In-Depth

12 Worst Tech Industry Flip Flops

Arnold Schwarzenegger was once asked why he flip-flopped. He explained that as time goes on, one learns new things and should change positions (John Kerry and Mitt Romney should have thought of that!). High-tech flip-flopping isn't always such a bad thing, either -- the tech market changes just as much as politics.

1. Google's Gotcha In 2010, Google tried to take on Facebook with Buzz, a social networking technology based on Gmail. The service ran into a buzz saw of privacy allegations, and intense government scrutiny led Google to shut the service down.

Google had something in its back pocket -- Google +, which now counts more than 40 million users, the company recently said.

2. Microsoft Not Always Open to Open Source In 2001, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Linux a cancer, claiming it's all based on the theft of intellectual property. Microsoft launched a multi-year PR and marketing war against Linux.

In 2006, Ballmer struck a deal with the Novell powerhouse to support each other's products and work together on interoperability between Linux and Windows. Microsoft released Novell from the threat of patent lawsuits. Microsoft paid Novell nearly $250 million right away, with many more millions to come.

3. HP's Big PC Backtrack One of the fastest flip-flops in computing history came from HP. Last August, former CEO Lee Apotheker made the stunning and illogical announcement that HP was considering giving up the PC, laptop and tablet/mobile business. That got him fired tout suite.

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman replaced the deposed Apotheker and immediately reversed this bum idea.

4. Facebook Flubs Privacy Facebook has never been a poster child for respecting privacy. After getting clobbered for letting third-parties access user data such as phone numbers, Facebook in 2010 changed course, blocking the practice.

Facebook reversed course again, this year announcing a technology that allows your Facebook friends to see your every Facebook move in the form of a ticker.

5. Yahoo! -- To Buy or Not to Buy Desperate to counter Google, in 2008 Microsoft made a very public bid to take over Yahoo!. Initially, Yahoo! leaders resisted, and the Microsoft offer went up and up. Microsoft eventually gave up, settling for an ad agreement and Yahoo! allowing Bing to become its default search engine.

Late last year, Ballmer patted himself on the back for ultimately giving up on Yahoo!, remarking, "If you think about the timing, if Yahoo! had accepted our bid … we would have closed post Lehman Brothers."

Not long after that comment, reports had it that Microsoft was once again sniffing around Yahoo! Sounds like a flip, a flop and another flip.

6. Nokia Sours on Symbian Nokia made millions selling Symbian-driven phones. What did it take for Nokia to support Windows Phone? How about a cool billion-dollar cash infusion from Microsoft? 'Nuff said.

7. Oracle and OpenOffice.org When Oracle acquired Sun, it also gained stewardship of OpenOffice.org. At first, Oracle said it would keep OpenOffice.org to itself. Oracle found it's difficult to control open source software was announced. Oracle saw the light and gave OpenOffice.org to the Apache Group.

8. Silverlight vs. HTML5 Microsoft has never much liked Adobe Flash. To try and kill it, Microsoft invented Silverlight, designed to bring dynamic graphics to the Web. So does Internet Explorer 9 focus on native Silverlight support? Nope. That honor goes to HTML5, which also drives the Windows 8 Metro interface.

9. Killing the Kin Microsoft spent two years building the Kin mobile phone, which was meant to take over the consumer smartphone market. Six weeks after a launch with typical Microsoft fanfare, the company saw the poor sales writing on the wall and killed the Kin.

10. Seinfeld Turnaround Before Bill Gates fully retired, he did a series of TV commercials with Jerry Seinfeld. Some of us liked the ads. Most didn't. Microsoft killed the campaign before all the ads had run.

11. Project Green Goes Dark Project Green was Microsoft's big plan a few years back to merge its four Dynamics ERP suites into one big product. All four were huge suites and it turned out to be nigh on impossible to blend them into one. Instead, the separate suites remain, and Microsoft has done its darndest to create a common interface.

12. Zune Zoinks The iPod really rubbed Redmond raw. And thus came Zune. Redmond readers actually liked the Zune quite a bit. Unfortunately, the market didn't. With such a soft market, Microsoft started to make some statements. First, an executive announced the Zune was dead. He was then contradicted by higher ups -- it was alive after all. Finally, the company announced the death of Zune hardware, but insured the future existence of Zune software.

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