Wikipedia’s definition of vaporware:
Vaporware is a word used to describe products, usually computer hardware or software, not released on the date announced by their developer, or announced months or years before their release.
This morning the lead story on Techmeme is the news that HP is killing off their Windows 7 tablet and Microsoft is killing their Courier tablet product.
There is a long history of vaporware in this business. The Palm Foleo is another good example. Unfortuntately it happens all the time with big companies.
While some big companies (may) get away with vaporware backlash from time to time we know they will continue to do it and somehow they get away with it.
On the other hand, startups do not get away with it. Get a vaporware badge as a startup and you’re dead. A startups early community of users and customers are and feel joined at the hip with the company. So when a founder says we are building xyz, they need to do just that.
Many startups often stay mum about new products coming down the pike. They don’t want to give their secrets away too early or their might be too much risk associated with the schedule which might change.
But if that product becomes significantly delayed or if the project gets canceled, I believe the company should communicate why they made their decision, clearly and directly. That’s the best way to handle it and avoid the vaporware stigma.