From Apple Maps to Autonomy: Top tech blunders of 2012

In plenty of ways, 2012 was a great year for the tech world. Apple (s AAPL) released the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. Eleven Kickstarter projects raised more than $1 million. Marissa Mayer took the reins at Yahoo (s YHOO). And Facebook (s FB) went public. But there were plenty of blunders, too — that Facebook IPO, for starters. Here’s GigaOM’s guide to the best of the worst as compiled by our staff.

Apple and the horrible, no good, very bad Maps app

The Amazing iOS 6 Maps Tumblr

The Amazing iOS 6 Maps Tumblr

The September launch of the iPhone 5 was marred by the disastrous reception Apple’s new Maps app received. Parody social media accounts popped up within hours, as disappointed users complained of poor or missing location data. CEO Tim Cook felt compelled to make a public apology, and it’s thought that the episode was the last straw that caused Cook to send SVP Scott Forstall packing. To rub extra salt in the wound, Google’s own Maps app for iPhone was greeted with the Twitter equivalent of a Hallelujah chorus when it arrived last week — and was downloaded 10 million times in 48 hours. — Erica Ogg

Google’s media player that never got a chance to play

Google (s GOOG) surprised many in June when it announced the Nexus Q, a wireless digital content player dubbed as “the first social streaming media player.” But not all surprises are good ones. The small orb-shaped device launched at an introductory price of $299, triple that of the more capable Apple TV. And aside from the high price point, the Q offered no media services save Google’s own Play store for movies, television shows and music. The unique DJ function — allowing anyone’s Android device on the same network to mix the music — was hardly enough to justify the Q, which Google suspended indefinitely in July. — Kevin C. Tofel

Facebook’s troubled IPO

Mark Zuckerberg ringing opening bellThe initial public offering of the world’s largest social network was supposed to be the tide that lifted all technology boats, but the IPO instead turned into a stock-market train wreck and crushed the hopes of many other tech-stock hopefuls in the process. Thanks to a combination of mismanagement by the NASDAQ stock exchange (which used a new trading system for the issue) and a misreading of the initial demand by Facebook and its brokers — which resulted in an over-supply of stock — the company’s share price tumbled by more than 50 percent in the days and weeks following the offering. The company still wound up raising more than $16 billion, but the episode gave the tech darling a black eye as far as some investors were concerned, and likely set the market for tech-stock issues back by months, if not longer. — Mathew Ingram 

Two words: HP and Autonomy

The $11.1 billion purchase of Autonomy by Hewlett-Packard (s hpq) may have been announced in 2011, but the enormity of the screw-up didn’t fully surface till 2012. In May, HP management booted former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch, and in November the company asked authorities in the U.S. and U.K. to look into Autonomy’s accounting practices prior to the buyout. That process is ostensibly now underway. Nevertheless, after airing all this dirty laundry in the November earnings call, HP CEO Meg Whitman asserted that HP remains “100 percent committed to Autonomy.” For the record, HP took a loss of $6.85 billion for the full fiscal year ended October 31, 2012 — most of that from an $8 billion writedown related to the Autonomy business. — Barb Darrow 

Nate Silver’s an idiot and Romney wins in a landslide

Karl Rove election night screenshotExcept…Nate Silver isn’t and Mitt Romney didn’t. Silver, the founder of the New York Times‘ popular FiveThirtyEight politics blog, and several other notable statisticians mathematically predicted Barack Obama’s reelection with perfect or near-perfect accuracy. Meanwhile, Karl Rove sputtered through election night on Fox News (s NWS), futilely defending his prediction like a child trying to convince a teacher a dog ate his homework. Maybe there’s something to this data analysis after all. Go figure. — Derrick Harris 

Amanda Palmer crowdfunding fubar

Alt-rock fave Amanda Palmer experienced the downside of social network savviness in September after she raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter to fund her new CD — then solicited musicians to play for free on her subsequent concert tour. Reaction was heated and Palmer quickly regrouped, saying she would pay more than beer, hugs and “merch” for the help. The alternate theory is that this was all a massive publicity stunt — in which case, it was hugely successful. (Palmer has since cancelled her 2013 tour to help a friend deal with cancer.) — Barb Darrow 

