5 Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

1. AT&T Clinging Desperately To iPhone Exclusivity?

Those who've been waiting patiently for the end of AT&T's exclusive U.S. iPhone distribution deal with Apple may be waiting a bit longer. AT&T apparently cut a deal with Apple to offer deeply discounted iPad data plans in exchange for a six-month extension of iPhone exclusivity, Brian Marshall, an analyst at BroadPoint AmTech, told Computerworld earlier this week. This hasn't been confirmed, but if true, AT&T's lack of a contract requirement for iPad 3G data plans now makes sense.

The iPhone continues to boost AT&T's wireless business, but AT&T's network is already the stuff of ridicule. Does AT&T really want to remain under the microscope? In six months, AT&T subscriber discontent could reach the "torches and pitchforks" stage, and then things would really get ugly.

2. Apple Gets All Huffy Over Ellen's iPhone Video

Hey, Apple, thin-skinned much? Getting angry at Ellen Degeneres for her iPhone spoof video is one of the more ridiculous overreactions you've ever had. Ellen even took the high road and subsequently apologized after you complained that she portrayed the iPhone as a product that's difficult to use.

Apple, you need to realize that Ellen is the queen of self-deprecation, and her video poked more fun at her own finger-tapping clumsiness than it did at your Jesus Phone. And besides, it's not like she ran a multi-year campaign poking fun at the Mac or anything like that. Relax and learn to laugh at yourself. Microsoft probably would have ignored this.

3. Verizon Gets Greedy With Kin Data Pricing

Microsoft's Kin phones are aimed squarely at the 15- to 25-year-old set for whom texting and social networking is second only to breathing. But Kin devices don't support third-party apps yet, which is why it's baffling that Verizon would require a $30-per-month data plan.

Um, Verizon, teenagers, like, don't have much money, y’know? Even though parents are going to be paying the bill in some cases, you should have come up with a price point that's at least a bit lower than the one AT&T sells to iPhone users.

4. The Planet Customers In The Dark During Outage

Web hosting firm The Planet experienced a 90-minute outage on Sunday night, and some customers were still dealing with problems on Monday morning. The Planet serves more than 20,000 businesses and has some 15.7 million Websites and 48,500 servers under its management. Some of these customers were frustrated with The Planet's lack of communication during the outage.

The Planet did notify customers on its forums but didn't post updates to its company Twitter feed. But the outage took out both the forums and The Planet's call center, and so customers were peeved when they saw no updates on the Twitter feed. The Planet staffers eventually apologized for not keeping customers updated via Twitter.

While it's a fact of life that outages happen sometimes, we think The Planet just learned a valuable lesson about keeping customers in the loop at all costs.

5. Motorola Tries To Run Before It Can Walk

Motorola's mobile fortunes have been dimming and the company recently fell out of the top five in IDC's ranking of handset manufacturers. One bright spot has been Motorola's embrace of Android, but now it looks like the clarity of this strategy is about to get muddled.

Motorola has sneakily acquired Azingo, an India-based developer of a Linux-based mobile OS that features a Webkit-based browser, Web runtime, Flash runtime, and full developer tools. Motorola didn't make any announcement, but The Register confirmed this week that it's a done deal.

Azingo may give Motorola a point of differentiation, but for a company that hasn't had a popular phone in years, it's a puzzling move that could further hamper its efforts to get back in the mobile game.