12 controversial decisions reversed by tech CEOs, leaders

12 controversial decisions reversed by tech CEOs, leaders

Summary: Everyone loves a controversy, except when it involves them. From brand splits and picking the wrong side over public opinion, we look back at some of the poorly thought-out business decisions made by tech executives and leaders in recent history.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

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  • 4. Netflix backs off Qwikster split

    Netflix remains one of the most popular Internet streaming services to date. But one decision led the company's boss Reed Hastings to retreat from a service spin-off that had customers screaming at their television sets. 

    The plan was simple: split the company in half to create Qwikster, a DVD-by-mail service, so that it can focus on its bread-and-butter, Netflix, as its main online video service. That angered customers and investors, which saw the firm's share price plummet even further, not long after its stock suffered following a price increase.

    But three painful weeks later, Hastings backtracked on the plan. A year later, things are back to normal for the company. More so, in fact: the streaming service is booming in the U.S. market as well as internationally, adding more than 1 million customers each quarter. 

    Image: Netflix

  • 5. HP decides against ditching PC business

    When a company announces it's looking at "strategic alternatives" for a division or the whole corporate package, that's industry geek-speak for a spin-off or a sale. When computer maker HP announced it would do exactly that with its PC building division back in 2011, Wall Street was lost for words.

    The firm, which at the time was run by chief executive Leo Apotheker, said it would restructure the company to ditch the PC unit as well as its mobile platform webOS. The upshot was it would acquire enterprise firm Autonomy to all but offset the shift in company priorities.

    Apotheker was fired not long after. Out with the old, in with the new. Meg Whitman was replaced in the top job, and, actually, back in with the old, as she decided to reverse the PC sell-off decision and return the company back to its PC making former glory.

    The bottom line for Whitman: it was too costly to spin off the unit, and without PCs and printers, HP just wouldn't be itself anymore.

    Image: CNET

  • 6. GoDaddy supports, then opposes proposed anti-piracy law

    When the vast majority of the top Silicon Valley tech giants come out in opposition of an anti-piracy law that basically resulted in a huge portion of the Internet shutting its doors for the day in protest, you can all but bet there will be one falling way, way behind.

    Enter GoDaddy, the domain and Web hosting company, which came out in support of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Had it passed Congress, it would've allowed rights holders (and fraudsters) file claims that could result in websites shuttering, based on loose claims they allegedly infringe copyright. "Allegedly" was enough of a reason to protest the bill. But for all intents and purposes, SOPA was an Internet censorship bill.

    Following extreme criticism and opposition to the company's move, GoDaddy quickly reversed its position — not least to try and get back the hundreds of thousands of customers it lost in the process as a result, including Wikipedia. The company said the bills had "not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet community."

    In other words: nobody supported it — for good reason — and neither will GoDaddy. 

    Image: ZDNet

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • Bad decisions

    The biggest baddest decision was to put Windows 8 on desktops, and then push them out on the dumb public. The second biggest bad decision was to turn it into Windows 8.1
    I have Windows on my phone and it is great. I have tried Windows 8 and 8.1 on desktops a few times, and it is not great. Windows 7 is better in so many ways.
    Paul on the Mesa
    • I love my Surface RT with Windows 8.1 but...

      I have to agree with you at least as far as desktops and non-touch devices go. First Windows 8 came with zero gesture clues as to how to use it. Heck, MS's own user testing showed that some people took hours trying to figure out how to use the UI and many were frustrated. Then there is the missing start button, which at lease provided an anchor back to the start screen.

      Windows 8.1 fixed these top two but the notion of running full window'ed (or panes as MS likes to call them now), even if you can open a couple (up to 4 I think with an external monitor) still makes no sense on a desktop computer. And the tiles also really serve no purpose on a desktop but just mucks up a application lists (this is not a dig on the start screen itself but just the square tiles on the screen).

      Etc and so on. Windows 8(.1) is a fail on many levels. Its great on touch devices like the Surface and even laptops but non-touch devices it just mucks everything up and now it has bad press which is like a stink on a tech product.
      Rann Xeroxx
    • It's only a "Bad" decision for you...

      Some people can't handle change.

      All you have to do is think of "Metro"as your start menu.

      In 8.1 you can choose to boot directly to the desktop, so it's NOT really that bad an OS IMO.

      Some people just have a hard time looking at it from a different view. It's NOT that big a deal and its NOT the end of the world IMO.

      Don't like 8.1, then don't use it...but don't be so blind to think others are having the same amount of trouble adapting as you.

      Some things take time...and some people have more patience than others.

      ~Best wishes keeping what you earned.
      • "Some people can't handle change."

        Or, put better, most people don't handle BAD change, and Windows 8 is as bad as change comes.
      • In other words...

        ...the problem isn't with Windows 8, but with ignorant, reactionary users.

        This is not a good attitude for corporate executives to have. Hopefully, you're only typing for yourself.
        John L. Ries
      • Some people can't handle change...

        This comment is nothing but total BS! I am tired of reading it. People who utter it are the biggest part of the problem. I am 68 years old. I have been working on PC related products for over 30 years, both as a software developer and an end user. I have Windows 8.1 on my HP desktop and Windows 7.0 on my wife's. I have a Dell laptop with Windows XP. I have a working IBM PS2 laptop. I have a Apple New iPad. We both have Android smartphones. We, like most of our peers, are not reluctant to change and can handle it very well. We have lived with it all our lives.

