Five Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

Microsoft's Cloud Apps Run Into Turbulence

Microsoft this week issued an apology for several recent outages affecting its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which includes cloud-based versions of Exchange, Sharepoint and Office Communication Server.

The first outage hit on Aug. 23 while Microsoft was upgrading the BPOS service. The remediation of that issue failed to identify a separate problem that led to two subsequent outages, the most recent of which hit on Sept. 7.

"We aspire to deliver quality services, and in the last couple of weeks, we have fallen short of this aspiration," said Morgan Cole, a Director with Microsoft’s Online Services team, in a blog post earlier this week.

Outages are unavoidable in today's cloud computing market, but Microsoft customers and partners are upset with the way the software giant is notifying them about the BPOS issues, and that's something that could erode faith in Microsoft's cloud capabilities.

HP Throws Legal Tantrum Over Hurd Going To Oracle

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was probably cackling with glee earlier this week after HP sued former CEO Mark Hurd for putting HP's "most valuable trade secrets and confidential information in peril."

Ellison subsequently called HP's lawsuit "vindictive," but he has to be delighted with the opportunity to bring Hurd into the Oracle fold. After Hurd resigned from HP last month, Ellison criticized HP for letting him go, claiming that "the HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago."

Hurd, who was named co-president of Oracle on Sept. 6, gives Oracle much-needed hardware experience and a loyal following of HP channel partners, some of whom are now considering following him into the realm of Oracle-Sun. Meanwhile, legal experts believe HP may have a difficult time proving its case against Hurd.

AT&T Call Quality Ranked Poorly In Survey

Dropped calls are on the rise, and that's causing people to switch to other wireless carriers. And according to a J.D. Power & Associates survey released this week, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel offer the best call quality in the country, while AT&T is ranked near the bottom in most areas.

The survey took into account such mobile annoyances as dropped calls; static/interference; failed call connection on the first try; voice distortion; echoes; no immediate voicemail notification; and no immediate text message notification.

It's the latest bit of negative publicity for AT&T, and adds to the likelihood of an iPhone subscriber stampede away from the carrier if the long-rumored Verizon iPhone does become reality.

Apple's Proclivity For Exclusivity Hurting iPhone 4 Sales

Despite the dent to Apple's image that 'AntennaGate' caused, the main reason people aren't buying more iPhone 4 devices is because they want avoid AT&T. That's the upshot of a Piper Jaffray survey published this week, which found that just 20 percent of the 258 mobile users polled were shunning the iPhone 4 because of concerns over antenna performance.

"Verizon is actually the most significant factor limiting demand," Piper Jaffray analysts said in the report.

Apple has never been a company that focuses on volume, and it's barely meeting current demand for the iPhone 4. But clearly, Apple would be selling a heck of a lot more iPhone 4s if it wasn't so tied to its secretive exclusivity deal with AT&T.

Google Crows About New Instant Search Feature

Google Instant debuted this week, and executives from the search giant could hardly contain their glee, heralding it as a "fundamental shift in search." But the idea behind Google Instant isn't new: Yahoo tried it out in 2005, and Microsoft developer Long Zheng last year built an app for Bing called The Real Live Search which does essentially the same thing.

Why is this bad for Google? Because it gives Microsoft another way to claim that Bing is keeping Google executives up at night. Microsoft gloated for weeks back in June after Google gave its users the option of altering its classic minimalist homepage design with colorful photos, and you can bet it's going to do the same with Google Instant.

Check out our roundup of vendors that came to win this week for a look at the companies that really brought their 'A' game.