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The biggest tech turkeys of 2015

ZDNet presents the worst tech products and services, embarrassing decisions, and other screw-ups of the year.
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1 of 16 US Department of Health & Human Services

"Gobble gobble"

Well, it's Thanksgiving again, meaning it's time for holiday gift listicles and end-of-year news recap articles. And this is no exception. Seeing as you curmudgeonly critters are all about the gloom and doom, we wrapped up some of the worst, most exceptionally bad screw-ups and flops of the year -- all for your reading pleasure.

It's time to meet the companies that displayed their very worst sides, either from a purely technical perspective, such as a security mishap or bad corporate responsibility, such as security oversights or revenue misses; or failing to generate any meaningful adoption or inability to gain back share in a space they lost in.

-- Zack Whittaker, Jason Perlow.

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2 of 16 CBSNews.com

US government's argument against encryption

Some people just can't take "no" for an answer. The US government's spent weeks and months trying to convince the American people -- and the rest of the world -- that encryption was the boogey-man, rather than their own intelligence failings. As it transpired, there was little to no evidence that the attackers who stormed Paris in November used encryption at all. That didn't stop the push-back against Silicon Valley, which were accused of "helping" the terrorists succeed. No, none of this makes sense -- encryption keeps the world's most secure data safe and sound. The government fell flat on its face, but that didn't stop it from pursuing a pointless argument, nor did it stop some of the world's best security researchers from shooting it down -- every single time.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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3 of 16 file photo

Windows 10's forced upgrades and privacy concerns

Windows 10. It was a breath of fresh air for Windows 8 users, but how Microsoft rolled out the freshly-pressed operating system to the wider public was a disaster. Many could not cancel or reschedule downloading the inevitable upgrade, no matter how hard they tried. Some tried to fix the problem with their own homebrew solutions. Eventually, Microsoft reneged, and let some users stave off the upgrade if they didn't want it. So, why the resistance to upgrading? The long-awaited Windows 8 replacement had settings and features considered by many to be privacy-invasive. No matter how hard Microsoft tried, mud seemed to stick. After the messy roll-out, Windows 10 weighs in with about 6 percent usage share.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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4 of 16 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

BlackBerry's failed foray into Android

Facing continued market irrelevance with its QNX-based handsets, BlackBerry finally released a pure Android smartphone, the Priv, in November of 2015. With the exception of the integrated physical keyboard, the Ontario-based company has added very little differentiation or value that distinguishes it from the horde of other Android phones already on the market. ZDNet's Matthew Miller was so dissatisfied with the device that he actually prefers the Passport -- which while quirky in design and resorts to Android emulation for running ported applications, is at least a pure BlackBerry device that can take advantage of QNX’s advanced security and real time multitasking capabilities.

-- Jason Perlow.

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5 of 16 CNET/CBS Interactive

Software patches that crashed more than they fixed

Few will drop everything to update their systems as soon as new patches or fixes become available even though patches remain the best way to stave off attackers and hackers. But some patches this year have brought down the good, upstanding average of software updates. Quality assurance this year took a beating, especially in Microsoft's camp. The Surface Pro 3 suffered a major update recall in October, and two Windows bugs -- one in February and one in November -- left some computers crashing and unusable. Google wasn't much better with the Stagefright flaw, which had to be pushed out a second time after the first fix failed to address the flaw. Let's hope fixes in the new year are a little less buggy and have a greater success rate...

-- Zack Whittaker.

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6 of 16 CNET/CBS Interactive

Apple's quality assurance crashed and tanked

While Apple has released some landmark products this year, such as the Watch, significant hardware spec jumps on the iPhone 6S and 6S+, as well as the introduction of the iPad Pro and a completely re-vamped Apple TV, the company has struggled with quality control issues across the board when it comes to its homegrown software. iOS 9, in particular, has suffered numerous bugs since its initial release and has had to undergo a number of update releases to address stability as well as functional issues, such as dropped Wi-Fi connections and degraded battery life. It’s not just iOS that seems to be lacking in sufficient QA prior to release, though. The much-awaited El Capitan update to OS X has been rife with issues as well. We hope that this isn’t the start of a trend in Cupertino where software releases are rushed out the door.

-- Jason Perlow.

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7 of 16 Google via CNET/CBS Interactive

Internet providers haven't kept up in the wake of Google Fiber

US internet providers have suffered a bad rap this year. It's not a surprise, seeing as subscribers had to suffer through data caps, were forced into using certain streaming services to avoid slow-downs, and they were slapped with rising prices. There is a bright side, though. Google Fiber, the new gigabit internet service, has upended the entire market by offering cheap, easy-to-use, and fast service. And, while the major internet and phone providers were against net neutrality, Google was actually in favor of it. Internet and cable providers really showed their true colors this year, and showed the consumer market what to really think of them.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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8 of 16 Office of Personnel Management

Government can't handle its cybersecurity scandal

It was the breach that had the US government reeling: the attack on the Office of Personnel Management led to the leaking of personal data of more than 22 million government employees. These were the crown jewels, and it's thought that China made off with them -- though officials have yet to confirm it publicly. It was a major embarrassment to the government, all the while Silicon Valley companies are pushing back against even more sharing personal user data with the government, all in the name of cybersecurity. If the government can't protect our data, who can?

