Trivia Tuesday: Some infamous Vaporwares

One of the not-so great things about the tech industry is the vaporware. You know, the programs that just keep getting delayed, again and again, until they turn into a running joke. There's a fair share of them floating around now (Half-Life 3, anyone?), and it turns out that it's been a problem for about as long as the industry has been around. With that in mind, we thought it'd be fun to take a look at some of technology's greatest vaporware.

Taligent: In the early ‘90s, faced with competition from Microsoft’s imaginary Cairo platform, Apple and IBM teamed up to respond with their own imaginary platform, Taligent. Like Copland and Cairo, it had it all, including the ever elusive objected oriented file system, and was slated to replace Mac OS. Obviously, it never did.

Taligent was a portmanteau of ‘talent’ and ‘intelligent’

When market research showed that customers did not, in fact, want a new OS, the project shifted gears and became an objected-oriented programming environment that could run on any OS.  By 1995, Apple decided to take their ball and go home to work on their own doomed product, Copland (we’ll get to that in a minute). After languishing for the next couple of years, IBM finally killed Taligent in January of 1998.

Copland: By 1994, the cracks were starting to show in Apple’s original Mac OS, and Microsoft was rapidly eating into Apple’s marketshare. With that in mind, Cupertino set about building a successor to its venerable operating system with all the coordination of a beheaded chicken.

Copland was going to have it all, at least for 1994: a completely new web-friendly OS for the modern world. It even had an object-oriented file system. The only problem was that Copland, like Microsoft’s Cairo project, became a ‘catch all’ for any features that Apple hadn’t – or couldn’t – implement.

Named for composer Aaron Copland, whose estate, unlike certain other parties, did not sue Apple over the use of his name, Apple’s next generation OS was supposed to supersede System 7.5, codenamed Mozart

When Apple finally got around to releasing a developer release in 1996 (by then, Apple was already bleeding cash at a horrifying rate, having been repeatedly ran over, then backed over again by Microsoft), developers discovered that Copland was a piece of crap.

In 1997, Apple CEO Gil Amelio threw in the towel and called in National Semiconductor’s Ellen Hancock to sort out the mess. She promptly killed the doomed project, and set about acquiring an operating system from elsewhere. Apple would eventually settle on Steve Jobs’ NeXT, and the rest is history.

Windows Longhorn: Now here’s something that actually ended up being released, although what we got wasn’t quite what we were promised. Born as an incremental improvement to Windows XP, it would end up with one of Windows’ longest development cycles, and even home to some features orphaned by Cairo.

We’re not going to give you an overview of every feature that appeared during Longhorn’s 5 year development cycle (Wikipedia has one, though), but suffice to say, quite a bit of experimentation was involved. Cairo’s WinFS file system made a reappearance (it caused a lot of crashes, too), the Windows Explorer seemed to change into a new set of clothes every couple of months, and libraries made their first appearance.

Longhorn was originally envisioned as a minor release to bridge Windows XP and Blackcomb, which eventually became Windows 7

That all went up in smoke when Microsoft threw Longhorn aside and rebooted everything around 2005. With a new focus on delivering a polished product, Longhorn morphed into Vista fairly quickly, shedding a few interesting features and becoming something entirely different. Long gone were the days of imagining the new OS as a minor upgrade to Windows XP; instead, it was one of the most radical redesigns since Windows 95.

Duke Nukem Forever: This just might be the most infamous vaporware of all time. Announced way back in 1997, it would take 14 years to deliver Duke Nukem Forever to users, and boy, was it disappointing. Of course, that’s not too surprising, considering that it was basically already 14 years old when it came out.

Although it was intitially developed for the Quake II engine, 3D Realms changed gears and moved Duke Nukem Forever to Unreal during development

So, what took so long, since it obviously had nothing to do with taking the time to create the best game possible? Apparently, too much of their time was taken up with making fancy trailers and fighting with their publisher, Take-Two.

In the end, development was finished by Gearbox Software, but by then the damage had already been done; Duke Nukem Forever’s vaporware status was a running joke amongst gamers, and no game could’ve lived up to the hype that had built up around it, let alone what was released. Just for good measure, it was delayed one last time, from May 3rd 2010 to June 14th.

Images via Wikipedia and Newlaunches

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Just an FYI, but a primary condition for vaporware is that it is ultimately never released. Epic delays, project redirection, and so on, do not vaporware make. Longhorn and Duke Nukem do not belong on this list.

