Yes, it’s that time of year: when we recognize all that is twisted and unholy in the world of high tech. Welcome to the third annual GUI Awards, for Greed, Underhandedness, and Imbecility. It’s just like the MTV Music Video Awards, only instead of hot wet kisses between Britney and Madonna, Steve Ballmer gets up onstage and starts throwing furniture. So without further ado, here are this year’s worthy winners.
The “I’m With Stupid” Award is a tie between Sony BMG Entertainment and First4Internet, which made the CD copy protection technology that turned consumer’s PCs into hackers' playthings. Even more stupid: Sony BMG issued a “fix” that made things worse. As part of their award, executives from both firms will be locked in a soundproof vault and forced to listen to Celine Dion until their ears bleed.
The “Drop Those PowerPoints and Nobody Gets Hurt” Award goes to Cisco Systems. At last summer’s Black Hat conference, Cisco did everything it could to prevent security consultant Mike Lynn from spilling the beans about holes in its IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software, save for a) putting a ball gag in his mouth, or b) fixing the damned flaws. Lynn squealed anyway and became a hero to reformed hackers everywhere. He also won an award of sorts: a job with Cisco competitor Juniper Networks. The sound you hear is Cisco CEO John Chambers gnashing what’s left of his teeth.
The “We’d Show You, But Then We’d Have to Kill You” Award goes to SCO, which finally submitted evidence in its nearly three-year-old copyright infringement case against IBM, but asked the judge to seal the files so only he could see them. I understand the evidence is so terrifying it has been known to drive grown men insane (although not insane enough to hold on to their SCO stock).
The “We’ll Just Take Our Root Servers and Go Home” Award goes to the United States government, which rebuffed the EU’s attempt to create an international body to oversee ICANN. I understand Secretary of State Condi Rice convinced them by threatening to open a new Euro Disney in every country that doesn’t already have one.
The “Maybe People Will Think It’s French” Award goes to Intel, for naming its new digital media processor “Viiv” (rhymes with “contrived”). Apparently, Intel has decided to test the theory that people who don’t give a damn what processor is inside their computers will care more if it has an unpronounceable name.
The “Our Lawyers Can Beat Up Your Lawyers” Award goes to Apple. In its relentless pursuit of truth, beauty, and total corporate control, the Cupertino crew tried to force four low-budget rumor sites to reveal the names of their anonymous sources. To prove it’s not completely heartless, however, Apple did offer to replace their dead iPod batteries.
The “First We’ll Reveal Our Plans for World Domination, Then We’ll Have a Snack” Award goes, naturally, to Google. E-mail, blogs, maps, classified ads, Wi-Fi, VoIP, space exploration -- it’s easier to count the industries Google isn’t trying to dominate. I hear that needlepoint, for example, is still wide open. Oh, sorry, they just announced GoogleKnit. Next?
Who’s the biggest loser of 2005? Send your picks to email@example.com; you might just snag a new “I Spy 4 Cringely” bag for the new year.