FORTUNE -- To hear some in Silicon Valley tell it, hardware is the new software. In other words, after years of taking a backseat to the splashy launches of countless websites, apps, and the cloud, innovation on the hardware side is ramping up again. Is it? Several high-profile launches have stumbled. Here are three examples that prove how hard hardware really is.
Exhibit A: The Jawbone UP
When Jawbone, the San Francisco-based purveyor of wireless devices, originally launched its head-turning, movement-sensing wristband in 2011, the company found itself in the middle of a firestorm. Put simply, users complained that the device didn't work. (Anecdotally, every 3 out of 5 users I spoke to in the device's early days complained to me about the problem.) The outcry was so widespread, Jawbone recalled the product just a month after, offered refunds, and relaunched a redesigned version late last year. Certainly that was a smart move on Jawbone's part, but for UP, it's fair to say the damage has been done.
Exhibit B: Pebble
When we wrote about Pebble last month, we said that the next wave of hardware -- wearable computing -- was already here, Google (GOOG) Project Glass and Apple (AAPL) iWatch be damned. While the firm's 11 full-time employees have shipped over 75,000 watches to date, reviews call the device a great concept that needs improvement. Some argue the display could be sharper, the standard watch band less cheap-feeling. App selection remains limited, and the watch has proven to have some connection issues, at least with iOS devices. To be fair, the company's main goal this year is to help developers create better software features for the Pebble, but skeptics remain. "What Pebble has done is captured tremendous excitement from developers and early tech adopters," says Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst, who argues that isn't indicative of broader mass-market success. "It doesn't have all the fuctionality yet of something one would expect to be an extension of your smartphone."
Exhibit C: Ouya
The $99 home video game console spearheaded by game industry vet Julie Uhrman generated tons of buzz when it was announced last July. The idea: create a video game console for people who don't want to shell out hundreds and employ an accessible, Android-based open-source development environment so even frugal grassroots coders could put out a game. While the official consumer release isn't until June, units have already begun shipping to Kickstarter backers, and early reviews haven't been so kind. "The controller needs work, the interface is a mess, and have I mentioned there's really nothing to do with the thing?" wrote The Verge, which gave the console a mediocre 3.5 out of 10 rating. Ouya shot back, stating the pre-release hardware being sent out was just that -- pre-release -- and Uhrman clarified in a separate blog post that things like convoluted game install processes will be fixed come summer, but it's clear the startup has a lot of work to do between now and then.
This isn't to say there won't be a hardware "reawakening," of course. Plenty of companies like Pebble and Ouya are working on hardware that could ultimately prove revolutionary. But the "hardware renaissance" has some way to go yet.
What do you think, Fortune readers? Chime in with comments below.
Back from China with tales of iWatches, iTVs, fingerprint IDs and iPhones in three sizes.
FORTUNE -- I can never tell with analysts who go on extended walkabouts in the Far East if they're getting the inside dope from their contacts in Apple's (AAPL) supply chain or if they're just getting spun.
Case in point: Topeka Capital's Brian White, who has been filing dispatches from China and Taiwan for more than a week.
On MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 9, 2013 11:25 AM ET
Topeka's Brian White is sticking with $888. Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi is still at $725.
FORTUNE -- After a string of analysts dropping their price targets in lockstep with Apple's (AAPL) falling shares, it's refreshing to hear from a couple of guys who haven't lowered their targets. Or at least not lately.
Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi ($725, down from $800 last December) weighed in Tuesday with his views on the much-rumored Apple iWatch. He's MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 19, 2013 12:53 PM ET
Google's Project Glass and Apple's rumored watch have promise. But high-tech wearables are already here with the success of Kickstarter-funded Pebble.
FORTUNE -- The first time Eric Migicovsky saw his watch in the wild was at Toronto's Pearson Airport last February. Disembarking a late-night flight, he ran into someone sporting a Pebble on his wrist. "The guy saw me and was like, 'Good work. I just got mine the other day,'" MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 13, 2013 9:17 AM ET
Bloomberg does the math and says an iWatch would be a better bet for Apple than an iTV
FORTUNE -- Led by Peter Burrows, a veteran tech reporter with more than two decades under his belt, Bloomberg has taken a second crack at the Apple (AAPL) iWatch story that the New York Times and Wall Street Journal broke three weeks ago.
Bloomberg's contribution that first week was a report, sourced by two people "familiar with the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 4, 2013 7:30 AM ET
Could this be the iWatch we've been hearing so much about?
FORTUNE -- Early Thursday morning, AppleInsider's Mikey Campbell came across a patent filed by Apple (AAPL) in August 2011 that sounds a lot like the touchscreen iWatch Apple is rumored to be building using Corning's (GLW) flexible Willow glass. It also looks a lot like the slap bracelets my kids used to wear when they were in grade school.Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 21, 2013 7:13 AM ET
Also: Why Apple's alleged iWatch doesn't scare Pebble; AOL buys gdgt blog.
Apple updates processors and prices of MacBook Pro with Retina Display [APPLE]
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now starts at $1,499 for 128GB of flash, and $1,699 for a new 2.6 GHz processor and 256GB of flash. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display now features a faster 2.4 GHz quad-core processor, and the top-of-the-line 15-inch notebook comes with MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 13, 2013 2:23 PM ET
There's no product, but the usual suspects are already measuring its failure and success
FORTUNE -- That didn't take long.
The ink had hardly dried on the New York Times' and the Wall Street Journal's reports that Apple (AAPL) might be working on a wrist watch-size iOS device when the handicappers swooped in for the kill.
Two reports caught my eye:The Motley Fool's 5 Reasons Why Apple's iWatch Will Fail. "I can't bring myself MORE Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 12, 2013 6:11 AM ET
Five theories on the timing of all these stories about an iOS device for the wrist
FORTUNE -- In case you hadn't noticed, there's been a lot of buzz in the tech press over the past two weeks about the wrist watch-size computer Apple (AAPL) may or may not be preparing for release, culminating over the weekend with a pair of stories in the New York Times and the Wall Street MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 11, 2013 6:15 AM ET
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