101 dumbest moments in business: Tech
The year in shenanigans, skulduggery, and just plain stupidity in the world of technology.
13. The furor dies down, but only after Sony says that the real intent was to prevent the spread of the malicious Celine Dion virus.Sony BMG installs software on its CDs "to prevent unlimited copying and unauthorized redistribution," but the cure is worse than the disease: The software makes customers' PCs vulnerable to hackers and viruses. Software maker Internet Security Systems labels Sony's program malicious because it "actively attempts to hide its presence from users." Ultimately, Sony offers uninstall software and has to recall millions of albums, including The Invisible Invasion, by the Coral; Healthy in Paranoid Times, by Our Lady Peace; and On Ne Change Pas (One Does Not Change), by Celine Dion.
15. A perfectly good orgy of violence and mayhem, ruined.In June a Dutch programmer releases software that lets players of Take-Two Interactive's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas access sexually explicit content left in the game's source code by its developers. Already marked "Mature" for "blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, and use of drugs," the game gets rerated "Adults Only," causing Target and Wal-Mart to pull it from stores. Take-Two's quarterly revenues fall $40 million short of projections.
18. Perhaps they should change the motto to "Don't be stupid."
19. "Don't be stupid" keeps sounding better and better.In July, Google informs CNET that it will prohibit company employees from talking to its reporters for a full year. Why the boycott? In an article about Google's privacy practices, CNET reporter Elinor Mills demonstrated the kind of personal information that can be found online by googling CEO Eric Schmidt, revealing his $1.5 billion net worth, details of his attendance at a $10,000-a-plate fund-raiser for Al Gore, and -- gasp! -- his passion for flying airplanes. In September, facing criticism for hypocrisy and overreaction, Schmidt cuts short the silent treatment and grants Mills an interview.
26. And maybe the cops come three days later and find you stabbed to death on your kitchen floor."If there's a burglar in my home, maybe I send an e-mail or a text message to the police instead of making a call." -- Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, on his VOIP service's lack of 911 access.
40. Just google him. We hear it really ticks him off."F---ing Eric Schmidt is a f---ing pussy. I'm going to f---ing bury that guy, I have done it before and I will do it again. I'm going to f---ing kill Google." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in response to the departure of Mark Lucovsky, a former Microsoft "distinguished engineer" who left last year to work at Google. The alleged aria, punctuated by the tossing of a chair, was cited in a sworn statement by Lucovsky that became public during court hearings over another Microsoft-to-Google defection in September. Microsoft denies Lucovsky's version of the incident.
41. If that's what you mean by f---ing killing someone, would you mind f---ing killing us next?In February, Microsoft unveils a new version of MSN search, developed at a cost of $100 million, in an attempt to take market share from Google. MSN's share of Internet search traffic promptly drops by a full percentage point.
43. Good news, kids: You can flunk out of kindergarten and still grow up to become the CEO of a major tech company!"We're grabbing that word and saying, of anybody, we own the word 'share.'" --Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, discussing his company's open-source strategy.
46. No, no. I said, "May I see my ID?"New Jersey payroll services provider Automatic Data Processing sends postcards to more than 1,000 employees of Adecco Employment Services, a global human resources firm, printed with the employees' Social Security numbers and instructions for accessing their benefits information online.
98. Call it a merger of equals.A few weeks after eZiba.com sends out its winter catalog, the call center's pin-drop silence begins to worry execs. As it turns out, a bug in a program designed to identify the best prospects on eZiba's mailing list led to the catalog instead being sent to those deemed least likely to respond. "Sadly, our probability estimates were correct," says eZiba founder Dick Sabot. On Jan. 14, eZiba suspends operations while seeking new investors to cover its cash shortfall. Overstock.com later buys the retailer's assets for $500,000.
101. Little Big ManIn September, as the result of a typo in a spreadsheet, Electronic Arts issues an update to Madden NFL 06 that reduces 6-foot-3, 305-pound New York Jets lineman Michael King to a height of 7 inches. The next day, EA fixes the bug -- to a chorus of complaints from customers who enjoyed watching the shin-high blocker get steamrollered by full-size players such as seven-time All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Next: 101 Dumbest Moments in Business: Full list >>
From the February 1, 2006 issue