5 Companies That Dropped The Ball This Week

IBM Layoffs Said To Be Widespread Throughout The Company

The layoffs weren't unexpected. CFO Mark Loughridge all but announced them during IBM's first-quarter earnings call in April. But that doesn't make them any less painful.

Last week, IBM began cutting its workforce -- "resource actions" in IBM-speak -- with the numbers reported to be between 6,000 and 8,000 worldwide including some 2,200 in North America. What was surprising was how broad the cutbacks were, both geographically and across all of IBM product and service operations.

Long term, IBM seems to have the right long-range plans, focusing on such hot areas as business analytics, cloud computing and mobile, and emphasizing software and services over low-margin hardware. But layoffs are a sign that the company didn’t move quickly enough to make adjustments when changing business circumstances required it.

Microsoft Unloading Surface RTs

On the surface (pardon the pun), it seems so altruistic. Microsoft this week said it would offer partners attending next month's Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston the opportunity to purchase Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet PCs at deep discounts. That came after the company offered similar discounts for schools and colleges, and even offered free tablets to teachers attending an international conference.

But it's no secret that Surface tablets, especially those running the Windows RT operating system, have been slow sellers and there are reports Microsoft has inventories of up to 4 million of the devices it has to unload. It's difficult not to see this week's offers from Microsoft in a more cynical light.

Popular WordPress E-Commerce Plugins Riddled With Security Flaws

WordPress, the popular blogging and content management application, has spurred growth of a significant market of plug-in applications. But this week the Israeli application security firm Checkmarx warned that many of those plug-ins are riddled with security vulnerabilities.

Some 60 million websites are built using WordPress. Checkmarx said seven of the 10 most popular plug-ins developed by third-party companies contained vulnerabilities, including SQL injection errors and cross-site scripting flaws that attackers could use to gain access to a hosting server and other WordPress sites hosted on the same server.

To be clear, these plug-ins aren't developed by WordPress. But other vendors, Apple being one example, make some effort to police the third-party software being offered for their platforms. Many of these plug-ins are available through the WordPress.org website. WordPress should step in and do the same to protect the WordPress community.

Icahn Scolds Dell For Buyout Tactics

What would be a "Five that dropped the ball" list without the latest from the saga of Dell's efforts to go private.

This week activist investor Carl Icahn, who is pushing an alternative to the go-private plan proposed by CEO Michael Dell, sent a letter to investors charging the company with publishing negative news about itself, even as Dell tries to solicit private buyout offers during what's called the "go shop" period.

"Is that how the supposed 'go-shop' was conducted? Can you imagine a real estate broker running advertisements warning of termite danger in a house each time a prospective buyer seems interested?" Icahn wrote.

In the letter Icahn also sought to dispel concerns that he and investment partner Southeastern Asset Management would be unable to fund their own offer to keep Dell a public company.

Oracle's Flat FY Q4 Sales Performance

For Oracle it was a flat fourth quarter that closed out a flat fiscal 2013.

For the fourth quarter ended May 31 Oracle reported revenue of $10.95 billion, virtually unchanged from $10.92 billion the same period one year earlier. Net income was $3.81 billion, up 10 percent from $3.45 billion one year ago.

Hardware systems revenue in the quarter declined 9 percent to $1.43 billion. That included a 13 percent decline in hardware systems product sales to $849 million and a 3 percent decline in hardware systems support revenue to $582 million.

For all of fiscal 2013, Oracle reported revenue of $37.18 billion, up a fraction from $37.12 billion in fiscal 2012. Net income for the year was $10.93 billion, up 9 percent from $9.98 billion in fiscal 2012. In a positive sign, Oracle executives predicted that the company's long-struggling hardware business may be on the verge of turning around.