-- Zack Whittaker.

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9 of 16 CNET/CBS Interactive

iPad Pro isn't really for professionals

Since the Apple-IBM strategic partnership deal began in 2014, enterprise customers hoped that Big Blue's investment in developing iOS applications would also yield new, enterprise-worthy devices from Cupertino to match. After many months of speculation, Apple released the iPad Pro in November. What did we get? An iPad with a much larger screen, a faster processor and more memory, as well as an expensive pressure-sensitive stylus. No converged mashup of iOS and OS X that could run real enterprise apps, and no business hardened device that could handle true vertical scenarios. It was a device that was “Pro” for "prosumer", and not for business professionals.

-- Jason Perlow.

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10 of 16 CNET/CBS interactive

The year "unlimited" was no longer a thing

2015 was the year that "unlimited" died. Only a handful of cell users still have "unlimited" data, but cell companies are doing everything they can to push them onto tiered plans. AT&T was first to nudge users away from unlimited data plans, with Sprint and Verizon following soon after. But while those tiered plans offer "unlimited" data, it's capped after a few gigabytes. The final nail in the "unlimited" coffin was when Microsoft tersely said it would renege on its unlimited OneDrive storage.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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11 of 16 CNET/CBS Interactive

Wearables haven't taken off as we first thought

Smartwatches and wearables just haven’t caught on the way we thought they would. Despite a significant investment over the past two years, Google Glass was essentially shelved in 2015, As for Apple Watch, so far, early indications are that consumers regard the device as too expensive with far too limited applications. Android Wear, while considered the more versatile device, has been doing poorly in the market as well. There’s some hope though. Cheaper, but more limited functionality fitness trackers such as the Fitbit and the Microsoft Band are flying off the shelves. When it comes to wearables, it seems that for the moment in the eyes of the average consumer, the investment has to merit the usability of the product.

-- Jason Perlow.

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12 of 16 file photo

Stagefright rocks up twice in one year

Stagefright could've brought Android to its knees, but Google was quick to patch the flaw, which affected almost every single Android phone, tablet, and device on the planet. That led the search turned mobile giant to roll out monthly security updates to its own-brand Nexus devices, with other firms, Samsung and LG, to follow suit. That's when things started to go downhill. The flaw was found again just a few months later (by the same researcher, no less), leading the same users down the same path. Android was updated -- again -- but not without leaving Google red-faced for not fixing it properly first time around.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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13 of 16 CBSNews.com

Hillary Clinton's private email server

Every other headline in the 2016 presidential campaign is about Hillary Clinton's email server. Even Bernie Sanders, her Democratic counterpart in the primaries, is sick of hearing about her "damn emails." Clinton has drawn controversy for using a private email server to conduct official government business. Those emails were eventually released in part -- many were redacted. In any case, it threw fuel on the political fire -- and Clinton got burned. Could this be the distraction the Republicans need to upend the Democratic presidential hopeful's campaign? We'll see in due time.

--Zack Whittaker.

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14 of 16 Wired

Chrysler's Jeep hacking fiasco

The Jeep car hack fiasco that blew up this year was made only worse by how Chrysler handled the situation. Here's what happened: hackers were able to (in a safe and controlled way) drive one reporter off the road as part of a vehicle hijack demonstration. The hack affected hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the US. But Chrysler handled the fracas by mailing out USB sticks with software patches on them, not realizing they could be intercepted or manipulated in transit. Chrysler said it was for "convenience." But in a story about security, that just wouldn't cut it.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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15 of 16 file photo

Cybersecurity data-sharing bill floated with no privacy protections

Not many people looked at Congress this year, a tech turkey in its own right, with loving eyes. A controversial bill that even the major tech companies opposed (even though arguably it was designed with them in mind) was passed by the Senate with no privacy protections for the general population. The bill allows companies like Facebook and Twitter to share private user data with the government to help mitigate and investigate cyberattacks. One leading senator called it a "surveillance bill by another name," but couldn't prevent the bill from moving forward.

-- Zack Whittaker.

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16 of 16 CNET/CBS Interactive

Drone regulation has struggled to get off the ground

The Federal Aviation Administration dropped the ball this year after it struggled to bring together new, and much-needed regulations to cover drones, the new unmanned, remote controlled flying vehicles. Amazon, which is testing its own drone delivery service, was highly critical of the federal agency after it was granted clearance for take-off but it only applied to its older, out-of-date drone. As you'll imagine, Amazon wasn't happy. Concerns in the FAA's regulatory prowess was finally put to some rest earlier in November when it finally released rules governing the use of drones over US skies.

 -- Zack Whittaker.

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