5 great u-turns in tech
Sony has announced that it will now allow cross-format multiplayer gaming on PlayStation 4, meaning that its customers will now be able to play online multiplayer with friends on other formats, including Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The news comes just in time for the launch of Fortnite Season 6. Inspired by the news, let's look at five other examples of major tech-industry u-turns where companies either, like Sony, gave way to user demands, or read the writing on the wall…
The Apple Pencil
Steve Jobs' 2007 reveal of the original iPhone is a now an almost legendary piece of tech industry theatrics. Lambasting the state of the smartphone market, with devices covered in buttons, Jobs took particular aim at the stylus. "You have to get 'em, put 'em away. You lose them. Yuck," he opined, before literally pointing out that almost everyone carries a perfectly-honed pointing device or 10 attached to their hands.
Fast-forward a mere 8 and a half years and Apple rolls out the Apple Pencil alongside its iPad Pro range of souped up tablets. Among its core features are the facts that you can get it out, put it away, lose them and force-sensitivity. It's a decent stylus, but would Jobs have approved? In reality, it was probably a necessary move to eke the most from subsequent advances in both display and stylus technology, so he very possibly would. The iPad Pro is a very different device to the mass-market iPhone.
Needless to say, Apple's page on the Pencil doesn't mention the s-word.
At face value, Spotify's decision in May of this year to remove artists from playlists if they had committed "harmful or hateful" acts seemed like a good one. Affected acts included R. Kelly and XXXTentacion. Their music wasn't being removed from the platform: merely its inclusion in Spotify's own curated and automated music selections.
But as was quickly pointed out, it's a difficult decision to enforce in the case of artists who may already have repented, rehabilitated, served time, or yet to be found guilty. Spotify made a u-turn on its decision after mere weeks.
Snapchat's costly redesign
In late 2017 and early 2018, popular messaging app Snapchat released a redesign that saw, among other updates, content from friends being silo'd away from other content in the app. A few months later, Snapchat's stock dropped a staggering US$1.3 billion following a tweet from Kylie Jenner which indicated she no longer used the app.
Meanwhile 1.2 million users signed a Change.org petition calling for changes to be reversed. By May the company had relented, updating the app to undo unpopular changes, including reunifying content from friends and elsewhere else in one place.
Facebook's retentive policies
In early 2009, Facebook altered its terms of service so that it could keep a copy of a user's entire message and action history, even if they deleted their account. There was an outcry from users, and a mere 24 hours after Mark Zuckerberg sought to defend the policy changes in a company blog post, the decision was reversed.
Almost everything about Xbox One
Xbox One's 2013 announcement was a borderline disaster, with Microsoft later backtracking on almost every announcement made. Digital rights management will prevent re-sale of games (we didn't mean it). You'll need to be permanently connected to the internet to play games (did we say that out loud?). It'll come bundled with a Kinect (lol kidding).
Initially Microsoft even said the Xbox One would come without a headset – a decision it also thankfully reversed. Gamers voiced their disapproval loud and clear and the company quickly saw sense, but the damage had arguably been done. Confusion around the console's features in comparison to the PlayStation 4's gamer-centric focus inevitably contributed to the latter machine's market dominance.