10 worst tech screwups of 2012 (so far)

Amid a sea of flops, flubs, and faceplants, Cringely picks the 10 biggest tech blunders we've seen in the first half of the year

As we celebrate the end of the first half of the last year of our lifetimes (damn those Mayans and their apocalyptic predictions), it's a good time to reflect on the more notable miscues of 2012 -- because we might not get this chance again.

Here's my list of the top (or more accurately, bottom) screwups of this year so far.

[ For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

1. The Facebook faceplant

It was the most eagerly anticipated public offering since the Greeks handed the Trojans that big-ass horse -- and the results were about as disastrous for small-time investors. Instead of a soaring IPO and a return to boom times for high-tech stocks, we witnessed a clusterfrak of epic proportions. Before shares even began trading, Nasdaq had a meltdown. After a brief climb, the stock swooned and has yet to recover, trading at roughly two-thirds of the initial offering price as I write this. Then we found out why: On its IPO roadshow, Facebook had given information about its prospective mobile revenues (or lack thereof) to the big banks but failed to share it with the general investing public. It seems Mark Zuckerberg had customized his Facebook settings to "Share with major institutional investors only."

2. Patent absurdity

If at times it seemed this past spring that the tech industry had been taken over by an insane patent attorney posse, that's because it was. Facebook and Yahoo, Apple and Samsung, Oracle and Google -- the list feels endless. It seems even the judges have had enough. In June, federal judge Richard Posner canceled a trial between Motorola and Apple, calling Motorola's claims "ridiculous" and Apple's filings "frivolous" and ultimately dismissed the case with extreme prejudice. Now if we could just get the other 3,300 federal judges to follow his lead, we might be onto something.

3. Yahoos at the Resumegates

You had to think it just couldn't get any worse for Yahoo. Then it did. Newly minted CEO Scott Thompson had barely begun laying off employees and suing Facebook for patent violations when it was revealed that his curricula vitae was really a crapula vitae. No, he did not have a degree in computer science after all. It was a mistake, he said -- but one that had been following him around for more than a decade. Disgruntled investor Dan Loeb, unhappy with the choice of Thompson as CEO, used the fake resume to put Thompson back on the unemployment lines some three months after he took the job no sane person wants. Loeb is apparently happier having new interim CEO Ross Levinsohn take the post. Levinsohn's biggest claim to fame? In a previous job, he helped News Corp. acquire MySpace for nearly $600 million in 2005. They got that going for them.

4. Seriously, Siri?

Turns out that Siri, the most notable new feature of the otherwise ho-hum iPhone 4S, sometimes says the darnedest things. Like when bloggers at WMPower User asked her, "What's the best cellphone ever?" and Apple's Intelligent Assistant piped up, "Nokia Lumia 900." How did this atrocity happen? PC World's Ed Oswalt has the real story: Siri bases some of her answers on data gathered by geeky search engine Wolfram-Alpha, which in turn takes its information about smartphones from, of all places, Best Buy. The big-box retailer's website had a handful of five-star reviews for the Nokia 900, and that was good enough for Siri -- at least until Apple reprogrammed her to respond to that query with the name of the One True Phone from now on. Any other questions? Don't ask.

5. Google's lying and spying

Did Google knowingly slurp down data from millions of open Wi-Fi networks for years and not tell anyone about it? Yes, it did. But it also continually stalled investigators probing into the spying and lied about what it knew and when it knew it. The true extent of those lies became public only after Google was forced to release an unredacted version of a highly censored 25-page FTC report on the matter last April. Remember "Don't be evil"? Me neither.

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