What it was: A “network entertainment center,” based on the promising but ill-fated BeOS platform, with a keyboard, mouse, portrait-shaped display, dial-up connection, and built-in applications. Oh, and a name that reminded me of Cruella de Vil.
Announced: January 2001. After several delays, it shipped on June 14, 2001.
What they said when it was new: “Sony’s e Villa unit eliminates the common hassles of connecting to the Internet, like having to boot up and dial in just to see if there’s new email, or trying to manage multi-media plug-ins.”—Mark Viken, president of Sony Electronics’ Personal Network Solutions Company
Died: August 30th, 2001.
What they said when they killed it: The product did not meet our expectations…It did not operate as planned.”
Why it really failed: By the time that eVilla and much-hyped competitors such as Audrey (see next item!) actually shipped, it was pretty clear that the consumers of the era didn’t want appliances. They wanted cheap Windows PCs. Sony said that one plausible reason for it losing interest—after eVilla’s release, BeOS was bought by Palm, a division of Audrey maker 3Com—was not a factor.
Was it a tragedy it bit the big one? Doesn’t seem to have been one, although BeOS was a nice piece of software and it would have been cool if it had found success on something.
The aftermath: Sony did the right thing and gave eVilla buyers a refund for the price of the device and its Internet service.