Dell recommends Windows 8.

2012: The Year in IT Goofs

Aaron Weiss, Tech Journalist / Humorist | 12/21/2012 | 31 comments

Aaron Weiss
Last year around this time we looked back at some memorable technology blunders of the previous 12 months. The tradition seems worth repeating. So let us once again take a few moments in between thoughtful forward-looking commentary and counting down the days until vacation to remember the tech stumbles of the year past.

LinkedIn password hack (and all the others)
In June of this year, professional networking site LinkedIn saw over 6 million user passwords leaked to the Internet. But they weren't alone. Other victims of password leaks in 2012 included eHarmony, Yahoo Voices, Formspring, and even Dropbox. The LinkedIn case was particularly egregious because the company stored user data using only weak security measures, which hackers were able to circumvent using well-known hash reversal techniques. But all of them are guilty of poorly securing their own customers' data, which is especially damning for companies that directly occupy the tech space.

RIM outage
Research in Motion, the formerly high-flying company behind BlackBerry, is rapidly becoming a case study in how to go from hero to zero in the blink of a calendar. Two years ago, RIM stock traded at nearly $60 a share. Today it is lucky to hold onto double-digits. In 2009, BlackBerry held 50 percent of the smartphone market. By this year that number shrunk to 6 percent. So, with the company's very life on the line with the early 2013 release of the BlackBerry 10, the last thing they needed was a four-day long global service outage in early October of this year. The outage was supposedly initiated by a router failure in the UK, which cascaded into failures worldwide. These types of domino-effect failures raise serious questions about network architecture, where nodal failures should be expected to happen and designed around. At this point, RIM doesn't need to sow any more doubt among either investors or customers. Then again, the global outage wasn't even RIM's first for 2012. The service also suffered a partial outage earlier in September.

Windows 8 Start Screen
Admittedly a more subjective nomination, the Windows 8 Start Screen is Microsoft's replacement for the venerable Start Menu introduced in 1995 with Windows 95. Windows 8 is designed to support both conventional keyboard-and-mouse PCs and the growing segment of touchscreen devices like tablets and smartphones. But since the two user experiences are drastically different, Windows 8 tries to address the needs of both, which is how we got the Windows 8 Start Screen. Seemingly designed for the user profile of someone who has never touched a computer before, the new start screen jarringly removes traditional Windows users from their familiar and more sophisticated desktop environment and replaces it with an interface suitable for infants and laboratory chimps. Of course, many people say it is more user friendly and a nice design to combine mobile and desktop interfaces into a seamless experience. And, yes, there are ways around the problem but that doesn't earn Microsoft a pass in my opinion.

The Petraeus affair
General David Petraeus is not a company, but as the former head of "The Company," also known as the CIA, his downfall offers instructive lessons for anyone or any organization needing to protect private information. For example, look at what can happen when someone else is entrusted with sensitive data. By sharing a secret Gmail account with his biographer and extramarital paramour Paula Broadwell, both of their secrets were outed when Broadwell failed to cover her own digital footprints. The Petraeus-Broadwell security protocol also demonstrated that hiding messages in an email drafts folder is about as effective as stashing a copy of your house key under the planter. While the moral issues behind the scandal are ultimately personal matters, every business can benefit from re-evaluating how private information flows through the organization.

Apple Maps
Enough said, almost. By now, everyone with a pulse knows all about Apple's faceplant with the release of their self-produced Apps map that replaces the generally well-liked Google Apps in iOS 6 for the iPhone and iPad. Yes, considerable portions of the map data are incomplete and inaccurate, the app is ignorant of many landmarks and locations, and it has been to known to render views of a world which appears to have been struck by asteroids. But the real reason that Apple Maps is the biggest tech goof of 2012 is because of how its release reveals an ugly contempt for Apple's customers -- the very people for whom the "Apple experience" has practically become a thing of worship. All software has bugs and takes time to evolve, but there is no doubt that Apple Maps fell far short of release standards. And yet it was released, probably because of Apple's axe to grind against Google's competing Android OS. Eventually, Apple Maps will improve and people may forget about its initial shoddiness. Regardless, the Apple Maps blunder demonstrates that the company will, in fact, throw their customers' "experience" under the bus if that's what it takes to twist the knife in the back of a rival.

Of course, companies are made up of people and no one is perfect, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. What were some of your favorite tech goofs of 2012? And what companies do you think are candidates for early 2013? Comment below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
michaelsumastre   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   2/28/2013 3:09:00 AM
2012: The Year in IT Goofs Subject of Your Pos
The LinkedIn password issue is one of the reasons I don't check my profile there as much anymore, and I try my best to approve requests coming from people I know or who spend a good amount of time with their profile. Definitely, it's not an assurance I'm completely safe, but I think I'm doing so much better than those who don't care about what's happening at all. About Windows 8, hopefully you already have a change of heart by now. I was quite unhappy about it because I couldn't find the Power button, of all things, but once you get past the "getting to know you" stage, it works beautifully. 
SaneIT   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/25/2013 7:47:10 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
Nice to hear that I'm not alone thinking that MS had a much more consumer focused view of the UI this time around.  I recently had a request for some touch screen desktop displays, I thought it would be a perfect time to try out Win 8 on some folks.  That lasted a whole week before they begged to be downgraded to Windows 7.  The transition is going to be hard in the corporate environment.
PositivelyKeith   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/25/2013 2:23:35 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
@StaceyE Yes, having been marketing manager for a software company myself I agree with what you say.