I find it interesting that WinFS always gets mentioned, like it was the philosopher's stone, yet nobody seems to ever mention that 99% of WinFS was implemented in Vista, just not via the WinFS model.

WinFS was a database like unification technology, so you could query data, no matter what it was, thus giving users the ability to query inside what were traditionally data stores in a file, like email, etc.

Instead of implementing the complete database like solution of WinFS, all that was needed and what was implemented was the 'Indexing' technologies, which everyone knows as Windows Search.

All information on the computer can be added to the 'Index' of Windows Search and is universally is accessible, no matter if it is a file or a data store like an email client would use.

If you use search in Windows Vista/7/8 you can see this at work, as content is returned that is not just documents/files, but information from emails in Outlook and information buried in OneNote and various other data stores that the developers added to the Windows Search Index to be accessible.

This extended to online data as well, and is what Federation Search in Windows 7 was, and what has evolved to a more advanced technology in Windows 8 that all online services can be queried by users as provided by developers.

It is rather brilliant, as the tradeoffs of speed and compatibility are not an issue as the basic file store is using NTFS with metadata (ie for Photos - Camera Model, Dimensions, Tags).

We got WinFS, we just didn't get the slow pieces that were also limited to just the User data areas, as we can use the Indexing technology throughout the OS and developers can use it as well for their own data stores and internal application data queries.


Here, this is essentially 99% of WinFS from the developer viewpoint:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-u...ktop/ff628790(v=vs.85).aspx

This is a start to the basics of the power available to users that only have just typed words and didn't realize complex queries can be created:

http://arstechnica.com/informa...sing-advanced-query-syntax/


I have over 2 million various documents, emails, and data stores on my personal laptop, and because of WinFS's indexing technology in Windows, everything can be found in a couple of seconds, including the last 20 years of email from a friend.

(The WinFS database indexing is what makes Windows Search work well and far more advanced that solutions from Google or on OS X.)

Edited by thenetavenger, Oct 30 2012, 3:38pm :

BTW: there is a typo in the article it's Taligent not "Teligent" - I can't find the report-link...

MFH said,
BTW: there is a typo in the article it's Taligent not "Teligent" - I can't find the report-link...

Hover over the author's name in the top left. Yeah, took me a while too!

CherryOS wins! Also I recall a huge scandal from the 90's about a video compression codec and millions of dollars involved but I can't remember what is was maybe someone else does.

Copernic said,
CherryOS wins! Also I recall a huge scandal from the 90's about a video compression codec and millions of dollars involved but I can't remember what is was maybe someone else does.

I'd almost forgotten about CherryOS. Commercial rip-off of the open-source and freely available PearPC project if I remember correctly

Stephen said,
I dont see Half life 3 on this list

3rd line down from the very top. I want HL3 too. 100 bucks says i'll come out around this time next year.

Duke Nuke'm took so long because they changed the graphics engine about 3 or 4 times. First they started with the Half life engine, then moved onto quake 2 then quake 3 then settled for I think they use the unreal engine and all this time the levels had to be redone etc etc etc. Not sure on the engines as this is from memory.

Stup0t said,
Duke Nuke'm took so long because they changed the graphics engine about 3 or 4 times. First they started with the Half life engine, then moved onto quake 2 then quake 3 then settled for I think they use the unreal engine and all this time the levels had to be redone etc etc etc. Not sure on the engines as this is from memory.

They were going to do DNF on Source?!? That would have been tight as hell!!!

Tyler R. said,

They were going to do DNF on Source?!? That would have been tight as hell!!!


Nope, GoldSource

Stup0t said,
Duke Nuke'm took so long because they changed the graphics engine about 3 or 4 times. First they started with the Half life engine, then moved onto quake 2 then quake 3 then settled for I think they use the unreal engine and all this time the levels had to be redone etc etc etc. Not sure on the engines as this is from memory.

the half life engine is older then the q2/3 engines?

Antaris said,
Can you updated this article to include the Phantom game console - always gives me a chuckle...

And remove DNF. It's released, so it can't be called vaporware anymore.

Tyler R. said,
I really enjoyed Vista and DNF. Good read tho. Thanks!

Vista was definitely a redefining moment, even if it did have some rough edges. I have no kind words for DNF, sorry