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The Three Biggest Tech Opportunities of 2009 That Went Unseen

Each year, we see the release of some great products that foreshadow a blindingly bright future for technology.  We were introduced to the Pre, something completely unexpected from Palm.  Windows 7, which signaled a complete turnaround for Microsoft.  The Motorola Droid was deemed the first competitor possible of dethroning the iPhone.  As we prepare to move into a new year that’s sure to be filled with impressive new tech, we wanted to take a look back – a look at three tech opportunities that could have and should have been.

WebOS Native SDK

pixiandpre1At January’s CES, Palm shocked the entire tech world with the unveiling of their newest device the Palm Pre.  While wildly exciting, the bigger news here was what was behind the device. Palm built a modern mobile operating system from the ground up capable of running on all their future devices.  While this was hardly an announcement of more hardware, WebOS set the stage for Palm to reclaim their spot as one of the best in the smartphone market.

As Palm watched the success of the iPhone’s App Store, they debuted a similar application catalogue for the Pre’s launch. Just as you’d expect, developers could create and sell apps directly on the phone made directly for the WebOS platform.  Where Palm’s success ends and Apple’s continues is in the software development kits they provide to developers.  Palm’s SDK limits access to the device’s hardware.  Developers cannot access the graphics hardware for 3D gaming and hardware like the accelerometer is limited to small data samples per second, making accelerometer controls choppy.  If Palm wants to compete with the big boys, they’re going to have to open up their hardware to attract developers.  You’d think they’d have realized this by now.

CrunchPad

crunchpad1The last month has been anything but boring for CrunchPad followers.  In early November, Arrington gave word that the device was on track, doing great, and to expect big news soon.  As promised, news came – oh boy, did it come.  Out of nowhere, the CrunchPad was deemed dead and dreams were crushed.  Fusion Garage ended their relationship via email and was going to be releasing the device itself.  In a webcast the next week, the JooJoo was born from the ashes of CrunchPad.

Originally, the CrunchPad idea began as an open source do-it-yourself project back in mid-2008 whose goal was a “dead simple web tablet for $200”.  The tablet would have a custom operation system that booted directly into the browser.  Since the idea caught on, Fusion Garage built three different prototypes, eventually arriving at the JooJoo’s current design.  Although the JooJoo is basically what the CrunchPad was going to be, the price will its demise.  There’s a very small market willing to pay $500 for a device that’s strictly limited to a browser.   I don’t want JooJoo I want the CrunchPad.

Zune Phone

zunephone1After the iPhone exploded worldwide in popularity, Microsoft ‘sources’ began to spread rumors of an iPhone competitor modeled after the Microsoft Zune known only through code name “Pink”.  These same rumors claimed it would be running a custom UI atop Windows Mobile 7 that was being developed by the Danger team; the same team behind the Sidekick.  As rumors grew, some analysts speculated that a prototype would be unveiled at CES in January this year.  This speculation was put to death when Brian Seitz, Group Manager of Zune, made an official statement that there’d be no Zune Phone as CES.  Months passed and finally, Gizmodo broke rumors that “Pink” was actually two mobile devices, neither of which seemed impressive.

Since the announcement of the iPhone, Microsoft should have hit the drawing board.  As we’re nearing the fourth year since Apple unveiled the iPhone, we’ve heard nothing aside from far out rumors.  We’ve seen and been given the silky smooth UI of the Zune HD, but where’s our true iPhone killer?  The Palm Pre and Motorola Droid put up a good fight, but nothing has really dethroned the iPhone.  That Zune HD Microsoft released, that should have been “Pink”.

There you have it.  The three biggest opportunities that, in my eyes, went unseen.  What tech opportunities would you deem irresponsibly missed?  Let us know in the comments.