Twitter gags NBC Olympics critic

2012 Olympics, Olympics 2012, London Olympics, Olympics London, Olympic ringsWhat do you when someone says mean things about your friends? You shut them up; at least, that’s what Twitter did during the London Olympics when it suspended the account of journalist Guy Adams, who tweeted snarky things about the TV coverage of Twitter’s corporate partner NBC (s GE). Twitter blamed an internal communications snafu and restored the journalist’s account two days later. Still, the incident became Twitter’s first full-blown PR crisis and a reminder of its growing shadow over our media lives. — Jeff Roberts 

The Western Mail’s caption fail

Tweeters celebrate epic #fails on an almost minute-by-minute basis. And for digital media aficionados, ye olde newspaper sub-editing and caption errors rank high on that dreary list. But there was none more epic in 2012 than Welsh newspaper the Western Mail, which committed what was labeled “the worst caption fail of all time” when it identified a photo of an airport manager, who died when the plane he was travelling in hit a mountain, with “LOL.” Although British prime minister David Cameron may think the acronym stands for “lots of love”, everyone else knows not to “laugh out loud.” The internet was not amused. Nor was Western Mail publisher Trinity Mirror, which responded, “We apologize for any offense this error may have caused.” — Robert Andrews

AT&T’s face-off over FaceTime

FaceTime+over+cellularTrying to convince your customers, the public and your regulators that you’re just a big, cuddly carrier without an anticompetitive bone in your body? Maybe blocking a wildly popular app that happens to compete directly with your core service isn’t the best way to score points. Oh, but wait, AT&T (s ATT) didn’t block FaceTime over its cellular networks. You could use Apple’s video chat app to your heart’s content if you signed up for one AT&T’s (more expensive) family share plans. It’s not every day that a carrier stifles competition and jilts its customers for more money in a single brush stroke, but Ma Bell is a very efficient painter. Eventually consumer protests and the threat of the FCC involvement caused AT&T to backtrack. It offered FaceTime over cellular to more subscribers, and sheepishly claimed it was just protecting its customers from the inevitable network overload FaceTime would bring. Okay, but if AT&T’s new fangled 4G networks can’t handle video, what was the point in building them? Email and Twitter updates? — Kevin Fitchard

Bravo’s Silicon Valley startup trainwreck

Silicon Valley has been abuzz with Randi Zuckerberg’s Bravo reality show “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” which attempted to portray the craaaazy lives of startup founders and their companies in the Wild West. However, the show has been widely panned by techies and journalists in the Valley, who are obviously underwhelmed by shots of people in the pool with iPads and dialogue like “Silicon Valley is just…balls to the wall.” Of course there’s an element of hilarity to the shenanigans associated with tech startups in the Valley, but it doesn’t appear that Zuckerberg’s show will be the one to effectively dramatize it. And now that the final episodes are being downgraded to a 4 PM PST time slot, looks like the show’s on its way out. — Eliza Kern

J.K. Rowling’s unreadable book

Getty Images

Getty Images

J. K. Rowling fans who’d preordered the ebook edition of her hotly anticipated new novel, The Casual Vacancy, were in for a surprise on September 27: Thanks to improper formatting by publisher Hachette, the ebook was literally unreadable, with a choice of two type sizes — microscopic or massive. Hachette pushed out a new file later in the day, but this was one of the biggest books of the year, and in 2012 there’s no excuse for failing to test an ebook before you release it. — Laura Owen 

VeriFone copies Square’s user agreement

VeriFone launched its mobile payment acceptance system Sail to compete with Square. But it went a little too far in emulating Square when it copied big chunks of wording from Square’s user agreement. When called on it by GigaOM, VeriFone cut about a third of its user agreement out to eliminate the copied text. — Ryan Kim

So who didn’t suffer a data breach?



So much for consumer confidence. In 2012, several of the biggest names in tech were forced to ask for users’ forgiveness after hackers gained access to customer records. In January, Zappos (s AMZN) CEO Tony Hsieh apologized after hackers accessed names, email, billing and shipping address and scrambled passwords for potentially 24 million customers. And, in June, YahooLinkedIn (s LNKD), and eHarmony followed up with confessions of their own after a spate of hack attacks that compromised user passwords. In April, electronic transaction processing provider Global Payments also confirmed a data breach of 1.5 million credit cards. — Ki Mae Heussner