5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending Aug. 9

Unpaid furloughs for IBM's Systems and Technology employees, a sign of the company's continuing struggles in the server arena, top this week's roundup of those that had a rough week.

Also making the list was Microsoft, which was the target of some pointed criticism from a former evangelist. A leading security company lost a key channel executive and a big data company lost its founder. Rounding out the list is a former SAP executive and his guilty plea in a bizarre shoplifting scheme.

IBM Puts Its Hardware Operations On Furlough

IBM disclosed this week that it is putting its Systems and Technology Group staff on unpaid furlough for a week in late August as a cost-cutting measure. The move, coming on the heels of layoffs of some 1,700 employees earlier this summer, shows how much IBM is struggling to turn around its declining hardware business.

With the global server market declining almost 8 percent in this year's first quarter, according to market researcher IDC, IBM isn't the only IT vendor that's wrestling with slowing server sales. As customers move more of their compute operations to the cloud and consolidate data centers around fewer servers, due to virtualization and other technologies that boost efficiency, that challenge isn't going to get any easier.

IBM's layoffs and other cost-cutting actions have IBM solution providers worried that the company is in danger of losing top talent and expertise.

Former Microsoft Evangelist Blasts Microsoft For Losing Its 'Cool' Factor

Former Microsoft evangelist Robert Scoble, who once had the job of promoting the company and its technologies, was quoted in an interview this week as saying Microsoft had "lost its cool" factor and hadn't developed many interesting products since he left in 2006.

Scoble, who now works for cloud service provider Rackspace, made the comments in an interview with the Australian news site The Age. He was quoted as saying that Microsoft's motion-detecting Xbox Kinect technology was the only innovative product the company had produced since he left -- a disappointing track record for a company with 90,000 employees, he said.

Scoble contrasted that performance to companies such as Apple with its expected iWatch and Google with its Google Glasses, products that push the innovation envelope but may never make a profit.

Co-Founder Departs Big Data Software Developer Hortonworks

Hortonworks, a leading player in the red-hot market for big data software, acknowledged this week the departure of Eric Baldeschwieler, the company's founder and original CEO, and more recently the young company's CTO.

Baldeschwieler, an engineer who helped develop the Hadoop big data platform when he worked at Yahoo, was seen as something of a rock star in the big data arena. Yahoo spun out the Hadoop development and operations team as Hortonworks in 2011 and Baldeschwieler served as the startup's CEO. Last year he moved to the CTO post when Hortonworks hired Rob Beardon, previously COO of SpringSource and JBoss, as CEO.

The Hadoop/big data space is highly competitive with Cloudera, MapR Technologies and other startups gunning for Hortonworks. While Baldeschwieler is reported to be taking some time off before resuming his career, Hortonworks execs better hope he doesn't land at a competitor.

Symantec Loses Channel Veteran Amid Restructuring

CRN learned this week that Thomas Gillman, a respected channel executive at Symantec, had left the company following staff cuts and executive reshuffling.

Sources said Gillman, a public sector channel executive, had departed following a restructuring of the company's sales organization. Before working at Symantec, Gillman held channel executive posts at Crossbeam, Juniper Networks and Cisco.

Symantec has been undergoing some serious internal changes in the last year, including layoffs in May and June, a massive product reorganization, a sales organization restructuring, and changes in the company's channel leadership.

Former SAP VP Faces 30-Day Jail Term For Lego Barcoding Scam

A former SAP exec entered a guilty plea in a California court this week to a felony commercial burglary charge stemming from a bizarre plot to steal Lego kits from Target stores by posting fraudulent bar codes on the toys.

Thomas Langenbach, a former vice president for enterprise software giant SAP, faces 30 days in jail and other penalties when he is sentenced Sept. 5.

Langenbach was arrested in May 2012 after he was caught putting fake bar codes with low prices on Lego kits in a Santa Clara, Calif., Target department store. Langenbach purchased the toys and then resold them online for hefty profits.