During the 1990s — often looked upon as Apple’s wayward years — the company faced steep competition and limited growth in the PC market, and so it decided to try its hand in a wide range of burgeoning markets.
Products developed under the guidance of John Sculley — the man who replaced Apple co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, during his absence in the late 1980s and early 1990s — ultimately became a success in their own respect. However, more often than not, these creations failed to catch on with consumers due to a wide range of factors.
One of these products, launched in March of 1993, was a rather large, cumbersome and overall aesthetically weird-looking gadget known as the PowerCD player. It was described as a portable CD player which looked similar to, albeit a bit more obtrusive than, similar CD players of that era.Image via Jonathan Zufi
Sure, at $499 apiece, the PowerCD was functionally more advanced than the majority of standalone CD players. It was capable of not only serving as an external CD-ROM drive for use with many of the CD-ROM-deprived Mac computers on the market, but it was inherently able to read Kodak photo CDs and data CDs, in addition playing standard audio discs.
It also functioned without a Mac computer when equipped with six AA batteries — though according to CultofMac, it wasn’t actually manufactured by Apple. That privilege went to Philips and Kodak who each rebranded the device as the Philips CDF-100 and later on as the Kodak PCD-880.
Despite Apple’s efforts to truly revolutionize the device, adding additional features like a handy remote control and the ability to connect with Macs via the Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) standard, PowerCD never really caught on with consumers for a number of reasons:
1 It Was Too Expensive
At $499, Apple’s PowerCD player was not only expensive beyond the reach of most mainstream consumers, but for what it was actually capable of doing, that high cost was perhaps the leading reason why it was discontinued within just a few years of being launched on March 22, 1993.
Adjusted for inflation, $499 in 1993 would be $868 today.
2 Limited Functionality
Bearing in mind that the early 1990s weren’t exactly the most prolific years of growth for Apple, just considering its timing and high cost, the Power CD player really didn’t do much to warrant the price.Image via Retro Mac Cast
Certainly, it was an Apple product that had more potential than other Apple products of its time; but it’s likely that consumers who didn’t already own an Apple computer even gave PowerCD a glance.
While it clearly had its fair share of Apple-exclusive functionalities, those who were merely looking to acquire a CD player — with the same ability to connect with external speakers just like the PowerCD could — probably realized they could purchase something very similar for a fraction of the price.
Of course, PowerCD wasn’t Apple’s only creation from the 1990s which failed before the company returned to growth in the early 2000s. To learn more about other past Apple products that flopped soon after the dropped, be sure to check out 5 most memorable Apple product failures.