch of extra information about the terrain and the whole mess: except that the product is particularly rotten, buggy and does not correspond at the customer’s request. But a failure at 22 billion is expensive, even for the army and Microsoft, which in addition to selling computers and consoles is now in the war business. It’s pretty.
2. The Super Nintendo CD-ROM Adapter
It all started when Nintendo decided to canvass Sony to create a CD-ROM drive to connect to its Super Nintendo: Sony did its job on time and manufactured the machine then returned to see Nintendo with an operational product. But Nintendo takes Sony high and declares that finally the firm decided to ally itself with the brand Phillips to manufacture another reader of CD-ROM, a project which will finally fall into the water a second time. Except that Sony, having produced its CD player, decides to use the product by creating its own console, so as not to have worked in the wind. Some time later the very first Playstation is marketed and steals the show from the Super Nintendo, not to mention the fact that today Sony has a place of choice in the world of video games thanks to this failed contract from Nintendo.
3. Kodak and the digital camera
Kodak was number one in camera sales in 1975 and it was in its offices that one of the company’s engineers, Steven Sasson, invented the prototype of the digital camera. He went to propose his invention to the company but the managers thought that it was going to completely destroy the sales of their current products (film and film cameras) and preferred to refuse the project. You can imagine that they bit their balls when digital cameras arrived on the market and exploded in sales, leaving the company in the lurch for a few years until film lenses returned to fashion .
4. Video blockbuster that refused to take over Netflix
It was obviously another era, that of the blessed time of video clubs. Blockbuster was a giant in the industry and Netflix was a tiny company that sent videotapes through the mail. As a result, the CEO of Netflix had a lot of trouble overshadowing the first and simply offered to buy his company, which Blockbuster refused with its 9,000 brands that covered the whole country. Then streaming arrived, Netflix adapted, and Blockbuster literally sank. If the takeover probably wouldn’t have changed much, Blockbuster could have removed a competitor and taken the streaming turn a little earlier, but we’re not going to rewrite history.
5. Apple and Corning
Sometimes companies behave like real bastards with their partners, which is what happened between Apple and Corning. The Apple brand approached this glassware company to manufacture super-resistant screens, which Corning quickly achieved by offering a partnership and the filing of a joint patent. But Apple began to look down on them by making them understand a little that they were more important than them and that it was therefore them who decided everything. So Corning told Apple to fuck off and signed a full-fledged partnership with Samsung, which wasn’t so bad at all. If only Apple hadn’t been led by a big boss hated by its employees, this might not have happened.
6. Youtube and Microsoft versus Twitch
The video game streaming giant Twitch was at the top of the race list of the biggest American companies in 2014. Two competitors were pulling the plug on the takeover: Youtube (from the Google group) and Microsoft. Both sides ended up bidding the same $1 billion to get Twitch and were awaiting a decision from the company’s CEO on who would win. Except that there is a twist: not only will the Twitch company not be sold to either of them, but it will also be sold cheaper. It was finally Amazon which acquired the company for 970 million dollars, but in exchange for the difference of 30 million the possibility of keeping its head office and its independence. Sometimes negotiation isn’t just about money. Finally when the difference is 30 million on a note of 970 million it’s a bit of a trifle.
7.Google and Stadia
Ok, it’s not necessarily a failed contract, but rather a golden opportunity sent to the toilet with an increasingly frequent project life cycle in the world of tech: create, launch, destroy. Launched in 2019, Google’s video game streaming system was presented as nothing less than the future of the medium that would replace consoles and revolutionize the world (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit). After three years of good and loyal service, the system was not considered a success since Google decided to close it by fully refunding the games purchased by customers. The problem is that the developers who were currently working on projects for the platform learned about it at the same time as everyone else in the press and that’s less fun. Another big failure from Google.
8. M&M’s and the “ET” movie ad
At the beginning of the production of the film ET, the extra-terrestrial, Spielberg had approached the group Mars in order to offer them a product placement for their M&M’s candies. For some reason that remains totally mysterious to us, Mars refused the deal, probably because they thought the film wouldn’t work. Spielberg therefore offered the contract to the company Hershey Foods which produced Reese’s Pieces and the company agreed to spend a million dollars to produce an advertising campaign where it could use the image of ET The operation was a huge success as sales exploded shortly after the film’s release and Mars probably gulped down his M&M’s the wrong way upon realizing his mistake.