10 Tech Turkeys For 2011

HP's Personal Systems Group Debacle

In what will surely go down as of the most bizarre and confounding turn of events in recent IT industry history, Hewlett Packard in August dropped a bombshell by killing the TouchPad just six weeks after launching it. But as incredible as that decision was, it paled in comparison to HP's revelation that it would seek to sell or spin off its PC-focused Personal Systems Group.

What's unusual about these moves is that they served to anger both business and consumer customers, both of which loudly questioned the wisdom -- or lack thereof -- behind HP's decision. HP's PSG channel partners were especially peeved because this effectively shut down their PC sales pipeline.

Although HP later decided to keep PSG, the TouchPad debacle still smolders in the memories of customers and partners.

RSA's Clumsy Handling Of SecureID Breach

RSA's response to what it described in March as "a sophisticated cyber attack" on its systems, one that "potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness" of SecurID two-factor authentication deployments, landed the company in a heap of trouble in the ensuing months.

RSA wasn't immediately forthcoming about what impact the breach could have on customers, and only after a series of attacks targeting Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and L3 Communications did RSA announce it would replace SecurID tokens for some customers.

RSA partners weren't happy that the company waited nearly two months to offer this option to customers, and did so only after high profile companies were attacked. RSA has yet to comment on what data was pilfered from its systems, and so security experts haven’t ruled out the potential for future attacks that take advantage of this information.

RIM's PlayBook Woes

There has been a steady drumbeat of bad news around the RIM PlayBook tablet since it launched in May, including a lack of third party apps and a confusing absence of native email and calendar apps. In May, RIM recalled around 1,000 Playbooks due to a glitch ridden OS build.

If that weren't enough, recent reports indicate that retailers are preparing a Playbook fire sale for Black Friday. All of this is happening against the backdrop of RIM's overall financial struggles, and it's obviously not the sort of thing that inspires confidence in tablet shoppers.

Cisco's Operational Stumbles

In April, Cisco CEO John Chambers' acknowledged that "operational execution" issues would necessitate "a number of targeted moves" to get the company back on track. One of those moves was shutting down its Flip video camera business, which the networking giant obtained through its $590 million acquisition of Pure Digital in 2009.

Although YouTube's servers breathed a sigh of relief at this news, investors wondered what exactly Cisco had to show for its investment.

Amazon's EC2 Outages

Amazon was hit with major Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) outages in April and in August that underscored just how much improvement needs to happen before cloud can be considered a truly reliable utility.

The April EC2 outage, which also affected Amazon's Relational Database Service, took down a veritable who’s who of popular Web 2.0 companies, including Foursquare, HootSuite, Quora and Reddit. In the first of two August outages, Reddit and Foursquare were knocked offline once again, along with Netflix.

Cloud outages are a reality at this stage of the game, and Amazon stepped up with explanations and credits to customers. However, as time goes on it's unlikely that customers will be so willing to forgive these glitches, particularly when they have the impact of shutting down online businesses.

Sony's PlayStation Network Security Disaster

Sony was hit with a series of hacks beginning in April that affected its PlayStation Network and Qriocity services that compromised more than 100 million login credentials and forced the company to warn users about the potential for identity theft. The stolen information included user names, passwords, online IDs, customer addresses, e-mail addresses, and birth dates -- which, with the addition of social security numbers, amounts to a treasure trove for identity thieves.

Sony blamed Anonymous for the breach, a claim the shadowy hacktivist group subsequently denied. But In testimony to Congress, security expert Dr. Gene Spafford of Purdue University said Sony was well aware it was running outdated, unpatched versions of Apache Web server software without a firewall installed, and had actually been operating in this fashion for several months. Sony has updated up its monitoring, security and encryption software in the wake of the breach, but the damage to its reputation will likely be lasting.

Apple's Response To MacDefender Malware

Apple in May issued an advisory for MacDefender, a phishing scam that targeted users by redirecting them to fake antivirus Web sites that download malicious code onto users' Macs. However, Apple's response came only after its support teams were hammered with calls from Mac users whose machines had been infected by MacDefender.

Apple was vilified by security researchers for the long period of silence it maintained after MacDefender came to light, and for reportedly instructing its support staff not to provide any remediation help to customers. Apple eventually released a fix to MacDefender, along with instructions on removing it, but the incident served as a poignant reminder that Mac users aren't as immune online as they may think.

VMware's vSphere 5 Licensing Changes

VMware customers and partners went ballistic in July after the company unveiled vRAM, the vSphere 5 licensing model that calculates costs based on the amount of memory that customers allocate to virtual machines on the host.

VMware eventually loosened its vRAM terms, and that quelled the angst, but the episode did anger a lot of folks while also giving Microsoft a chance to claim that VMware customers would flock to Hyper-V.

NetFlix Epic Price Hike Blunder

Netflix, a company that for years basked in the glow of customer adulation, angered these customers in July by separating its streaming and DVD subscriptions into two offerings, thereby raising its prices by 60 percent. Since then, Netflix shares have plummeted, and subscribers have fled for the exits en masse. Netflix also introduced, then cancelled plans to separate its DVD-by-mail service under the new brand of Qwikster, a stumble that added an undertone of dark comedy to the proceedings.

AMD Struggles To Find CEO, Straighten Out Manufacturing

It's been a tough year for AMD. The chip maker forced former CEO Dirk Meyer to resign in January – just days after AMD introduced its all-important Fusion processor line at CES 2011.

But it took AMD nearly nine months to find a new CEO, which is a lifetime in the IT industry. While several high profile candidates reportedly turned the job, AMD partners grew impatient and questioned the direction of the company.

While AMD finally tapped Lenovo President Rory Read as its new chief executive in August, the chip maker ran into more trouble this fall when manufacturing issues caused shortages for the company's 32-nm and 45-nm processors. 2012 can't come fast enough for AMD, which is looking for a fresh start with Read.