Startup for Dummies // all these vaporware promises

Working at a startup sounds great. But it can get confusing, too, especially at the beginning. If you feel like at some times you don’t have a clue of what your colleagues are talking about; you’re not alone. From now on, don’t just nod friendly when terms like ‘unicorn’ or ‘disruptive technology’ come up. Every week we’ll explain a common startup-expression in our Startup For Dummies. This week: Vaporware.

Vaporware are products that are promoted and sometimes even sold to an audience without being actually made. What’s so striking about it is that vaporware never really gets released but it also never gets actually cancelled. Launches of the products are sometimes so delayed, that they’ve never been made. In a lot of cases this was the plan in advance. When talking about vaporware it’s usually concerning computer software or hardware, but it could be just any product.

// why?
Vaporware sounds like a very sleazy marketing technique. Why would a company promote a product if they know they will never make it? Generally vaporware is called in life to test the market for a product. Validating the market through vaporware can be useful as a type of crowdfunding. The term Vaporware is also used when a product is announced years before it’s release. Some companies are making vaporware with the intention to keep their customers from going to the competitor. They are keeping their audience warm with products that don’t really exist nor are in the make.

// examples

  1. ovation – is an office-software package from the early 1980s that was highly promoted for the first computers. It would look like MS-office that we use nowadays. Ovation is considered the ‘mother of all vaporware’ by Laurie Flynn from the New York Times. It might be even the reason the term vaporware was coined. 
  2. white iPhone 4 – when the iPhone 4 was introduced by Apple it included a black and white edition. Even if there was a huge demand for the white iPhone 4 it was launched 9 months later than the black one. Technical problems with the camera and UV-protection should have been the problem. 
  3. half-life 2 – episode 3 – Half-life is a science fiction FPS-game (first-person-shooter) that pleasantly surprised a lot of gamers in 1998 by its realistic worlds and movement. Despite the announcements of episode 3 and a large audience waiting for the new game, it never showed up. Now, ten years after its first announcement people still think it will be released. Someday.

Did you ever wait for a product that was never made? Check out this whole list of vaporware.  

Want to read more startup for dummies?

// pitch deck
// freemium
// disruptive technology
// pivot
// market penetration
// growth hacking
// HR Tech

Blog by: Alma