Boeing would be a different company today if it had launched any of the aircraft that were proposed before the 787.
It was its failure to divert airline attention from the Airbus A3XX with the ultra-large 747-500X/600X in 1996 and the less-ambitious 747X in 2000 that led the company to focus on the middle of the market, where it had experienced success with the 767.
The failure of its derivative approach to product development led Boeing, in March 2001, to propose the Sonic Cruiser, a dramatically different aircraft designed for high-speed point-to-point services.
With its cranked-arrow wing, the 250-seat, Mach 0.95-0.98 twinjet was expected to fly 15-20% faster than the 777 over similar ranges using a similar amount of fuel, saving more than an hour on transcontinental routes, 2h on transatlantic flights and 3h on transpacific journeys.
Although Airbus accused Boeing of trying to divert attention from the launch of the A380 and cancellation of the 747X with an unrealistic design, the aircraft captured the airlines' imagination. But in the aftermath of 9/11, airlines decided to switch their attention from speed to costs.
Offered a choice between the Sonic Cruiser and the Super Efficient, a design that used the same technology to provide a 15-20% reduction in operating costs at normal speeds, airlines picked the latter and Boeing shelved the high-speed aircraft in December 2002, introducing the 7E7 in its place.