5 Companies That Dropped the Ball This Week

Cisco Teams With Best Buy For Umi Telepresence

Cisco's Umi Telepresence, unveiled this week, is an impressively packaged piece of technology that uses a mix of hardware and cloud services to bring people closer. The fact that its $599 price tag is too expensive for many consumers is probably its biggest flaw, but Cisco channel partners could be forgiven for cringing when Cisco revealed its intention to sell Umi through Best Buy.

Even worse, although setup for Umi is a straightforward process, customers that do need installation services will have to go through Best Buy's Geek Squad. While it's true that Umi is never going to yield much in the way of services for the channel, it would have been a nice gesture for Cisco to have somehow involved its partners, instead of cuddling up to one of the channel's arch-enemies.

Verizon Wireless Gets Caught With Hand In Cookie Jar

Well, well, well, Verizon Wireless is finally getting some comeuppance for sneakily adding data charges to customers' bills. Verizon this week agreed to refund $90 million in unwarranted fees to about 15 million current and past customers, although the carriers blamed the problem on a software glitch.

But this isn't an example of corporate altruism: Verizon is merely moving to stave off a slew of lawsuits and a probable Federal Communications Commission investigation. Yes folks, this is a shining example of damage control, although the FCC seems to still be grumbling about the issue.

"We're gratified to see Verizon agree to finally repay its customers," said Michele Ellison, FCC enforcement bureau chief in a statement. "But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner."

Nvidia Clams Up About Its Best Buy Partnership

When reports surfaced this week that Nvidia was building and supporting certain models of its GeForce line and selling them through Best Buy, some partners wondered about the possibility for channel conflict. Nvidia's response was that it's only selling these products through Best Buy and that they'll complement GeForce products from its partners.

Nvidia says it will provide more information next week, but in the meantime, this information is sitting out there like a potential red flag, inviting all sorts of speculation. This might not be a huge deal for Nvidia partners, but whenever a partner-focused vendor starts selling direct, it makes partner wonder if the next shoe is about to drop.

Microsoft Sends Out Fake Windows Phones

It sounds like a headline from The Onion, but Microsoft's invitation for its Nov. 10 Windows Phone 7 Executive Event in Orange County, Calif. comes with a mock Windows Phone 7 device constructed entirely from Lego blocks. Engadget has the photos here.

Recipients will no doubt be confused until they see the headline on the accompanying brochure, which reads "The real one is coming." The real what? Phone? Oh, you mean this Lego brick phone isn't the one that's going to save Microsoft's mobile bacon?

This is the latest example of Microsoft's apparently sky-high confidence in Windows Phone 7. Last month Microsoft staged mock funerals for the Blackberry and iPhone, complete with real hearses. And now this. If Windows Phone 7 is a hit, everyone will laugh about this later, but if it's not, Microsoft is voluntarily providing an awful lot of fodder for future ridicule with stuff like this.

Google Gets C-Minus Grade From Better Business Bureau

Is Google's notoriously shoddy customer support hurting the company's image? It's a question worth pondering in the wake of reports this week that the Better Business Bureau dished up a C-minus rating for Google in its latest corporate report card. The BBB has received 648 complaints about Google in the past 36 months, and Google didn't respond to 49 of these.

Trying to get in touch with Google is widely considered a fool's errand, as the company handles customer complaints and issues via e-mail instead of by phone. Google's BBB grade is actually an improvement from last year's "D," but the company apparently still has a lot to learn about the importance of support.

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