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Reporters' Roundtable: Tech biz turkeys (podcast)

In the history of tech, some decisions stand out as truly awful. This week, Rafe Needleman, Charlie Cooper, and Jim Kerstetter go over some of the worst ever.

Why is it that as Thanksgiving approaches, when we should be focusing on the good things in our lives, journalists take the opportunity to talk about what's bad? I don't know, but I do know that I'm not immune to the trend.

This week on the Reporters' Roundtable: tech business turkeys! Unlike the Real Deal podcast Thursday in which Tom Merritt and Brian Tong tried to steer you away from turkey products, in this episode, we discuss the turkey business decisions and business models that we've seen in tech over the years.

My guests are both co-workers. First, in the studio, Charlie Cooper, executive editor at and author of the column Coop's Corner. Before moving to his highfalutin' job at CBS News, Charlie worked in the CNET newsroom as an editor and columnist, and he ran a great daily video podcast called the Daily Debrief.

Dialing in from our Boston bureau is Jim Kerstetter, executive editor of CNET News. Jim is responsible for all the news coverage on CNET, and he covered tech prior to that at BusinessWeek. When I approached him about this roundtable topic, he said, "I think I covered all the bad businesses already."

By the way, right after we stopped recording, and my guests left, the live chatroom pointed out that we had neglected to mention perhaps the most heinously derelict tech business decision in the history of personal computing. They were right. I could tell you what it was--or leave it up for ongoing discussion in the comments, which is what I'm going to do.

Now playing: Watch this: Worst business decisions ever


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Reporters' Roundtable Podcast 11: Tech biz turkeys

Show notes and talking points:

  • The troika of dot-com crazy:,, and Webvan.
  • Microsoft's mishandling of negotiations with the Justice Department.
  • Speaking of Microsoft: Yahoo's failure to sell itself to Microsoft and failure to live up to its fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders. Pure madness.
  • Compaq Computer buying DEC...for what, exactly? The mainframe business or the high-end server business, just as x86 servers take over the market (see Sun Microsystems failures).
  • Potential disaster: Oracle buying Sun. We still don't get this.
  • eBay buying Skype: We have never figured out how this worked.
  • Sony spying on users.
  • Hewlett-Packard spying on CNET.
  • Going back in time, Time Warner buying America Online, of course. And AOL failing to do anything with its chunk of Netscape (same with Sun, of course).
  • Be not selling itself to Apple.
  • And more!

Thanks for listening to Reporters' Roundtable. We're on live each Friday at, except Thanksgiving--we're taking the week off. After the Thanksgiving holiday and through the rest of the year, Reporters' Roundtable (December 4, December 11, and December 18) will start an hour early, at noon PT.

Topics for future weeks will include: the role of design in the creation of tech products; advances in air travel, and what they mean for you and me; and the future of the Web browser.

Watch my Twitter feed for updates, and please send feedback to our new e-mail address,