If tech stocks were Oscar-nominated films…

Here's a tongue-in-cheek look at the similarities and quirks shared by some of this year's crop of Academy Award-nominated films and a handful of top-tier tech stocks and their leaders.
By Larry Barrett, Contributor
1 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET

The envelopes, please

This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled the nominees for the 86thAcademy Awards. And it occurred to us that unlike most other industries, the tech sector and its media, for whatever reason, has a long and storied history of "celebritizing" many of its most influential CEOs and pundits.

We know a lot about tech CEOs, especially compared to chieftains from other industries.

After all, we don't know if Mike Duke is into cupcakes or whether or not Inge Thulin is an avid sailor, right? Most people probably wouldn't be able to pick David Lesar out of a lineup of five middle-aged white guys – even if you spotted them four guesses. Zuckerberg? Ballmer? Mayer? These are household faces and backstories.

In this light, perhaps it makes perfect sense that the daughter of one of the most famous and impactful icons in the tech industry would play a key role in getting some of this year's most decorated films made.

We didn't have time or space to include all the "Best Picture" nominees, but feel free to add your own in the comments section.

The envelopes, please:

2 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET

American Hustle

CGI Group (NYSE: GIB) gets the nod. The parent company of the contractor, CGI Federal, responsible for butchering the rollout of the Obamacare enrollment website, Healthcare.gov, definitely earned this nomination.

It's almost impossible to overstate just how big of a dud this one was. The website was an epic fail from jump street as millions of Americans were either unable to register for health care benefits at all or forced to suffer through ridiculous delays and interruptions that kept total enrollment figures at embarrassingly low rates for months.

Even after all the outrage and legacy-damaging press, the site is still riddled with security holes and pathetic shortcomings such as links for the Spanish version that take users to an English-language form.

It's the kind of debacle that can forever taint a president's legacy. If the good news is that Accenture will take the reins once the CGI contract expires at the end of February, the bad news is that it's going to cost millions more to right the ship – at least $90 million more for the next year alone.

Worse, it's still unclear just how much this Hindenburg-like disaster has cost so far. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, no David O. Russell to be sure, told Congress her agency spent $319 million on the website through the end of October and has allocated a total of $677 million and counting.

3 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET


Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), just like its big-screen doppelganger, is all about artistic and technical beauty and anyone holding its stock for the past year definitely appreciates what it feels like to come crashing back to earth as the stock lost about 25 percent of its value by mid-summer. Then again, those who managed to hold and let the debris field pass also know what it's like to once again rocket through the stratosphere.

But in both cases, one key question comes to mind: Now what?

With their charismatic, experienced leaders no longer of this earth, how will those left behind carry on and find the next new thing to inspire us all?

4 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET

Captain Phillips

She is the captain now.

After years of aimlessly turning circles out in the middle of the ocean, Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO)might finally have the right person at the helm. It's clear Marissa Mayer isn't shy about shaking things up or reversing course on the fly. She even managed to avoid a mutiny after requiring all hands to actually show up on deck.

High-profile media hires and less-than-universally-loved makeovers of some of its most popular apps might generate some buzz and buy you some time, but until Yahoo can start generating some organic growth – hello ad sales – it will continue to be viewed by some as nothing more than a convenient way to invest in the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

5 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET

The Wolf of Wall Street

Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB) Mark Zuckerberg and Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrays a young, brash, conscience-lacking stockbroker who experiences the highest of highs and lowest of lows in his latest role, have lots of things in common beyond the obvious (rich, famous, sort of young).

Both of these icons are facing some new challenges at tender ages (Zuckerberg is 29 and DiCaprio, no longer the fresh-faced kid racing across the bow of Titanic, is 39) as they transition their careers (or company) to the next phase. Leo's no "Tiger Beat" cover boy anymore and Facebook's starting to lose some of its luster with the teens who were responsible for its popularity.

Unlike the pink-sheet penny stocks that first lined the pockets of DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort, Facebook is actually a legitimate company with real revenue, profits and a future. But that future could look much different than its recent (and brief) past.

Consider that, according to iStrategy Labs' 2014 Facebook Demographic Report, more than 3.3 million Americans between 13 and 17 have left Facebook since 2011 and another 3.4 million between 18 and 24 are no longer using the social networking site.

Regardless, Facebook managed to earn $425 million in its latest quarter on sales of $2 billion – and mobile ads accounted for 49 percent of the company's total ad sales in the quarter. With more than 728 million daily active users, it's safe to say Facebook is still doing just fine – at least for now.

And Leo? He's not doing too bad either. He enters his 40s as one of a handful of bankable Hollywood actors who can command $20 million (or more) per film.

6 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET


Who loves anything more in this world than Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) does its Android operating system?

Google doesn't just want our hearts. It wants our souls. It wasn't enough to dominate search and smartphones. No, it wants Android everywhere – in our homes, in our cars and offices, too.

With its stock at $1,156 a share, it can afford to buy anything and everything in sight, encroaching deeper into our homes and nesting in our brains.

And this fascination with robots, well, we see where this is all heading. In fairness, if we were engineers at Google, this is probably how we'd spend our time and the company's money, too. If we see a dead-eyed Scarlett Johansson wandering around the Google campus anytime soon, we'll know Google has officially crossed the line.

7 of 7 Larry Barrett/ZDNET

12 Years a Slave

This guy made it 13 years.

And yet everyone's surprised it's so hard to find a replacement.

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