What it was: A $300 radio that pulled in stations from the Net using RealNetworks technology. It could work on either dial-up or broadband.
Announced: February 7th, 2000 at the DEMO conference.
What they said when it was new: “Kerbango intends to be a driving force in helping Internet radio fulfill its promise, by making it easy to find and listen to Internet audio without needing a computer.”
Died: March 21st, 2001, without having shipped. (In between its announcement and demise, it was repeatedly delayed, 3Com bought it for $80 million, magazines kept covering it as if it were available, it was listed on Amazon, and it won Best of Show at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. Whew!)
What they said when they killed it: 3Com said it was offing Kerbango (as well as Audrey—see below) as part of an effort to save $250 million. It decided to get out of the home-products business after a lousy quarter.
Why it really failed: It wasn’t a shocker to see a big-iron networking company like 3Com decide to get out of the consumer market. But I’m still curious why Kerbango spent over a year as high-profile vaporware. (One obvious problem: It really wanted broadband, in an era when few people had broadband.)
Was it a tragedy it bit the big one? I never saw the Kerbango in action, but I liked the idea. Other similar products such as the Roku SoundBridge eventually made it to the market, but none were particularly successful. Today, Sonos makes products that are pretty close to achieving what Kerbango failed at.
The aftermath: HP eventually bought 3Com, and if you try to go to Kerbango.com today you end up at HP’s homepage—which poignantly links the Kerbango radio to the TouchPad.
Next Sony eVilla (2001)