Tech execs just love mixing it up with their rivals. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of sleep they get, or the drudgery of spending large portions of their lives making and giving PowerPoint presentations.
Whatever the reason, when tech execs trash-talk other companies’ products, sometimes it backfires. Some products that are belittled end up being hugely successful. Other times, the exec who’s doing the trash-talking ends up getting fired, or his or her company falls on rough times. In some cases, executive trash-talk ends up being factually inaccurate.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer laughed at the iPhone when Apple introduced it. He also predicted the iPad would not have much success. Obviously, neither prediction panned out.
We’re not going to include Ballmer’s trash-talking about Apple, since it’s pretty much common knowledge at this point. But others have done the same or worse …
Leo Apotheker, whose 9-month reign as HP CEO was full of turmoil, was convinced that Apple's iPad was just a passing fad that wouldn't have a lasting impact in businesses.
'I saw someone using an iPad with a keyboard. Why would you want to carry that when you could carry a laptop?' Apotheker said in an interview with AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg at its D9 conference in June 2011.
Millions of people who've been lugging around iPads instead of notebooks since then would disagree. Apple sold 19.5 million iPads last quarter and sold 22.9 million the quarter before that. Almost every Fortune 500 company is using iPads in some capacity.
Meanwhile, HP's TouchPad had a brief six-week run in the market, and Apotheker was shown the door in September 2011.
Apple execs don't trash-talk much. But Phil Schiller, Apple's VP of marketing, departed from the norm in March when he told The Wall Street Journal that the Android user experience just doesn't measure up to the iPhone.
He also said Apple's iPhone 5 is 'still the best display of any smartphone.'
Schiller then headed to Twitter, warning Android users to 'Be safe out there...' and linking to a report from security vendor F-Secure about growing threats to Android devices.
Problem is, iPhone 5 sales haven't been as stellar as previous iPhones. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, in a February research note, said iPhone 5 sales were 'decelerating faster than expected' and that Apple had cut orders from 40 million to 30 million.
Meanwhile, Android sales are chugging along. According to Gartner's data for the first quarter of 2013, Android smartphones accounted for nearly 75 per cent of the market, compared to 18 per cent for runner-up Apple.
VMware and Microsoft have been squabbling for years over whose virtualization software is better. In June 2009, Scott Drummonds, a technical marketing manager at VMware, got a bit carried away and ended up having to apologise to his bitter rival.
Drummonds was involved in a VMware video posted to Youtube that showed Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization software, which allows one server to do the work of many, crashing under heavy usage. The video also suggested that weakness in Microsoft's software was the cause of outages in Microsoft's developer community websites.
Microsoft went ballistic and demanded VMware take down the video. Drummonds complied and offered a mea culpa.
'Unfortunately, my intention to stir the pot with eye-poking banter has put my credibility and by association VMware's credibility in question among some of you. For this I apologise,' Drummonds wrote in a blog post.
Eric Cador, a 28 year HP vet who resigned in March, got carried away during the run-up to HP's TouchPad release in May 2011.
At a press conference in Cannes, Cador -- who at the time was head of HP's European PC and printer businesses -- suggested that Apple, Google and other tablet makers should be worried about HP's entry to the tablet space with the TouchPad.
'In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP's products from our competitors, we became number one; in the tablet world we're going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus,' Cador said in a May 2011 press conference in Cannes, as reported by The Telegraph.
Three months later, HP stopped selling the TouchPad and exited the tablet market.
In an April 2010 interview with the BBC, then-Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz predicted Google would have trouble in the future because its business was so one-dimensional.
'Google is going to have a problem because Google is only known for search,' Bartz told the BBC. 'It is only half our business; it's 99.9% of their business. They've got to find other things to do.'
Seems Bartz was suffering from a case of mobile myopia. Google doesn't break out Android revenue, but some figures trickled out in documents from the Google-Oracle lawsuit in 2010.
In July 2010, Google had sold 20 million Android phones and forecast it would reach 40 million by the end of the year, generating around $278 million in revenue, The Verge reported last April.
If $278 million represents .01 per cent of Google's business, that doesn't sound too bad.
Yahoo fired Bartz in September 2011.
About three weeks before Nokia launched its Lumia 920 smartphone, its top sales guy decided to let Samsung know it was about to get some stiff competition. This despite the fact that Samsung had just overtaken Nokia for the top spot in global mobile device shipments for the first time.
'Samsung take note, next generation Lumia coming soon,' Chris Weber, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Nokia, tweeted last Aug. 15.
Nokia's Windows Phone-powered Lumia 920 debuted to positive reviews. People were especially thrilled by the Lumia 920's powerful camera. But their enthusiasm was dampened when Nokia admitted faking a demo video meant to showcase the capabilities of the camera's PureView optical image stabilisation technology.
This made Weber's warning to Samsung seem kind of silly.
Dell's Streak tablet, a 7-inch Android device, flopped in the marketplace. But last June, Joe Kremer, managing director of Dell Australia, told the Australian Financial Review that Dell wasn't giving up on tablets.
Kremer also suggested that iPads have no place in businesses.
'People might be attracted to some of these shiny devices but technology departments can't afford to support them,' Kremer told the Financial Review. 'If you are giving a presentation and something fails on the software side it might take four days to get it up and running again. I don't think this race has been run yet.'
Dell has a new tablet, the Windows RT powered XPS 10, but has already lopped $200 off its original $500 MSRP. Meanwhile, businesses are still buying iPads without the lure of discounts. So far, Kremer's criticisms of the iPad are ringing hollow.