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.
Fortune's curated selection of newsworthy tech stories from the last 24 hours. Sign up to get the round-up delivered to you every day.
* Amazon (AMZN) is launching an e-book library today exclusively for Kindle and Kindle Fire users who are also Amazon Prime subscribers. Initially, the e-commerce giant will offer just 5,000 or so titles -- none of them from the six big publishing houses will. Each user will also only be MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 3, 2011 3:57 AM ET
The San Francisco-based startup has already branched out from its origins as a maker of tony headsets. But for its next product, it's making a big bet on an untested market.
FORTUNE -- Jawbone made a name for itself cranking out high-quality, head-turning wireless devices: first with a successful line of Bluetooth headsets, then with a portable speaker that quickly became a must-have gadget late last year.
Now, the San Francisco-based company MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 3, 2011 12:00 AM ET
How does design drive new ideas? Yves Behar, founder of Fuseproject, Deep Nishar, senior vice president of products and user experience for LinkedIn, and Hosain Rahman, c0-founder and CEO of Jawbone explored this notion at a breakfast roundtable at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo.Jul 21, 2011 1:10 PM ET
Jawbone's latest offering, the Jambox, is a Bluetooth speaker. But that description belies just how badly you'll want one.
There have been two reactions from people that occur without fail during the 12 hours a bright blue Jambox has been sitting on my desk. The first is some form of, "Whoa, what is it?" I then explain it is a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, and yes, the music that is pumping out of MOREMichael V. Copeland, Senior Writer - Nov 5, 2010 12:52 PM ET
|Microsoft unveils new Xbox One game console|
|The Obamacare myth about small business|
|Make $30 an hour, no bachelor's degree required|
|Judge rules Airbnb illegal in New York City|
|JPMorgan's Dimon wins by a landslide|