Five Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

HP Shuns Insiders, Taps Another Outsider As CEO

HP this week hired Leo Apotheker, the former top exec of software vendor SAP, as its president and CEO. Despite the wealth of highly qualified internal candidates, HP for the third consecutive time decided that an outside candidate would be best equipped to lead the company.

HP passed over candidates such as Ann Livermore, executive vice president of its enterprise business; Vyomesh Joshi, head of its printer business, and Todd Bradley, head of its PC division.

Reading between the lines, HP wants to boost its sagging software business with industry wisdom from an experienced software veteran. But Apotheker, who resigned from SAP in February, was reportedly not well-loved by SAP employees and was also responsible for delays in SAP’s Business ByDesign on demand apps.

In announcing his resignation, Apotheker acknowledged the tension: "The pace of change was rapid, probably too rapid for some. My communication towards you was not always optimal and the results of the employee survey did not completely come as a surprise to me given what happened during the time of the survey."

Exodus Of Top Executives Continues At Yahoo

The fleeing of executive leadership over at Yahoo continued this week with the departure of Executive Vice President Hilary Schneider, U.S. Audience head David Ko and Vice President of Media Jimmy Pitaro.

Kara Swisher of The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital this week suggested that the departures could shake the foundations of CEO Carol Bartz's leadership.

"This entire mess -- and that’s precisely what it is -- calls into question the tenure of Bartz, a tough-talking, cost-cutting exec who was brought in to clean up Yahoo after the maelstrom around the failed takeover attempt by Microsoft several years ago," Swisher wrote in a blog post this week.

Microsoft Caught Fudging Windows Live Spaces Blog Numbers

When does 7 million actually mean 300,000? When it's Microsoft trying to inflate the usage figures for a discontinued product.

Microsoft this week said it's discontinuing its Windows Live Spaces blogging platform and moving its 7 million active Windows Live Spaces blogs over to Automattic’s WordPress platform. The fact that WordPress runs on Linux servers didn't go over well with Microsoft employees, according to internal emails published by Betanews this week.

To quell the discord, a Microsoft senior manager told employees the number of active Windows Live Spaces users is actually closer to 300,000. Of course, many companies inflate sales figures, but in this case Microsoft appears to have done WordPress a disservice, which is all the more surprising given that Automattic was an early Windows Azure partner.

RIM Chums Mobile Waters With PlayBook Tease

Research In Motion's leap into the tablet market this week stirred considerable fanfare. By as many industry watchers have noted, the video RIM played at the Playbook launch event never actually shows the tablet being used.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis brought a Playbook onstage and held it up for all to see, but he didn't spend much time showing how it works and what it's capable of. No word on pricing, and a vague "early 2011" release time frame add to the mystery.

RIM is taking a page from the Microsoft playbook here, pre-announcing a product well in advance of its release and being coquettishly non-committal about features so as not to set unrealistic expectations. But even Microsoft has come to realize that this approach just ends up frustrating customers and leading to negative perceptions of the product.

Sneaky Google Android Apps Sending User Data To Advertisers

A report published this week by researchers from Penn State, Duke University, and Intel Labs found that some popular third party Google Android apps are surreptitiously sending user data to advertising servers.

Researchers found that 15 of the 30 apps they studied send users' location data to advertising servers, while seven Android apps captured and transmitted device IDs, as well as phone numbers and the serial numbers of SIM cards. The study also noted that Android users aren't aware that the apps are gathering this data.

Google insists that it provides a code of best practices to Android app developers on how to responsibly handle user data. But best practices doesn't equate to enforcement. Apple gets criticized for some of its App Store policies, but do you think it would allow this sort of thing to go on?