5 Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

Apple Continues Unwinnable War On Jailbreakers

Apple got smacked down by the U.S. Copyright Office last month in its bid to criminalize jailbreaking, but Steve Jobs' unflinching resolve has the company's patent lawyers busily looking for other ways to halt the practice.

A recent Apple patent filing could portend a future in which Apple could remotely kill iPhones if it detects that they've been jailbroken.

Apple's patent is for technology that would target "hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking or removal of a SIM card," according to the filing last week with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Attention jailbreakers and your copyright-flaunting ilk: No one messes with the Turtlenecked One and gets away with it. Steve Jobs will never, ever give up, understand?

Dell Aero: A Neon Sign That Shouts 'We Don't Get Mobile'

Dell is trying to make a splash in the mobility market, but it doesn't look like the company has a clue about what customers actually want. First came the Streak tablet/smartphone, and now comes Aero, a Google Android-powered smartphone.

The Aero's $99 price tag is attractive, but that's about it, smartphone fans. First off, Dell is making the Aero available only through AT&T, a company whose reputation inspires subscriber scorn like few others. But the real head-scratcher with Aero is that Dell has somehow seen fit to ship it with Android 1.5, a version that's so outdated it wouldn't be out of place in a museum.

OK, so Android 1.5 is only a year and half old, but the point here is that Dell isn't wowing anyone with a cheap smartphone that can't do a lot of things it'll need to in order to gain a following of enthusiasts. The Aero is going to have a tough time getting noticed in an increasingly crowded mobile market.

Novell Feels The Cold Pinch Of Uncertainty

Investors hate uncertainty more than 6-year-old kids hate spinach. It's the opposite of what they crave and makes them run, or at least shuffle, for the exits.

That was evident when Novell reported its fiscal third-quarter results this week and acknowledged that months of unrealized acquisition rumors had exerted a toll on its business.

For the third quarter ended July 31, Novell reported sales of $199 million, down 7.9 percent from the $216.1 million in sales the company recorded in the third quarter last year. Net income in the quarter fell 5.9 percent to $15.7 million from $16.7 million one year earlier.

The uncertainty caused Novell to lose some deals to competitors, while others were either delayed or completed with higher discounts. Novell has been playing a coquettish game with the legions of suitors that have been circling it over the course of the year, but it may have to bite the bullet soon and accept one of the offers.

C'Mon Facebook, What's With All The Dumb Lawsuits?

Facebook has been lawyering up a lot lately, and this week Facebook sued a Northbrook, Ill.-based company called Teachbook.com for using, you guessed it, the word "book" in its name.

Here's the most ridiculous part: Teachbook is a free online community designed for teachers, and it provides teaching tools and allows them to interact with parents and other teachers.

"We've been sitting here scratching our heads for the last couple of days," Greg Shrader, managing director of Teachbook.com, told the Chicago Tribune this week. "We're trying to understand how Facebook, a multibillion-dollar company, feels this small enterprise in Chicago is any type of threat."

Amazingly, that's not the only sneaky legal maneuvering that's going on over at Facebook: TechCrunch has found U.S. Patent and Trademark Office documents that show Facebook is actually trying to trademark the word "face".

HP, Dell Hell-Bent On Overpaying For 3Par

HP refuses to be defeated by Dell in the two giants' tussle over storage vendor 3Par. But Dell also refuses to lose, and the result is a back-and-forth bidding war that as of Friday afternoon had HP bidding $2 billion for 3Par, or $30 per share. That's about three times what 3Par was trading at when Dell made its initial offer. The bidding war is making analysts wonder if HP is trying to prove it can still win a deal without Mark Hurd at the helm, and industry watchers could also be forgiven for wondering if Dell has had its company water supply surreptitiously replaced with tequila. This is starting to look like an auction with two very rich people refusing to back down. 3Par's technology is highly regarded, but investors have to be wondering with trepidation how this situation is going to turn out.