Five Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

RIM Facing Class Action Lawsuits Over Blackberry Outage

Quelle Surprise! Research In Motion is now facing a pair of class action lawsuits stemming from its BlackBerry outage earlier this month that forced millions of communication-starved customers to face their worst fear: The nightmare of disconnectedness.

The class action lawsuits were filed in Canada in Quebec Superior Court and in the U.S. in a federal district court in Santa Ana, Calif. The Canada lawsuit is seeking prorated compensation for BlackBerry users affected by the outage, based on their monthly services charges. The U.S. suit, meanwhile, is seeking damages including cash compensation for service fees and legal costs.

One can almost hear lawyers' pitch to other disaffected RIM customers who have yet to be represented in a class action: "Have you experienced the distress of non-existent Blackberry connectivity?


Amazon Disappoints Wall Street As Q3 Profit Plummets

High-flying Amazon hit a patch of turbulence in its fiscal third quarter, as earnings fell 73 percent and a shocked and disgusted Wall Street made its characteristic stampede for the exits. Revenue jumped 44 percent to $10.88 billion, but profit was $63 million, or 14 cents a share, 10 cents a share less than what analysts had been expecting.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did note that demand for the Kindle Fire is much stronger than expected, and that the company is building "millions more" than it had originally planned. The holiday shopping season will determine whether Amazon's rocky Q3 was an anomaly or a harbinger of even more gruesome financials.

Netflix Loses 800,000 Subscribers In Q3 Amid Customer Revolt

Netflix's woes continued this week as the company reported losing another massive chunk of its subscriber base during its fiscal third quarter. The company's move in August to raise prices and split its mail and on demand subscriptions into two separate offerings is by now well-established as a case study for what not to do in business, and investors reacted to this latest bit of bad news by sending Netflix's shares down 35 percent.

There are no time outs when you're running a business, but Netflix desperately needs one in order to catch its breath and come up with some sort of strategy for extricating itself from a mess that is very much its own creation.

Sprint Loses 44,000 Subscribers In Q3

Sprint, in its Q3 earnings this week, said it's going to need $7 billion in new financing to pay for the network upgrades necessary for the iPhone. Sprint has also committed to paying Apple $15.5 billion over the next four years for the iPhone.

In some ways, this can be considered a bold attempt on Sprint's part to raise its profile in the telecom space. However, Sprint lost 44,000 customers during the quarter, which suggests that its $22.5 billion-plus iPhone play is a make-or-break type of deal for the carrier, one that's starting out a bit ominously.

Microsoft Gives Us A Glimpse At The Future Of Computing

Everyone's talking about a Microsoft video that debuted this week that invites viewers "to get a glimpse of the future of productivity". If you've seen Minority Report, you'll be familiar with Microsoft's vision for a computing future: It uses touch and holographic interfaces to beam immersive experiences onto pretty much any available flat surface. And its the sort of thing that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

But Microsoft is taking heat for the video in some circles. Microsoft is certainly innovative in many ways, but right now the company has one product -- Kinect -- that can be described as futuristic. While there may be more on the way, they're not here today.

Meanwhile, Apple blogger John Gruber offered the following acerbic assessment of the video: "Imagine if they instead spent the effort that went into this movie on making something, you know, real, that you could actually go out and buy and use today."