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The Top Tech Controversies of 2010

The Top Tech Controversies of 2010

photo: Wonderlane/Flickr (CC)

Rob Enderle/IT Business Edge

December 29, 2010

This was a drama-filled year and I imagine a lot of people will look back on it and be very glad that it is over. Let’s revisit some of the big ones. And with each trip down memory lane, I’m going to suggest a title for a new reality TV or game show

AppleGates: A Geeky Sitcom

Over the last couple of decades, if you were to say “Apple” and “Gates” you would be talking about some conflict, loan or meeting between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I guess Apple was going through withdrawal this year with Bill Gates off doing massive charity work because it had both “Antennagate” and “ScreenGate” associated with the new iPhone 4. Given that the iPhone was consistently the top-rated phone in its segment, the problems were hardly the Watergate variety. The problems simply showcased that Apple PR can’t do containment and that even small problems can get out of control. Granted, the story on Apple having what appeared to be its own private police force – which didn’t have to follow California law and could break into bloggers’ homes – added that extra spice and had us wondering whether Steve Jobs’ elevator still went to the top floor. It almost seemed like Apple’s PR department was trying to create an Apple-based reality TV show. How about “101 Ways to Piss Off Steve Jobs”?

Google: Rip-off – A Crazy Game Show Where Rich Kids End Up with Your Stuff

Now, you would think that a firm that basically made its money selling access to its customers’ personal information would be more low-profile about its practices. Google’s CEO all but bragged that only his own information and that of the top Google executives were off limits and that your information was his to do with as he pleased. Google Street View cars were chased out of European neighborhoods with pitchforks and scuba gear (you can’t make this stuff up) and the Street View data was used to scan homes for information about Wi-Fi access points. It seemed like Google was jealous of all of the government attention Microsoft got last decade and felt left out. This is like someone watching their neighbor go through a nasty divorce or IRS audit, and thinking, “Gee, that looks like fun. I want in.” I still find it fascinating that Google’s business model appears to be largely based on selling stuff that actually belongs to us. Think about it.

HP/Oracle: The Mistresses of Silicon Valley

This was the gift that kept on giving. First, you take a very conservative company like HP, then you take a location like Silicon Valley where the CEOs get mistresses as perks, add a dash of pretty reality TV star, and finally add a pinch of a semi–nuts billionaire and stir like crazy. What you get are letters to the New York Times suggesting that CEOs should have jobs for life, a famous reality show starlet, a fired high-profile CEO who is hired by the crazy billionaire, and a war between two vendors that mostly don’t even sell the same core products.

It looked to me like Oracle saw all the fun Sun had going on after Microsoft and figured its executives needed something else dramatic to occupy their time. And given that the very conservative IT buyers that both firms serve just love scandal (that’s sarcasm, if anyone missed it), why not scare the crap out of them? This could actually be a reality show, and I’m pitching “The Mistresses of Silicon Valley." Although, maybe I should rethink this and pitch “Punked: Oracle Edition." I may be late as others apparently are already pitching that concept. Ashton Kutcher had better watch out for Larry.

WikiLeaks: Let’s Play “Shoot the Messenger!”

It is nice to see the Republicans and Democrats agreeing on something, but one would hope that something had to do with, oh I don’t know, economic reform, health care or keeping my butt alive. But, no, they seem to agree that WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization and that its founder should be brought to justice. Many of us disagree, and suddenly I’m a fan of Ron Paul. Julian Assange’s crime was telling the world what the U.S. government had been actually doing for a couple of years. Granted, after reading some of the material and the government attacks, I seriously wonder if many of these elected and appointed officials have even a remote connection to reality. In any case, the more work that went into taking WikiLeaks out, the more visible the documents became and the more people that spoke out against the government. Certainly, it made the transparency claim of the current administration seem less than honest and Sarah Palin jumped into the fray, arguing that she’d be better at doing cover-ups. I’m thinking it might have been better to argue that she’d be more honest, but that is just me. But then again, Sarah Palin is a reality TV show star.

Wrapping Up: Screwed – A Christmas Carol

The past year was full of drama and it did seem like the major companies were either trying to create or live in reality TV shows of their own making. Even the U.S. government got on the bandwagon where its bad behavior seemed to mirror programs like “Jersey Shore” or “Glee.” Maybe 2011’s best reality TV/game show should be called “Screwed," much like the movie by the same name.

I’m actually hoping that next year will have a little less funny material, how about you?

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