Its fans seemingly waited forever until the release of "Duke Nukem Forever" but more than a few reviewers said the wait wasn't worth it. But that's when the stuff hit the wall: The action game's publicist let loose with a volley putting any would-be critics on notice about expressing their opinions: "Too many went too far with their reviews...we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom."
No surprise what happened next. It took about two nanoseconds before this blew up into a PR disaster with the game's publisher, 2K Games, getting pilloried online in frank terms that the Duke himself would appreciate. The PR meister in question, Jim Radner, subsequently apologized for what he later described as a "juvenile act on my part." He was also fired.
In October 1994, Intel proved that even one of the most successful tech firms in history, can suffer from a tin ear. Not long after introducing the Pentium, Intel was confronted by a claim from one Professor Thomas Nicely, then at Lynchburg College, who uncovered a flaw in the chip's floating point processor.
Intel at first treated the news lightly, contending - accurately - that the problem was likely only going to affect an infinitesimally small number of applications having to do with high-end computing transactions.
But that wasn't the point. By the mid-1990s, the personal computer had moved into the mainstream and a geekish answer wasn't going to cut it for the tens of millions of people who used Intel-based PCs. After several weeks hunkering down in a foxhole of its own making, Intel's management put an end to the crisis when it announced the company would replace the defective chips of anyone who asked. The dollars and cents cost to Intel amounted to a pre-tax charge of $475 million. The charge in public ill will: priceless.
Most tech execs are bashful when it comes to expressing their opinions in public. Not so Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, who blew up at then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in 1998 after hearing that the U.S. Justice Department had filed an antitrust case against Microsoft in 1998.
"How many of you think ... the kind of integration in this product actually will be a good thing for you and for your customers?" Ballmer said at a conference, waiting for the cheers to die down. "Then I say the heck with Janet Reno on this point."
In a calmer moment, the big lug would go on to say that he meant no disrespect and that he regretted "the utterance."
In 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg found himself on the receiving end of no small amount of criticism for saying that the world was becoming less private (which is probably a fair description.) Fairly or not, his comments that Facebook was only reflecting the changes taking place in society left the impression that Zuckerberg didn't really care about users' privacy concerns. He subsequently backed away from that position, promising that Facebook "will keep listening" to its users.
Yahoo shot itself in the foot - and kept shooting - after the company's studied indifference over the jailing of a Chinese journalist was authorities tracked down using using an IP address supplied by Yahoo's Chinese subsidiary. Co-founder Jerry Yang would go on to say he "felt horrible" about the jailing of Shi Tao but maintained it still was "more important for us to participate, not only for economic reasons, but to be able" to help shape where the Internet industry is going in China. "You have to balance the risk of not participating. And people don't realize that being in the market every day there, and being on the ground, we are seeing changes, on the whole, for the positive."
Yang would later apologize for Yahoo's technical collaboration, which led to a 10-year prison sentence for the journalist, Shi Tao.
Just to prove to the world that he's not infallible, Steve Jobs flubbed the handling of the so-called Antennagate affair, when some users complained about a glitch in the iPhone 4
The soap opera surrounding the ousting of HP CEO Mark Hurd was one for the books. After a glittering five-year tenure, Hurd's career imploded after Jodie Fisher a former HP contract worker, claimed Hurd sexually harassed her. HP's board investigated and said it could find no proof Fisher's allegations were true. But then, abruptly, the board switched gears and fired Hurd for for falsifying expense reports.
Hurd negotiated a settlement with Fisher, a former soft-core porn actress, before directors could interview her. According to a report in Wall Street Journal , some on the board believed Hurd's settlement was an attempt to prevent them from learning the truth.
In the spring of 2006, a Sony laptop battery was reported to have exploded in Japan and caught fire. By August, Sony (and Dell), acknowledged design flaws forcing the recall of over 4.1 million laptop batteries. But that wasn't the end of the story. In September, a Lenovo notebook caught fire when it overheated. By the end of that month, Sony had ordered a global recall, amid criticism that it had waited too long and failed to directly address the problem. To make it worse, the Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that Sony knew about problems affecting its notebook PC batteries a year earlier but had neglected to carry out a full examination.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt threw a fit after our sister site CNET wrote a story about the privacy implications of Google's technology. CNET's reporter used the search engine to find out the name of his wife, the neighborhood he lived in and the fact that he hosted a $10,000-a-plate fund-raiser for Al Gore's presidential campaign, among other things. Hardly cause for calling down the Curse of the Cat People, but Schmidt thought otherwise. He ordered his minions to teach CNET a lesson, ruling that Google would not speak to any of its reporters for a year. After that story made the rounds, the embarrassment became too great even for the mighty Google, which discarded its edict after a couple of months of getting hammered.
Larry Ellison of Oracle has little love for Microsoft's Bill Gates. And that's putting it mildly. So when Microsoft found itself on the receiving end of a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit, Oracle's CEO was understandably pleased. But Microsoft, ever-savvy about public opinion, waged a fierce public relations campaign to argue its case with regular folks. So when a supposedly independent think tank took out a full-page newspaper ads criticizing the government's antitrust attack on Microsoft, Oracle hired a private firm to investigate. The firm's activities were subsequently disclosed by the New York Times. Wired and the Wall Street Journal then reported that the investigation included an attempt to buy trash generated by a Microsoft-backed lobbying organization.