The tech industry has grandiose ideas, stiff competition, and larger-than-life personalities, which collide to turn Silicon Valley into a tempest in a lukewarm teapot. While many of the industry's greatest feuds are surely kept secret for public relations purposes, some companies can't contain the disgust they harbor for their competitors.
From newbies like Uber and Lyft to old-school competitor like Microsoft and AOL, we pick 10 of tech's most hilarious and game-changing fights. These feuds aren't minor scuffles. They are knock-down, drag-out, put-you-out-of-business wars.
Uber vs. Lyft
The dispute: On-demand car-hailing companies are quickly pushing taxi companies out in major metro areas, but the two biggest players have decided there’s only room for one app. Lyft and Uber have been battling for ride-sharing supremacy in a war that’s getting uglier as the months go on. Both companies have accused each other of poaching drivers and canceling rides, with Uber admitting it has a coordinated campaign to recruit Lyft drivers to its cause. It’s a little too soon to tell if this fight will explode into a great tech feud or quietly flame out, but Uber seems in it to win it.
The winner: Uber has more than a billion in venture capital to pour into its growth, so Lyft may soon find itself out of the game. The fact that Lyft, a much smaller company, is even being compared to Uber is a victory of sorts.
AOL vs. Microsoft
The dispute: The browser wars of the 1990s are a distant memory, but some of us still recall having to choose between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and AOL’s Netscape. These were the pre-Firefox, pre-Chrome days, when Microsoft did whatever it could to crush Netscape—including putting its own browser front and center in Windows, the predominant operating system of the time. Netscape sued Microsoft over its business practices. The Justice Department got involved and took Microsoft to task for anticompetitive behavior. Microsoft eventually settled with the government.
The winner: Microsoft. People still use Internet Explorer, while AOL shut down Netscape in 2008. Netscape’s technology lives on in Firefox, so it’s not completely gone. Though Microsoft isn’t the powerhouse it once was, it certainly fared better than AOL.
Apple vs. Samsung
The dispute: The heart of Apple’s feud with Samsung is smartphone supremacy. Apple revolutionized cell phones with its hardware design and operating system. Samsung delivered customizable Android to the masses in an appealing package. So which company is better? Apple claims Samsung’s appeal is in its looks, and that the company violated Apple design patents to create the Galaxy S line of phones . The two have been suing each other all over the place, and just when you think they’ve settled, another legal fight erupts. Samsung isn’t the only rival Apple has targeted over the years—Microsoft and IBM have both felt its wrath. But Samsung is Apple’s chief competitor, and its Galaxy S line a direct jab at the iPhone. The war between the two companies goes deeper than patents—this is real hatred.
The winner: Hard to tell. Apple won the most recent legal round, but the companies continue to deal each other blows in U.S. courts. Though on the bright side, both have agreed to drop their overseas lawsuits.
Amazon vs. Hachette
The dispute: Amazon likes to sell ebooks at a discount. The tech giant’s research indicates that more people buy lower-priced books, which means the company sells more copies and makes more money. But publishing house Hachette doesn’t want to play that game and refuses to capitulate to Amazon’s pricing demands. The two are currently at a stand-off: Hachette has a slew of high-profile authors on its side, while Amazon is turning to readers to make its case. In the meantime, Hachette writers who rely on Amazon sales are finding themselves caught in the middle.
The winner: There isn’t one—yet. Who will fold first?
T-Mobile vs. AT&T
The dispute: T-Mobile CEO John Legere has something of a reputation. The candid exec regularly takes to Twitter to lambast other carriers, specifically AT&T, whenever possible—usually when T-Mobile is revealing a promotion that will undercut its rivals. But AT&T has punched back, offering T-Mobile customers credit for switching their service and then ejecting Legere from an AT&T party earlier this year. Funnily enough, Legere is a former AT&T exec who’s only been at the T-Mobile helm for two years, and just before he took over, AT&T tried to buy T-Mobile. Now the two carriers are battling for customers in a pretty acrimonious way.
The winner: AT&T clearly dominates when it comes to benchmarks like number of subscribers and revenue, but T-Mobile’s ambitious plans are good for consumers.
HP vs. Oracle
The dispute: Oracle and Hewlett-Packard were once enterprise IT partners with an amiable relationship. Where did it all go wrong? Well, it started in summer 2010 when HP fired an exec who quickly went to work for Oracle. The two companies had a falling out over the firing/hiring, but agreed to patch their partnership. Then Oracle decided to stop developing software for HP and Intel’s Itanium chips, accusing HP of hiding plans to phase out Itanium. PCWorld covered the resulting lawsuit here. The 30-year relationship is now showing signs of mending: Earlier this year, Oracle made HP a diamond partner, the highest certification Oracle bestows on partner companies.
The winner: Neither Oracle or HP benefitted from their brief but fiery battle, and all parties involved seem relieved to call it good.
Facebook vs. Google
The dispute: When Google and Facebook launched, no one could have guessed how similar they would become. The search engine and social network now have tentacles in every industry and are competing on everything from photo-sharing to mobile advertising. The battle isn’t exactly fierce by conventional standards like public bashing, but as the companies gobble up startup after startup in realms as far-reaching as aeronautics and virtual reality, it’s clear that both intend to take over the world.
The winner: No clear winner—yet.
NYC vs. Airbnb
The dispute: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman isn’t a fan of Airbnb. Schneiderman ordered the home-sharing company to turn over data on its NYC hosts, claiming that many are violating a city law prohibiting short-term rentals. After subpoenas, hearings, and a lot of back-and-forth, Airbnb finally agreed to hand over anonymized data on 16,000 New York hosts so Schneiderman could scour the listings for signs of illegal activity. Hosts aren’t too happy about this. When Airbnb told 124 of them that Schneiderman was asking for more specific information, those affected decided to band together and sue Airbnb for violating their privacy.
The winner: New York. Many sharing economy start-ups skirt local laws and try to nail out the details later, but Schneiderman is taking a hard stance with all tech companies.
Microsoft vs. Linux
The dispute: Microsoft owns many, many patents. Thousands. In 2004, the company began pressuring open-source software providers to pay up for infractions real (or imagined), or buy licenses. Microsoft once considered one such provider, Linux, a major threat to Windows, and claimed that the software violated hundreds of Microsoft patents. Linux fans were outraged that Microsoft was threatening the future of open-source. While Microsoft seemed poised to slay Linux, the company never waged all-out war against the software, choosing instead to hedge its bets with partnerships. Linux remains a small slice of the OS pie, but Microsoft now has much bigger fish to fry (namely Google, Apple, and the decline of the PC).
The winner: Microsoft. Linux still has a following and a fresh take on the modern OS with Ubuntu, but it’s unlikely the open-source software will ever really rival Microsoft.
Marc Benioff vs. Larry Ellison
The dispute: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison have been colleagues, enemies, and buddies, but the weird and winding road to their bromance was littered with landmines. Benioff worked for Ellison before leaving to start enterprise cloud company Salesforce, and Ellison was his first investor and board member. But then Ellison invested in a competing company, and suddenly the two were at war. The two publicly jabbed at each other’s business models. Benioff called Oracle’s hardware-software hybrid a “false cloud” and Ellison took an OpenWorld conference speaking slot away as punishment. But then the two worked out their differences and resumed their buddy-buddy relationship, as well as their corporate partnership. All is well.
The winner: Neither. In retrospect, the fight was silly but entertaining in an industry that typically inspires more yawns than drama.
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