        People who utter this immature comment don't have a clue about who ultimately pays their salaries. The old adage, "The customer is always right.", is as true today as it ever was. My first experience with the software development cycle back in 1985 was very enlightening. I was assigned to work with an "expert" developer during the initial testing process for a new software application. When I reported that end users were having problems making mistakes during data entry. The "expert" responded, "If they are making mistakes like that, they should not be sitting at the keyboard." Hopefully, you understand my point.

        It is the developer's job to make sure that inappropriate input does not happen. Personal computers and the Internet have been around long enough that this should be common knowledge to all of us. Windows 8 is a perfect example of software being released to the public with little thought being given to the needs of the majority of users who would be using it. A defensive posture on the part of the managers and developers is a sure sign of immaturity and reveals a significant lack of understanding about the consumer marketplace.

        Yes, software developers are responsible for understanding who their customers are. Without that knowledge, it is impossible to meet their needs. The time is long overdue for information technology managers to make this requirement their top priority.

        In summary, I will use a statement I first heard when I was a salesman back in 1972, "If you take care of your customers, your customers will take care of you."
        • I can't handle NEGATIVE change...

          I agree that it is a very narrow minded person who postulates that the hate for Windows 8 is based on opposition to change. Such people apparently have little clue that real desktop users have more things to do than spend their whole existence in one app such as Facebook.

          Windows 8 is not "windows". If it were, then Metro apps could be run in a sizeable window. Instead the 'DirecTV remote' app wastes five times the screen real estate that it needs! Removing the [sizeable] windows feature is destroying the very purpose/utility of "Windows." Don't tell me that making Windows Apps operate like the DOS programs of yesteryear is a change I need to adapt to. Windows 8 rolls back the functionality of the last 20 years -= a steep price for security improvements.

          Also explain to me why I should welcome the 'change' of removing the cascading programs menu. If this change represents "progress" then why wasn't the Windows File Explorer also 'improved' to show all 269,078 files on my C: drive as tiles on one massive screen that scrolls horizontally for miles?

          Obviously, the changes in Windows 8 are not progress. They are frustrating losses of productivity; a backtracking of all the improvements that the prior versions of Windows brought us. Don't disparage 'real' Windows users as rejecting change - we favor progress, not digression.
    • Bad as in the Bad Way to Be Baddest

      One does realize that the -est suffix denotes an absolute and unless one wishes to be dismissed as hyperbolic or pitifully unaware of all the poor decisions tech companies have made over the last 60 years, I would suggest more caution.

      As a disinterested third party, I'd say Microsoft is still standing and doing well as we enjoy month 13 of Windows 8 deployment.

      I'd also say that the dual nature of the interface suggests a lack of decision making, but reasonable people may disagree on that point.

      Adam Osborne's billboarding of version 2 features while version 1 was going to be the company's sole product for months was clearly a poorer decision than whatever thing you have against Windows 8.

      Regardless, unlike the interface in Windows 8, Osborne's error was not a bell that could be unrung. He lost the company.

      As to Mr. Whitaker's notes, the HP "decision" to sell the pc business was not as firm as Apotheker made it out to be. Ms. Whitman's walk back has been surprisingly indifferent and I don't think it's quite off the table. HP has certainly moved some chips away from the Microsoft bet.
  • Nice article, but needs editing

    Image 6: "Had it passed Congress, it would've allowed rights holders (and fraudsters) see websites shutter based on claims they allegedly infringe copyright." I think there's some missing verbiage here. It would have allowed rights holders (and fraudsters) to do what?

    Image 9: "the company said it raises prices when the supply of cars is higher than usual." should probably be 'demand for' instead of 'supply of'.
  • Any excuse for a Marissa Meyer photo

    She publicly discusses the telecommuting ban, sticks by her guns, and still gets a mention.

    Having a photogenic CEO does seem to get a company extra media coverage.
    John L. Ries
    • I was thinking the same thing about Mayer

      She did not reverse her decision so why is she included?

      She is lucky Yahoo has a major stake in Alibaba that can be used to pad her numbers and make Yahoo appear to be successful.
  • A Photo of Star Trek: The Next Generation

    About the photo of Mr. Worf and Captain Picard, could anyone guess what episode it is with his hand extended like that?

    The Next Generation and Voyager are one of my favorites when it comes to starships and technologies. Crew members of the series (even Data, Spock, Geordi La Forge, and Tuvok) are secondary.

    Pardon me for going off-topic. Heh.
    Grayson Peddie
    • Can't name it exactly but

      I think he was talking to Q.
      • Hmm... Could it be "Qpid?"

        I'll have to watch that in Netflix tomorrow. I'm not a big fan of him, though, taunting Captain Picard for nothing.
        Grayson Peddie
  • ZDnet recycles

    Recycling old news.
  • Bad Decisions

    Number one on this list should be the decision by Texas Instruments NOT to make the TI-PC IBM compatable. Arguably a decision that directly led to the success of PCs Ltd, later known as Dell Computer, now Dell. Easily a Hundred Billion dollar mistake.
  • Can ZDNet reverse its decision...?

    ...to create slideshows than span pages for the sake of extra clicks and ad impressions? Sheesh. It's 2014 already.
  • Go America

    Yeah in other words we only care about the law when it suits us.
    Great country that, Americans should be proud that they have such an unjust legal system where court rulings can be overturned at a whim by the government.
  • Show the Beheadings!

    There are many people deserving decapitation, including quite a few heads of government and chiefs of state. More power to the implementers, recorders, and publicists of these patriotic and most positive efforts!
  • EVERYTHING GREEN ought to go!

    GREEN is greedy self-serving and genocidal religious cult claptrap.