In-Depth

6 Most High-Profile Tech Spats of 2011

Many tech titans have a touch of Donald Trump -- they love to hear themselves talk and they enjoy a good fight. Here are six examples of the latter.

1. Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison cuts Salesforce.com Inc. CEO Marc Benioff's keynote from the Oracle OpenWorld Conference.
The relationship between the two executives was already strained, after Benioff made fun of Oracle at a previous Oracle conference. They ratcheted up their feud in October during Oracle's latest OpenWorld show. First, Oracle postponed then cancelled Benioff's planned keynote, news of which Benioff prominently announced on Twitter. Then, Benioff proceeded to deliver his keynote, anyway -- in a restaurant across the street from the OpenWorld venue -- and even reportedly took the opportunity to compare Ellison to deposed third-world dictators. Meanwhile, inside the OpenWorld convention hall, Ellison delivered his own address in which he called Salesforce.com's offerings "the roach motel of clouds."

2. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner opens verbal fire on Microsoft's competitors during Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2011.
Turner's official title is chief operating officer, but at the 2011 WPC, Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill poked a little fun, calling co-worker Turner the company's "chief compete officer." Considering Turner's conference keynote, which was liberally peppered with barbs at multiple Microsoft competitors, that's a pretty accurate title. For starters, he called Dynamics CRM Online a "humongous pacifier to stick in the mouth of Marc Benioff." He also promised a "Google butt-kicker" with Office 365 and added, "Google is helping us with some of their actions, and I'm encouraged to remind you all this is a company that has a mission statement that they have to remind themselves not to do evil, right?"

3. Microsoft calls out Google Inc. for allegedly lying about the FISMA certification for Google Apps for Government.
For a while now, Microsoft and Google have been trying to one-up each other in the number of cloud contracts won, and public-sector cloud contracts are an especially sore spot for both companies. In April, Microsoft's deputy general counsel essentially accused Google of overstating the government certifications that are held by the Google Apps for Government products. Google didn't take long to fire back with a confirmation that Apps for Government is, in fact, certified for government use, saying, "What's more, we've been open and transparent with the government, and it's irresponsible for Microsoft to suggest otherwise." This back-and-forth all stems from a suit that Google filed against the Department of Interior after it allegedly excluded Google from submitting quotes for a planned department-wide move to cloud-based e-mail.

4. Google calls out Microsoft for allegedly "attacking" Android.
The patent war between Google and Microsoft over the open source Android OS has been largely one-sided, with Microsoft racking up deal after intellectual property deal with Android device makers, and Google not so quietly fuming. The two companies got into another round of verbal fisticuffs in August, after Google was shut out of bidding wars over patents belonging to Nortel and Novell. Google's chief legal eagle accused Microsoft of waging (in collaboration with Apple and Oracle) "a hostile, organized campaign against Android. The reason for the attacks, Google said, is that Android is the market leader in the smartphone OS space, and Windows Phone, well, isn't. Microsoft responded on (where else?) Twitter that it offered Google a chance to also bid for the patents, but that it declined. In a subsequent blog post, Google characterized Microsoft's offer as a trick: "We didn't fall for it."

5. Ousted CEO Carol Bartz tells Yahoo! off in her first post-firing interview with Fortune.
When news broke in September that Yahoo!'s board of directors had fired the famously foul-mouthed Bartz, it was no surprise she didn't go sedately. The day after she was fired over the phone, Bartz spoke to Fortune magazine to call the Yahoo! board "doofuses" and to say that "[t]hese people f---ed me over." Perhaps the most surprising revelation is that she reportedly had a "non-disparagement clause" with Yahoo! -- which she almost certainly violated multiple times in the Fortune interview.

6. Microsoft Cofounder Paul Allen shares beef with Bill Gates in his autobiography.
Publicly, at least, Allen has enjoyed a successful life after leaving Microsoft in 1983, which made a lot of people wonder where all the apparent bitterness in his autobiography, "Idea Man," came from. Allen notably recounts that sometime after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, he overheard Gates and now-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer "bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders." Ballmer apologized in person later that night; and Gates wrote him a six-page letter. After the book made news, Gates issued a much shorter statement: "While my recollection of many of these events may differ from Paul's, I value his friendship and the important contributions he made to the world of technology and at Microsoft."

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