Why are technology CEOs so backbone-challenged these days? The only noteworthy actions taken by tech CEOs in recent months masquerade as brave, but they're really just crazy, like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick making fun of his own customers or Sean Parker comparing his critics to Nazis.
More mainstream CEOs trying to project a consistent leadership façade seem to have adopted the cult of weak sauce -- a far cry from yesteryear's leaders, like Peter Freuchen, an arctic explorer who was recently honored by the New York Explorer's Club for such actions as digging his way out of an avalanche by making a chisel out of his frozen feces. Compare that to today's business world, where the richest robber barons in the history of Cossack capitalism sound about as exciting as a Swedish sofa. This is why journalists drink.
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For example, everyone's favorite man-child CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, took the stage at Mobile World in Barcelona on Monday to drop the awesome and completely novel truth bomb: The NSA has gone too far. Really? I had absolutely no idea our intelligence community was being overly invasive and Facebook was supposedly having difficulties with it. In reality, it's more likely the preeminent social network has logged a billion miles in the NSA's hand-over-your-customer-data frequent flyer program.
As a legal condom, I have to state that I invented the preceding rumor, but it's made plausible by recent revelations that Facebook wants to keep data mining you after you're dead and further analyze your brainwaves by tracking the moves your mouse cursor makes on the screen rather than solely what you click on. In the very near future, it's probably a good idea to go over your privacy settings before you keel over and not leave your cursor hovering over a Cialis or hair restoration ad while you get coffee.
Netflix is now neutered
On a slightly more recent topic than a way-behind-the-news Zuckerberg quote, Netflix CEO Wilmot Reed Hastings, Jr. is knuckling under to the Web-raiding Comcast regime. This guy left skid marks in his eagerness to cave in to greedy Internet providers that are trying to take advantage of the recently castrated Net neutrality laws.
Netflix spins this as an investment in customer satisfaction, which sounds better than saying it'll be paying gobs extra for pipe space to which it should have equal rights in the first place. I guess it's expecting us to forget about the company's "strong" stance against Net neutrality neutering from only a few weeks ago, though Internet providers swore up and down they wouldn't take advantage. It seems like Netflix is hopping on that train before it's even left the station.
The Eric Schmidt scale: $19B for WhatsApp, $1M for the world
Then there's Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt. Not content with the Solomon-esque compensation package he's getting from Larry and Sergey, Schmidt has written a real page-turner called "The Digital Age." To promote it, he announced he'll be giving away the marginal sum of $1 million for "groups using technology to solve world problems."
So Google was willing to plunk down more than $19 billion for WhatsApp, but only $1 million for solving world problems? Yeah, I know it's supposed to be coming from Schmidt, but what are the odds that money is not originating from his T&E slush fund? Regardless, it's still disgraceful. That's like me tossing a buck at vagrant doctors researching a cure for cancer in an abandoned Arby's on my way to a Starbucks where I'll spend $4 on a cup of coffee that I could have brewed myself for 50 cents.