2010 Departures: People, Products and Brands We Said Good-Bye To
Here are 20 departures from 2010 that we'll miss (some more than others):
For those who believed that talk radio was dominated by conservatives, Air America came as a breath of fresh, liberal air. Its content was decidedly progressive, starring such notables as comedian-turned-senator Al Franken. Apparently, however, liberal-speak didn't pay the bills, and the network went dark in January of 2010.Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse
Bob Guccione, who died Oct. 27, was a visionary, and his vision was XXX-rated. Starting in the 1960s, he guided his premiere publication, Penthouse, into that seamy seam between the too-perfect, coy models of Playboy and outright porn at a time when the restrictions governing what could appear in magazines were collapsing.
His empire of sleaze was at one time worth hundreds of millions of dollars, money Guccione squandered in unwise investments. He eventually lost much of his audience to the overwhelming amount of free porn available on the Internet.
Liz Claiborne outlets
All 87 Liz Claiborne outlet stores are scheduled to close by early 2011. The company will market its brand name lines exclusively through JCPenney. Other properties owned by the company, including Juicy Couture, Lucky Brands and Kate Spade, will continue business as usual.
Pontiac, Mercury and Hummer
In the wake of the American auto manufacturers' precipitous downward spiral, a number of treasured car brands were retired among them: Pontiac, Mercury and Hummer.
GM's Pontiac brand began back in 1926, and was best known for its high-performance models like the legendary GTO. Mercury, made by Ford, was mostly the same make of car as Ford, just with different trim and amenities. The brand was priced somewhere between the more affordable Ford and the luxury Lincoln lines.
The Hummer brand was originally applied to military vehicles produced by AM General, particularly the famous HMMWV (Hum-Vee). GM bought the rights to the name in 1998 and put out a line of street-legal vehicles mimicking the design of the military vehicles. In the wake of its reorganization, GM attempted (without success, obviously) to sell the brand, and so retired it this year.
U.S. News and World Report
When is a magazine not a magazine? When it quits publishing a paper edition. That's the decision that the U.S. New and World Report came to this year when it decided to become an online-only journal, except for a few special editions. An offshoot of United States News, which began in 1933, the magazine had gradually morphed from a weekly to a monthly. Now, it's a none-thly.
Fred Morrison, the inventor of the Frisbee
You've likely never heard of Fred Morrison, who died Feb. 9, but it's likely that you and perhaps your dog have spent hours enjoying the product of his imagination. It was Morrison who first realized the commercial potential behind the aerodynamics of a light, hollow disc. His invention, the Frisbee, became a mainstay in the toy chests of children and adults around the world.
The erstwhile Mr. Goodwrench has represented quality service for all of the brands under the GM mantle since 1974. The figure came to represent the best of American know-how, grease-monkey style. Now, however, GM is retiring Mr. Goodwrench, so that it can promote service tied to each specific brand. You'll soon see ads for Buick Certified Service and the like, rather than one program that covers all the GM brands.
The Sony Walkman
Before there were iPods and smartphones and MP3 players, an entire generation of music lovers were liberated to listen to their music wherever they wanted by the Walkman cassette player. This portable player -- and its imitators -- finally allowed us to tune in and drop out wherever we chose, and started the headphone revolution.
Earlier this year, however, Sony made its last Walkman. While you may be able to find them for sale for a while in less-developed countries, the Walkman will walk no more in the U.S.
When George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973 they were a sorry lot, and had been for some time. It's hard to remember those sad Bronx Bombers now, because Steinbrenner's willingness to spend money and his sometimes-overwhelming drive to win turned the franchise into consistent champions. He died July 13.
The team he bought for $8.7 million was, at the time of his death this year, the most valuable sports franchise in the world, worth an estimated $1.6 billion. While fans of other teams around the country still curse his name for poaching their stars, many secretly wish they'd been fortunate enough to have him buy their team.
McDonald's has mastered the art of the tease with its McRib sandwich. It makes a fleeting appearance, as it did in October of 2010, and just as the public develops a taste for the menu offering, the McRib is pulled back off the menu. How much longer can the chain frustrate customers with this taunting?
