5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending Jan. 31

This week's roundup of companies that had a rough week includes reports of sales turmoil at Oracle, security breaches at Coca-Cola and Yahoo, Symantec's sales slowdown amid its lengthy reorganization, and slower Apple iPhone sales.

Oracle Hardware Channel Chief Exits Amid Reported Sales Turmoil

Word leaked out this week that Mitch Breen, who joined Oracle just eight months ago from EMC, has left the company to take a senior global sales vice president post at SimpliVity.

News of Breen's departure comes amid reports from Oracle channel partners that the vendor's direct sales reps, who have been working more closely with solution providers in recent years, are now battling partners and each other for sales. Breen himself, however, diplomatically would only say he left to join SimpliVity because of that startup's growth opportunities.

Oracle has aligned its sales operations with specific product lines, and solution providers say that has sales reps battling each other for customers' IT budgets in what one partner called a "Darwinian" struggle. Partners now find themselves working with multiple sales reps to close deals, solution providers said, when the reps work with partners at all.

Apple Misses iPhone Sales Forecast, Shares Hammered

It just goes to show how high expectations for Apple have become. While the company this week reported a 5.6 percent revenue gain and $13.1 billion in profits for its first fiscal quarter ended Dec. 28, the company's stock fell nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading.

The reason is that Apple sold "only" 51 million iPhones in the holiday quarter, missing Wall Street expectations of sales closer to 55 million units. Expectations were high given that Apple released the 5s and 5c iPhone models during the quarter.

The iPhone is Apple's cash cow product and the reaction to the quarterly results are further proof the company is due (overdue?) for another blockbuster product. And, speaking of high expectations ...

Symantec Slow Sales, Reorg Grinds On

Symantec this week reported that sales for its third fiscal quarter ended Dec. 27 were down 5 percent year-over-year and license revenue declined an eye-popping 27 percent. Symantec executives attributed the results to changes in the company's sales strategy and product reorganization.

CEO Steve Bennett (pictured), briefing financial analysts on a conference call, said to expect another year of transition for the developer of endpoint security products and data backup and recovery software. Last year the company launched an initiative to reinvent itself, including a reorganization of its sales operations and a new comprehensive product strategy, the latter of which is to be shared with partners and customers at a company conference in May.

Symantec did report that earnings grew 31 percent to $283 million in the quarter. But Bennett emphasized that the company transformation will be a three-to-five year process, so partners and customers can expect continued uncertainty for quite some time.

Coca-Cola Laptop Breach

This time the security breach was an inside job.

A former Coca-Cola employee stole laptops from the company’s Atlanta headquarters, exposing personal information from 74,000 or more people. According to a Wall Street Journal story, the laptops had names and social security numbers of 18,000 people. Other personal information, including addresses, driver’s license numbers and compensation on another 56,000 people, was also on the laptops.

The employee was supposed to properly dispose of the laptops, which have been recovered. The data was supposed to have been encrypted, but was not, and was supposed to be wiped from the computers before being disposed of.

Security breaches have been in the headlines recently, including hacked systems at retailers Target and Neiman Marcus. But the Coca-Cola case reminds us that not all security breaches come from the outside.

Hackers Hit Yahoo Email

Coca-Cola wasn't the only victim of a security breach this week. Yahoo acknowledged Thursday that hackers compromised its email service and stole an undisclosed number of usernames and passwords.

Yahoo did not say when the attack took place, but Yahoo email users began reporting several weeks ago that their email contacts had begun receiving spam messages using their Yahoo email addresses.

In a blog post, Jay Rossiter, Yahoo senior vice president of Yahoo platforms and personalization products, said the hackers likely obtained the information from an external, third-party database. Yahoo has begun notifying email users about the problem and using second sign-in verification to re-secure their accounts. Yahoo is also working with federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the security breach.