Would we be blowing your mind if we told you that the US patent system is fundamentally broken? No? If you read tech sites with any regularity, odds are pretty good that you've got the same manner of lawsuit fatigue as the rest of us. We're all for protecting one's intellectual property, but the sort of broadly worded patents being granted at the USPTO have made a war of litigation possible, allowing for companies to do their fighting in places like the ITC, rather than the checkout line. That said, all of this legal back and forth has lead to a few amusing moments in the past year...
We've seen plenty of half-baked releases -- sadly, post-purchase firmware upgrades are just a fact of life these days as companies race to bring new technologies to the market. In the case of Apple's new Maps release, Cupertino was clearly looking to sever one of the last of its ties with once-friendly Google before the release of iOS 6. The result was the trading of a great, road-tested app for one with a lot of potential, but not a heck of a lot to back it up. It also resulted in the first major apology from CEO Tim Cook and the stepping down of one of the company's bigwigs. Google finally offered up a devoted app to fill in some of the gaps, and, not surprisingly, Apple's servers took a hit from heavy demand.
The more RIM changes, the more it stays the same
This past year also got off to a rocky start for the folks at Research In Motion, with the stepping down of its two longtime leaders, in favor of a then "little-known company insider." Of course, new CEO Thorsten Heins has since made his presence known, assuring us all that big things are coming from the Canadian smartphone maker. On the face of it, however, 2012 appeared to include a lot of wheel spinning, coupled with some serious layoffs. Unlike some of the other companies that posted a rough year, however, RIM may actually see a little redemption come January.
This American dramatic license
What started as a seemingly noble attempt to shed some light on the questionable working conditions at component maker Foxconn resulted in a public apology from popular radio program This American Life. In fact, the show aired an episode titled "Retraction" as a followup to the excerpts it played from Mike Daisey's "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." Both TAL and Daisey stood by some of the claims, while also acknowledging "dramatic license" when relaying the story, including fabricated encounters with factory employees. The show would also accuse the monologist of being misleading during the fact-checking process.
Nintendo's half-baked Wii U launch
Talk about not being ready for prime time. Nintendo clearly did all it could to hurry its next-gen console out the door before the holiday rush. The result was a device intended to be a multimedia powerhouse that lacked a fair share of its promised multimedia functionality, including things like TVii. Last week, the company went so far as to issue a PSA to consumers, reminding them to update the Wii U's firmware before handing it off to a potentially disappointed loved one.
The lonely death of Fusion Garage
The surprisingly long, consistently weird story of Fusion Garage kicked this year off with a whimper. The company's big return to form belly-flopped about as badly as it did the first time around, which earned it a spot on last year's list. The company briefly known as TabCo picked the busiest tech week of the year to liquidate, marking what was assumed to be its long-anticipated end, only to pop up again in Taiwan's equivalent to the FCC with altered branding. Meanwhile, CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan, the proverbial consumer electronic phoenix, appeared yet again, hawking an outrageously priced iPhone add-on for rapper-turned-newscasting-hologram will.i.am.
Speaking of strange ends -- or near ends, as it were, online gaming streamer OnLive had a quite the bummer of a summer, with massive layoffs and executive shuffles all shrouded in a cloud of managerial silence. With the smoke cleared and packing boxes moved out, word came down that the once hugely promising company had been sold for a paltry $4.8 million to a venture capital firm -- a fraction of a fraction of the company's $1.8 billion valuation at its peak.
LG Optimus Vu
Last year, Samsung's Galaxy Note proved that a massive phone could be a giant blockbuster. This summer, however, LG reminded us that size isn't the only thing that matters by releasing a phablet whose wide berth missed just about every mark imaginable. The LG Optimus Vu overshot the bounds of holdability, neglected some key stylus features (ahem, dock) and sported a dated operating system. LG Vu, you, sir, are no Galaxy Note.