The Top 21 Tech Screwups of 2006

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Biggest Mistakes #16-#18

16. Bloggers 1, Apple 0

In December 2004 Apple filed suit against Apple rumor blogs O'Grady's PowerPage and AppleInsider to find out who inside the company was leaking information to these blogs about an upcoming Apple product. (Apple had filed a similar suit against Think Secret in January 2006.)

Last May, the California Court of Appeal dismissed Apple's claims against PowerPage and AppleInsider, ruling that bloggers were protected under the state laws protecting journalists. The fate of the Think Secret suit is still to be determined.

Score one for the little guys. Then again, in light of HP's pretexting scandal, using legal means to uncover confidential sources seems almost quaint.

Big Mistake: Trying to bully bloggers into turning over their sources.

Bigger Mistake: Not hiring Patricia Dunn to plug the leaks.

17. Too Much, Too Zune

The latest attempt at an iPod Killer, Microsoft's Zune, debuted to mixed reviews.

The Zune combines a nice screen and sound with yet another complicated proprietary Digital Rights Management scheme. For example, you can share tunes with other Zune users in the same room using Wi-Fi, but each song is only good for three days or three plays before it's deleted. Meanwhile, you can't download tracks via Wi-Fi or share songs across the Internet a la MusicGremlin

What Zune will likely end up killing is any significant further development of Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM system, used by partners like Napster and Rhapsody, whose content won't play on the Zune. If you're a user who has filled your music library with PlaysForSure tunes, welcome to the social!

Big Mistake: Introducing yet another DRM system to a market that doesn't want them.

Bigger Mistake: Calling any audio player, particularly one from Microsoft, an iPod Killer.

18. DHS: The Phantom Menace

The good news: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security finally tested our nation's digital defenses last February during a simulated five-day cyber attack.

The bad news: We lost. Seven months after completing Operation Cyber Storm, the DHS revealed the results of the exercise--major communications breakdowns across the board and an embarrassing lack of preparedness.

Essentially, our country's digital infrastructure could get owned by a clever 14-year-old running an Amiga. For an agency that's received a cybersecurity grade of F from the House Government Reform Committee for three straight years, we'd expect no less.

Big Mistake: Not studying hard enough for the test.

Bigger Mistake: Not hiring the 14-year-old as the DHS's new Cybersecurity Czar.

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