Five Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

Google Gets Caught Violating Its Own Paid Links Policy

Google got caught with its hand in the sponsored blog cookie jar this week in what amounted to an embarrassing violation of its own policy. Google was outed after the blog SEOBook discovered several blog posts containing the message "This post is sponsored by Google Chrome," which also linked to a YouTube video about Chrome.

Google subsequently acknowledged the issue, although it noted that only one of the blog posts actually linked to Chrome in a way that flowed PageRank to Google. As self-punishment, Google said its Webspam team has demoted for at least 60 days.

Verizon CEO Bails Out Of Scheduled CES Appearance

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam canceled his appearance at next week's Consumer Electronics Show, and his reps proffered the ambiguous excuse of a schedule conflict.

McAdam was scheduled to participate in part of CES' Innovation Power Panel next Wednesday morning, along with Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and Ford Motor Company President and CEO Alan Mulally. Now he won't be taking part, even though CES is a massive event that would serve as a great podium for explaining why Verizon recently has been having problems with its 4G LTE network.

Even stranger is that Snooki, Justin Bieber and former NBA great Dennis Rodman have found ways to work CES into their own schedules -- all are set to appear on the show floor during the event.

HP Catches Heat Over LaserJet Security Fix Ambiguity

Hewlett-Packard is catching heat from security vendor Sophos for not being up front about which of its LaserJet printers are covered in a recently released security patch.

HP released a firmware update Dec. 23 to address a vulnerability that Columbia University security researchers brought to its attention in a highly sensationalized MSNBC report the month prior. In the report, the researchers claimed that remote attackers could exploit the firmware to install their own alternative firmware, which would then give them the ability to siphon off data from print jobs, and even cause a printer element to heat up and catch fire.

In Sophos' view, though, HP should have been more clear about which printers needed the update. "It would have been nice if it had been a little easier to find, or linked to from HP's press release (announcing the fix)," Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said Thursday in the company's blog.


Apple Aims To Block Steve Jobs Action Figure

In one of the most bizarre scenarios in IT history, a Chinese company is preparing to bring to market a 12-inch Steve Jobs action figure that's said to closely resemble the late Apple founder and CEO. Apple, not surprisingly, has sent that company a cease-and-desist order claiming that the action figure violates its trademarks and copyrights.

But in this case, the so-called Streisand Effect would seem to apply. By suing the Chinese company, Apple is merely drawing more attention to an idiotic idea and ensuring that the action figure, when it inevitably finds its way onto eBay, will command a price that will make people want to throw up.

Ignoring this would have been a better course of action. That's what Oracle probably would have done if some company came out with a Larry Ellison action figure.

Cisco Quietly Kills Consumer Telepresence Product

Cisco this week said it will stop selling its Umi home Telepresence product as part of a dramatic restructuring of its overall consumer business unit following last year's well-publicized operational struggles.

Cisco will keep supporting customers -- that is, the likely small group of customers that had no problem shelling out $600 for Umi and paying the ongoing $25 per month for the service. It's safe to say this won't require a lot of effort on Cisco's part, though, seeing as how Skype and a Webcam are capable of reproducing the important parts of the experience that Umi delivers.

Shuttering Umi is a smart move for Cisco, but the excess of exuberance that the product represents will likely take some time to fade from the IT industry consciousness.