The Apple III (1980)
If you’ve never heard of the Apple III, there’s probably a good reason for that. Following the incredible success of the Apple II computer in the late seventies, the fledgling company decided to try to make lightning strike again with a third-generation model that turned out to be its first big commercial failure.
The Apple III promised to be the first business-class Apple computer, with an 80-character display and a mixed-case keyboard, both of which were upgrades from the giant 40-column text and all-uppercase design of the Apple II.
However, it took much longer to build than anybody expected, missing its target launch date by about six months, and then to make matters worse, the first batch of 14,000 machines had to be recalled due to serious stability issues, requiring Apple to overhaul the design entirely, with another version of the Apple III arriving a year and a half after it was originally supposed to be ready to go.
The Apple III was officially discontinued in early 1984, less than three years after the stable version went on the market on November 9, 1981. The reason for its failure? According to Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, it was designed by the marketing department. The upside, however, is that the debacle with the Apple III forced the company to take a long, hard look at how it did things. Had it not flopped, the original Macintosh may have never seen the light of day.