Qwikster and 7 Other Terrible, Short-Lived Ideas (slideshow)

To remain successful, companies have to be ruthless about killing their own ideas. The smartest ones kill off their bad innovations quickly, as happened today, when Netflix’s affable CEO Reed Hastings admitted that the company’s plans to separate its DVD rental service from its online streaming unit would make life unnecessarily “difficult” for its loyal customers.

The decision came three months after Netflix announced that it was creating a separate payment plan for DVDs and streamed movies, and less than three weeks after Hastings appeared in what may be the world’s cheapest-looking corporate video to offer his sincere apologies for mishandling Netflix’s confusing news — before informing users that he had more of it. Specifically, he said, beyond two payment plans, Netflix would be breaking itself into two companies: Netflix for streaming video, and brand-new Qwikster for DVD rentals.

Whether the zaniness will hurt Netflix in the long term remains to be seen, but at least we gained a very funny “Saturday Night Live” sketch from it. Check it out, along with seven other, terrible, short-lived ideas.


[slide title=”Oh, No You Didn’t, Netflix”]

This video kind of says it all. If Hastings didn’t realize how muddled his video announcement was, this SNL skit by Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis surely helped to clarify it for him.

[slide title=”The Microsoft Kin (Was a Sin)”]

It’s hard to feel sorry for Microsoft when one of its innovations falls on its face, both because the company has enjoyed tremendous success for so long and because we’re sort of accustomed to its innovations falling flat (though they’re sometimes improved over time).

Still, who wasn’t shocked by how quickly Microsoft killed off its Kin smart phone in the spring of 2010? Two years after spending $500 million for Danger, maker of the once-popular Sidekick smart phone, the fruit of Microsoft’s long, expensive effort to produce its own Kin lasted just 48 days. At least, that’s how long Kin phones were available for sale before being discontinued and possibly thrown into a giant incinerator in Redmond.

[slide title=”The McRib”]

McDonald’s likes to trot out this 30-year-old “innovation” for a few months every three or four years, as if to satisfy some burning need for it. The company is then quickly reminded that customers don’t go to McDonald’s for pork sandwiches and that people just find this particular number super gross.

Burn the recipe, McDonald’s. It’s high time.

[slide title=”The DeLorean DMC-12 “]

The DeLorean DMC-12 was a jaw-dropper. Unfortunately, after eight years in production, there wasn’t much capital left when it made its debut in 1981. The car’s creator, former GM exec John DeLorean — who’s also credited with imagining the Pontiac GTO and igniting the muscle car craze of the ’60s — was even arrested in an alleged attempt to sell $24 million in cocaine to support the venture. DeLorean was acquitted a couple of years later, but it was already too late. After producing 8,900 models of the DMC, best known for its gull-wing doors and angular design, his car business imploded.

[slide title=”New Coke “]

[Curtain draws open. It is 1985. The following takes place over two and a half months.]

Coca Cola company to the world: Forget the old Coke! What you want is this “New Coke!”

World: This tastes lousy. Bye, Coke.

Coca Cola company: Wait, wait! OK, OK, we’ll bring back the old Coke. And hey, because we’re listening to you, our customers, we’ll pay homage to that old Coke by calling it Coke Classic!

World: Fine, whatever.

[End scene.]

[slide title=”Jay Leno’s Prime-Time Show “]

After nearly a year of build-up, Jay Leno’s prime-time variety show lasted from September 2010 to all of … February 2011.

We all know what happened after that. #welcomebacktonightshow #sadconan

[slide title=”The Apple Newton “]

John Sculley has said that Apple invested approximately $100 million to develop the Newton.

The PDA, which debuted in 1987, was a goner by 1998. It’s no coincidence that design genius Steve Jobs — ousted from Apple in 1985 and restored as Apple CEO in 1996 — was the one to kill it.

[slide title=”The HP TouchPad”]

Usually, when a company brings back a product for “one last production run,” it’s an older product that has endeared itself to a wide base of users who want one last opportunity to buy the dream anew. Not so in the case of the HP TouchPad, an iPad competitor that was given up for dead by HP about seven weeks after its lackluster debut. In fact, it’s only because of the subsequently successful fire sale of the tablets (from $499 down to $99) that HP decide to put a few more into production.

But hurry. The sale ends October 31. Pick up your cheap TouchPad by then, or forever regret your chance to buy the rare tech gadget that was rendered obsolete before you bought it.