Vaporware

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Vaporware describes products, usually computer hardware or software, not released on the date announced by their developer, or announced months or years before their release. The word usually implies a negative opinion of a product or developer, and pessimistic uncertainty that it will eventually be released. The word has been applied to a growing range of products including consumer electronics, automobiles, and some stock trading practices.

Publications widely accuse developers of announcing products early intentionally to gain advantage over others. Network World magazine called vaporware an "epidemic" in 1989, and blamed the press for not investigating whether developers' claims were true. Seven major companies issued a report in 1990 saying they felt vaporware had hurt the industry's credibility. The United States accused several companies of announcing vaporware early in violation of antitrust laws, but few have been found guilty. InfoWorld magazine wrote that the word is overused, and places an unfair stigma on developers.

Vaporware was coined by a Microsoft engineer in 1982 to describe the company's Xenix operating system, and first published by computer expert Esther Dyson in 1983. It became popular among writers in the industry as a way to describe products they felt took too long to be released. InfoWorld magazine editor Stewart Alsop helped popularize it by lampooning Bill Gates with a Golden Vaporware award for the late release of his company's first version of Windows in 1985. Vaporware first implied intentional fraud when it was applied to the Ovation office suite in 1983; the suite's demonstration was well-received by the press, but was later revealed to have never existed.

Contents

Etymology

The first reported use of the word vaporware was in 1982 by an engineer at the computer software company Microsoft.[1] Ann Winblad, who was president of Open Systems Accounting Software, wanted to know if Microsoft planned to stop developing its Xenix operating system. Some of Open System's products depended on it. She went to Microsoft's offices, and asked two software engineers there, John Ulett and Mark Ursino, who confirmed that development of Xenix had stopped. "One of them told me, 'Basically, it's vaporware'," she later said. Winblad compared the word to the idea of "selling smoke", implying Microsoft was selling a product it would soon not support.[2]

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