Harley-Davidson has a problem; its image is too restrictive. Known for its road-cruisers, its dealers lacked products that appealed to the sport-racing crowd. To tap into this group, the company bought out the small company that makes Buell motorcycles in 2003.
The Buell line, while never a market leader in performance, offered serviceable bikes. But lack of innovation and marketing kept it a niche product within the Harley stable, and sales never reached the hoped-for levels. As the company struggled through the recession -- it was hammered by decreased sales and loan defaults -- Harley was finally forced to shelve the brand.
For all its computer industry savvy, Microsoft hasn't had much in the way of success in selling hardware that makes use of its software. But that hasn't stopped the company from trying. It took the bold step of designing its own phone, sold through Verizon but oddly not using Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 platform.
The phone, which received poor reviews, failed to find traction in a field increasingly dominated by Apple's iPhone and phones using Google's Android program. After just a few weeks on the open market, the company withdrew the Kin.
Glen W. Bell Jr.
Glen W. Bell Jr. started selling tacos out of the window of his fast-food hamburger shop in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1951. By 1978, he had built his chain of fast food restaurants, called Taco Bell, into 868 outlets. Bell, who eventually sold his chain to PepsiCo, died Jan. 17. The company is now owned by Yum! Brands.
Many companies decided to stick with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system after Vista was launched, complaining that the new version was bloated and buggy. Microsoft continued to provide support for Windows XP and continued to sell the product for use in very low price-point computers until late in 2010. While Microsoft will continue to support XP for several more years, the best-loved version of Windows is history.
Bookstores are in trouble, thanks to digital readers, online vendors and a general decline in reading as a pastime. This year saw the closing of one of the nation's largest bookstore chains, B. Dalton. At one time, B. Dalton claimed 798 stores in shopping malls and other locations across the country. The chain was owned by Barnes & Noble when the ax fell.
Remember the days when, to see a film at home, you had to trudge to the video rental store for a VHS version of, say, Ghostbusters? For Movie Gallery, those were the good old days. Before Netflix and Redbox and streaming video.
But those days are gone. In 2010 the company filed for bankruptcy for the second time, and subsequently announced it was closing all of its locations.
At one time this rental chain had more than 4,500 outlets, second only to industry leader Blockbuster. It also owned Hollywood Video, which also shut its doors in 2010.
How many economists does it take to build Disneyland and Disney World? One, and that economist was Harrison Price, who passed away on Aug. 15.
It was Price who recommended the location for both of Disney's U.S. parks, as well as its Tokyo park, after Walt Disney and his brother Roy hired him to determine the economic feasibility of the projects. The company he founded eventually consulted on more than 3,000 projects, including the 1964 New York World's Fair, SeaWorld, Six Flags and Universal Studios.
AirTran began as ValuJet in 1992. After a devastating crash in the Florida Everglades in 1996, it was found to have significant quality problems due to its extreme cost-cutting. After merging with Airways Corp. in 1997, it changed its name to AirTran.
AirTran worked on the narrowest of margins, providing direct competition to discount carrier Southwest. It's no surprise, then, that Southwest chose to buy AirTran in order to reduce competition and expand its services. While AirTran will continue to operate as an independent airline while the $1.4 billion transaction passes muster, it's only a matter of time before the AirTran brand is retired.
The next time you step up to an ATM, thank John Shepherd-Barron. Because of him, we no longer need to write checks to ourselves for cash, or carry large wads of bills or buy traveler's checks.
He came up with the idea while soaking in the bathtub in the early 1960's. At the time, he was an employee of Del La Rue Instruments. The first ATM was installed in Barlclays Bank north of London, England, in 1967. He died May 15.
Google Nexus One
Google has had so many bold new ideas that have been successful that it seems odd that its foray into the smartphone field, the Google Nexus One, was such an incredible flop.
The phone itself wasn't the innovation; it mimicked other smartphones. The marketing was the innovation. The company attempted to sell the phones directly to consumers, at full cost, instead of going through cell phone providers. Since the phone wasn't paid for a little at a time as part of a two-year contract, the full price ($529) dissuaded many customers. The company discontinued the direct sale after a few months.