Vaporware: The Origins…
The term vaporware is not a modern one. In fact the term exists for at least thirty years now, as an informal terminology of the computer’s market and the wider electronics market. According to the relevant wikipedia article, “vaporware” means a product that did not make it to retail even if there were announcements from the production company. But it also means that, most of the times, this product, was not officially cancelled! This term was also used to describe products that were well in advance announced, even years before their final release to the market and usually these products were surrounded by “mystery” and great speculation regarding their specifications and their release dates.
It seems that the term derived, initially, from the software industry at the early 80’s where there was great competition and a frenzy to innovate and gain the market advantage and also the stock price advantage! The situation at that period, often led to this kind of announcements from software and hardware companies while they were trying to keep in front of the market needs and boost their stock prices as well as their stock options! These practices , even then, but especially nowadays, were found to be more or less illegal, a misinformation of the public that led to extreme expectations and certain people made whole fortunes out of this tactics. On the other hand using the term vaporware for an announced product was also considered a malpractice as if it turned out not to be a vaporware, this announcement was also a misinformation. Even well before the release, announcing a product as vaporware could seriously affect the market in a negative way, for the company and the product. The affect be so severe that the products could be cancelled because of the false announcement of being a vaporware which lowers the customer’s expectations to a minimum. So vaporware seems to be some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy!
Despite all this, in the computers industry, vaporware is common. The first time it was heard, it was the year 1982 from computer’s engineer, Ann Winblad. Winblad was working for a business platform for Microsoft, compatible with the Xenix operating system. Suddenly she seemed to realize that there was no progress made with the platform and especially with Xenix and decided to ask around for Microsoft’s intentions. When she asked other engineers about Xenix they responded that actually the project was vaporware! (The project was vaporized!!) So after this incident, vaporware became a mainstream term in computer’s industry. Vaporware soon emigrated to other industries as hardware, consoles, home appliances, everything. After thirty years or so, the term found its way to retro-computing and especially affects the expectations of present retro-computers users that tend to expect modern additions to their machines from small and not well funded companies, that can only do things up to a certain point.
The retro-computers’ market is relatively small. Some dare to involve in this market to develop software and harware and balloon the consumer’s expectations who are generally too optimistic about their old and outdated machines. A perfect example for this, is the Amiga market. Anyone can take a little time to consider the products that were announced over the years and what was really and finally made available to public. But this was and is a trend and some people also tried to take advantage of this trend. Developers appeared and dimmed immediately as fireworks, inflating the phantasy that our Amigas could do present, modern, tasks. Maybe if they even could, then Amiga would not be a hobby any more Would not be considered retro, so we could find ourselves in the need to find another hobby.
Well, for the sake of this blog, we decided, to gradually present some software and hardware not only for Amiga, but for other retro computers and consoles. And to do this, according to Amigaplanet standards, we decided to expand a little bit, the criteria of Vaporware classification. That means that we will also accept as vaporware, products that :
a) Their release dates keeps getting postponed for years, not for just “two more weeks”
b) are cancelled long after their supposed release date
c) were never official completed due to i.e. Lack of funding
d) reached prototype stage or testing stage but not mass production
e) products that are completed but never made it to the market due to developers’ financial problems, bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions and change of strategy or planning.
So with above criteria we will try to stick to our plan and not announce everything as vaporware but also include many interesting stuff in our presentations which we believe it can eventually grow to full database of vaporware products.
Stay tuned for our future posts of the vaporware universe!!