However, we did seek out the needs of the smaller business indirectly.  We sold through a reseller channel and had regular brainstorming sessions with the larger resellers - those with the most customers.

We developed a 'wish list' with them based upon the needs and suggestions of their customers.

This was then prioritised and placed before our development team who had their own 'wish list' and the two were merged and prioritised.

Through regular meetings we were able to keep up with customer and reseller needs rather than just produce what our developers thought they would need!!

If needs changed then we were able to move stuff up or down the priority list.

This seemed to work very well for us and our customers and resellers felt their views were of value to us.
StaceyE   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/24/2013 9:49:57 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
@PositivelyKeith I agree, MS probably does use the feedback from their bigger customers, as you stated.

I also worked for a software company for awhile, and it was always our biggest clients who did the beta testing for our product. Usually if one of them suggested an enhancement, it would at least be considered and would probably be incorporated into the software. On the flip side, when one of our smaller customers suggested an enhancement, it may be considered, but would not be developed unless a) the enhancement would benefit all of our customers and the developement team decided it was worthwhile, or b) the customer who suggested it wanted to pay for a customization, then it would be developed just for their company with a hefty price tag.

It seems as though the bigger companies (AKA bigger customers) usually have more pull with the software companies than the SMB's.
StaceyE   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/24/2013 9:40:59 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
I agree with you that MS would benefit from receiving more input from SMB's. From everything I have seen and read about the Windows 8 UI, it seems like it was designed more for the average user; someone who likes to watch video's, play games, and check their Facebook status. It doesn't appear to me that they really had companies or developers in mind when they created the UI.
SaneIT   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/4/2013 7:34:37 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
That's kind of sad to hear someone say that SMBs aren't worth Microsoft's time.  I can say without a doubt that other companies don't feel that way.  I've had several conversations with both hardware and software companies about what we're missing when it comes to their products and I've been asked to talk to prospective customers of those companies because we tend to do some out of the ordinary things here and they like to have someone who has been there, done that and worked with them to customize solutions.
PositivelyKeith   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/4/2013 3:08:51 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
@SaneIT I think if you look at their pre-launch publicity for anything new they talk about listening to customers but it tends to be a handful of the larger ones where they have deployed the software in beta stage for trials that are (probably financially) beneficial to those customers.

They are probably being supported by MS techies on site to ensure everything goes well and are then hardly likely to 'bite the hand that feeds them.'

Having worked in the software field myself we had testimonial sites where we knew we could send a prospective customer to ask questions and see how things were. We gave those sites extra special treatment, and shared our development plans with them, to keep them sweet.

I think MS believes the SMB / SME market can look after themselves.  They are too small and too many for MS to have the resource to engage with them.
SaneIT   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/2/2013 7:42:02 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
I would think that they at least look at feature requests from large customers, but where I think they miss the mark is that they need to get some insight from the SMB market.  I've found that the biggest companies out there have the most vanilla installs and tend to move more slowly come upgrade time.  Smaller businesses tend to be a bit more flexible and willing to go out on a limb with new technology.  I think MS in general needs to have some more face time with these smaller faster moving companies.
SaneIT   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   1/2/2013 7:31:44 AM
Re: Of all the goofs
@Randomus, not that I've ever noticed. I know they had a big advertising push with Win7 regarding how they "listened" to customers and used those ideas, but if you look at how Win 8 is going right now you have to wonder if they any focus group involved at any point in the process.
Randomus   2012: The Year in IT Goofs   12/31/2012 6:48:12 PM
Re: Of all the goofs
SaneIT:  I thought Microsoft actually reached out to those in the IT field for feedback? I know I've been approached by Microsoft in the past to offer them insight into different technologies from a journalist standpoint ... they don't do the same for IT?
Page 1 / 4   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Aaron Weiss
Aaron Weiss   8/27/2012   27 comments
Technology journalists have lobbed darts at Microsoft for a long time. Given the company's sheer size and range of products, it is inevitable that the criticism is sometimes fair and ...
Dell Information Resources
On-demand Video with Chat
The culture of work is changing. Tech-savvy and always-connected people want faster, more intuitive technology, uninterrupted services, and freedom to work anywhere, anytime, on a variety of devices.
Latest Archived Broadcast
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is about more than just a device.
© 2018 UBM TechWeb - Privacy Policy