The 10 Most Controversial Companies Of 2013

The 10 Most Controversial Companies Of 2013

For the IT channel, 2013 was full of controversial decisions, strategies and executives moves. And some of the drama had an enormous impact not only on the respective companies but the entire industry going into 2014. Here are the 10 most controversial companies of the year.

10. OCZ Technology

The once mighty pioneer of solid-state drive technology came crashing down this year. OCZ filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month and was on the verge of liquidation before recently being acquired by Toshiba for a paltry $35 million. So how did it come to this? The company fell behind in the SSD market and was forced to scuttle its memory and DRAM products. But the big controversy involved OCZ's financials; after several shareholder lawsuits hit the company last year, OCZ was required to restate its earnings for several years dating back to 2008.

9. Facebook

Another year, another slew of Facebook privacy changes. This year, the social networking giant affirmed that it can use member posts, photos and personal information to serve advertisements on the site. But perhaps worse, Facebook eliminated a key privacy feature that allows members to hide their profiles from other Facebook users that are not designated "friends." As a result, any Facebook member will be able to look up anyone's timeline and profile. Facebook said the change affected a "small percentage" of members but hasn't said specifically how many members used the search setting.

8. Intel

Intel normally doesn't invite a lot of controversy, but 2013 was different thanks to one strategy shift that proved incredibly unpopular with system builders. Earlier this year, Intel announced it was phasing out its desktop motherboard business after 20 years, with the final boards to be manufactured by the end of 2015. System builder partners were furious with Intel and felt blindsided by the decision; even though Intel said OEM partners like Gigabyte and Asus would continue producing Intel reference boards, partners said they preferred working with Intel, which offered better shipping and warranty replacement services. And even though Intel won't discontinue its motherboards until 2015, partners say new Haswell-based desktop boards are in short supply.

7. Juniper

Juniper Networks has leaked a number of high-profile executives in recent years, but this year marked a downright flood for the networking company. In 12 months, Juniper lost seven top executives from its channel team alone, including former U.S. channel chief Frank Vitagliano, who took a channel position at Dell, and his successor, Chris Jones, who recently left to join Avaya. And to top it all off, the company also saw the departure of CEO Kevin Johnson (pictured), who announced his retirement in July. The extreme executive turnover has partners wondering why Juniper can't seem to hold on to its employees -- and if the company can once again become a true challenger to networking leader Cisco.

6. Autonomy

Autonomy is like a nagging illness that HP can't seem to shake. Despite HP's turnaround this year, its notorious acquisition of the U.K. software company was still a source of controversy this year. First, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office in March announced it had launched a criminal investigation into Autonomy's accounting practices prior to HP's acquisition. Then another bombshell dropped in May when a class action lawsuit, filed by several investor groups, claimed HP tried to back out of the Autonomy deal just weeks before the acquisition closed in late 2011 (U.K. laws, however, prevented HP from cancelling the deal at that point).

5. Apple

In a surprise announcement, a U.S. Senate subcommittee in May claimed that Apple was avoiding paying billions of dollars in taxes by using offshore tax shelters. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a report stating that Apple's use of three foreign subsidiaries, which were not a tax resident of any nation, allowed it to significantly lower its tax burden. While the Senate report claimed all of Apple's practices were legal, the subcommittee criticized the company's actions, with Sen. John McCain proclaiming Apple as one of "America's largest tax avoiders." This led to Apple CEO Tim Cook (pictured) speaking before the Senate subcommittee and defending his company in a contentious hearing that set off a debate about corporate taxes and offshore shelters.

4. Dell

There's no doubt 2013 was one of the most pivotal years in Dell's storied history, but this year was riddled with some shocking and even controversial events. A game-changing plan by Michael Dell to buy back the company and take it private? Check. A spirited debate about the buyback price and shareholder value? Check. An aggressive takeover plan from corporate raider Carl Icahn? Check. A major channel management shakeup? Check. An overhaul of its Dell Direct accounts and partner sales strategy? Check. What a year it was for Michael Dell and company.

3. RSA

The NSA and its domestic surveillance programs have been a hot-button topic for much of the year. And while the data leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have implicated several major tech companies, security vendor RSA has found itself at the center of the latest firestorm. According to a recent report by Reuters, the NSA paid RSA $10 million via a secret contract to allow the federal government to place a back door within RSA's encryption technology. This came after RSA issued a bulletin in September warning customers that it shouldn't use RSA's BSAFE encryption technology because it contained a back door created by the NSA.

2. Amazon

As Amazon gets larger, the cloud-computing and e-commerce giant seems to become a bigger point of contention in the channel. The company continues to expand its EC2 and Amazon Web Services businesses, but, for the most part, solution providers are left out of the picture; that's left some top solution providers to compare Amazon to a former direct sales powerhouse -- Dell -- and accusing the cloud giant of seducing resellers with its big brand name and low prices. In addition, Amazon became a hot topic over its 10-year, $600 million contract with the CIA, which was protested by IBM (Amazon was eventually allowed to proceed with the contract, but not before a few lawsuits and a significant amount of trash talk between the two tech giants).

1. Microsoft

Where to begin with Microsoft's 2013? The company struggled with its flagship operating system and even with the Windows 8.1 update this fall, the Start Menu was still missing. Then there was the curious acquisition of smartphone maker (and Windows Phone supporter) Nokia for $7.2 billion. And don't forget embattled CEO Steve Ballmer's surprise announcement in August that he will retire next year, which led to Microsoft scrambling for a replacement as rumors and speculation about the next chief executive kicked into high gear. But the biggest drama for Microsoft partners was arguably the decision to limit Microsoft Surface reseller authorizations to just 10 U.S. solution providers, which led to many VARs questioning the software giant's channel strategy.