Failure to Launch: 5 Most Embarrassing Tech Events

For some odd reason, many tech companies are physically incapable of hosting a product launch event without turning it into some type of cringe-worthy Vaudeville show, complete with silly skits, half-baked marketing videos and irrelevant street performances. While we tech journalists usually just snicker at these awkward moments and move on, some of the stinkiest bombs are hard to forget.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 "unpacked" extravaganza at Radio City Hall is just the most recent example of a product launch event that was chock-full of awkward. These are the 5 worst tech launch event moments, starting with this week's debacle.

1. Samsung Galaxy S4 Unpacked

The shlocky sketches at Samsung's Galaxy S4 launch event, which featured women extolling the virtues of the phone's gesture control because "my nails are drying," made many of my colleagues do more than just cringe. Molly Wood of CNET wrote that the Radio City Music hall event "served up more '50s-era stereotypes about women than I can count, and packaged them all as campy Broadway caricatures of the most, yes, offensive variety."

Mobile Geeks' Nicole Scott posted a video about the controversy, saying "they presented us with stereotype after stereotype, basically demeaning women" and the Atlantic's Rebecca Greenfield wrote a story titled "Samsung Puts Women in Their Place During Galaxy S IV Launch."  

The video above is filled with cringe-worthy moments from start to finish. However, I think the "bachelorette" party skit was particularly horrifying. 

MORE: 12 Best New Features of the Galaxy S4

2. ASUS Taichi Launch at Computex 2012

If you can tell me what's actually happening in this skit about ASUS' Taichi, the dual-screened notebook, please tell me in the comments. However, here's my working theory. There's a mother who is working at her desk, and her teenage daughter comes in, stares at the lid of her notebook and sees something interesting on the Taichi's back-facing screen. She then starts annoying the mother, to which the mother tells her to "just keep doing what you're doing."  

Is the daughter supposed to just sit there and stare at the back of the mom's lid to keep herself entertained? After the skit ends, ASUS CEO Johnny Shih promises to explain "what is going on here," but never does.

3. Qualcomm's Born Mobile Keynote at CES 2013

If Bruce Springsteen was born to run and Greg Allman was born a rambling man, today's generation of young adults is "born mobile." Or at least that's the point Qualcomm was trying to make during a CES 2013 keynote where actors portraying three types of mobile user -- a gamer, a social networking fiend and a young entrepreneur -- came on stage to beat the audience into submission with ham-handed platitudes.

Thrill to the socialite, saying "It's not just about making calls, it's about serious stuff like texting and liking and Skyping" or the gamer who has to remind us that he doesn't live in his parents' basement and he has a girlfriend that's "El Fuego." Gag me with a chipset!

Oh, and did I mention that Big Bird showed up later at the keynote to demonstrate a Big Bird app. Good thing Mitt Romney wasn't in attendance.

MORE: The 12 Best Gadgets You Didn't Buy

4. Samsung's IFA 2012 Gesture TV Demo

To demonstrate the gesture control features on its TV, Samsung first shows a commercial where a woman is gesturing at her TV, but it looks like she is beckoning at the men in the office building across from her window. The men all rush over to her house, knocking each other over to get to her when they realize that she was just controlling her TV, not coming on to them.

What's worse? The commercial itself or the part where Samsung brings the model from the video on stage in an evening gown to tell us how much she loves their TVs? I'm not sure.

MORE: 4 Reasons Not to Upgrade to the Galaxy S4

5. iPhone 4 WWDC Launch: Steve Jobs Yells at the Press

PR rule #1: Don't yell at the press, unless . . . you're Steve Jobs. At Apple's iPhone 4 launch event in 2010, Jobs had difficulty performing some demos on the new handset and, rather than blame his IT staff for not providing him with adequate connectivity, he blamed reporters in the audience for using Wi-Fi. He then proceeded to instruct the assembled reporters to turn off their notebooks and place them under their chairs like a bunch of bad children.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.