BlackBerry's death rattle
Diehard BlackBerry fans thought the company had a chance for survival when in January then-CEO Thorsten Heins debuted the touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 and a handset with a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10. Both devices were designed around the BlackBerry 10 platform. The company had replaced co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis a year earlier, after losing ground to Apple and Android devices that offered sleeker interfaces and bigger app stores. But the BlackBerry 10 phones were too little, too late. For its August quarter, the company reported a $965 million net operating loss. Then, the company announced it would cut 4,500 workers and go private in a $4.7 billion sale to Fairfax Financial Holdings. But Fairfax could not get financing for the deal, and in November the company appointed ex-Sybase CEO John Chen as chairman and interim CEO and accepted a $1 billion loan from a consortium led by Fairfax. At this point, though, it is hard to see how a cash infusion can keep the company intact and solvent.
Dell opens new chapter as private company
When Dell announced in February that the company planned to go private, founder Michael Dell said the move was necessary to turn around the company's flagging fortunes. Fierce competition in the PC market had curbed profit for years, and the idea was that free of the scrutiny of Wall Street, the company would have the breathing room to better execute its strategy to focus on high-margin products and services and refresh its push into the midmarket. But first, so-called "activist investor" Carl Icahn swooped in and scooped up shares, insisting that Dell's offer of $13.65 per share was too low and that Michael Dell should be ousted. What followed was a nasty public battle to win over shareholders. After several shareholder vote postponements, Michael Dell prevailed by sweetening his offer to a total of $13.88 per share, or about $25 billion overall. While competition against the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo won't get easier, the company that Michael Dell founded three decades ago in his college dorm has a new lease on life.
Yahoo buys Tumblr
Yahoo's $1.1 billion deal to buy social networking and microblogging site Tumblr was not the biggest tech acquisition of the year but it marked the boldest move that Marissa Mayer has yet taken to reinvent the company. Yahoo's success as an Internet portal in the '90s has been overshadowed by competitors, including Facebook and Google. The 38-year-old Mayer, a star at Google, was hired as Yahoo CEO in 2012. Her predecessor, Scott Thompson, had taken the reins from founder Jerry Yang but lasted just four months before resigning amid controversy over a false claim about his college degree in a regulatory filing. The combination of Mayer's youth, programming chops, reportedly imperial management style, and all-American blond looks has fascinated industry watchers, and a jump in the company's share price during her tenure thus far has given her something of a honeymoon period. Mayer herself, though, has acknowledged that the stock has been lifted by investments made years ago, which include a stake in Chinese Web giant Ali Baba. Meanwhile, revenue and profit shrank for Yahoo itself in the quarter ending in September. At some point, the company needs to show that Mayer's strategy of expanding content such as news while boosting the company's tech infrastructure is paying off.