The words from the IT industry aren't as colorful or as profuse as they once were. High-profile chief executive officers (CEOs) aren't as quick to savage competitors publicly these days given that everyone partners with all of their peers, even bitter rivals, in one way or another. What's that adage about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer?
Still, the IT great and good did let slip a fair number of quote-worthy nuggets over the past 12 months. Let's tune in.
D'oh: The joys of hindsight
"I probably wasn't the right guy to be a chairman of a company with 90,000 employees and the team didn't quite gel." -- Steve Case, former chairman of AOL Time Warner, stating the obvious about the mess that resulted after the merger of America Online and Time Warner. (Jan. 13.)
"We weren't paying attention, we got distracted by all these people with pierced body parts and blue hair." -- Larry Singer, vice president, global information systems strategy at Sun Microsystems Inc., citing the real reason the company lost its edge during the dot-com era. (Sept. 12.)
Getting in touch with emotions
"I cried," Ed Zander, jokingly answering a question about the first thing he did on taking over as chairman and CEO at Motorola. (Sept. 23.)
Don't lose your lunch. Oops, too late!
"In our flash business, we had an awful quarter. ... It makes me puke to lose US$39 million." -- Hector Ruiz, chairman, president and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices, clearly not a happy man. (Jan. 18.)
"A company as big as this one ... has to organize its priorities. In the U.K. we call it the law of raspberry jam: the wider the culture is spread, the thinner it is spread." -- Howard Stringer, as he became Sony CEO. He also talked about having tea with the queen and her complaint that Sony remote controls have "too many arrows." (June 23.)
Letting those frustrations out
"Screw the nano. What the hell does the nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs?" -- Motorola's Zander letting his real feelings show about Apple Computer's music player, which overshadowed Motorola's new Rokr phone during a product launch. (Sept. 23.)
"We didn't see another option. No one wants to sue a two-ton gorilla. I wish we didn't have to do it." -- Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers after her organization filed suit against Google Inc. over the search company's controversial Google Print Library Project. (Oct. 19.)
"We see plenty of opportunities in things that Google might or might not do. If you read the newspapers today, other than curing cancer, Google will do everything." -- Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, trying to pretend that Redmond isn't constantly watching its rival over in Mountain View like a hawk 24/7. (Oct. 19.)
Just like elephants, customers never forget
"I knew that CA had a problem with customer relationships. As a competitor of CA's for many years I knew that was sort of their Achilles heel. You could never beat them on product, but sometimes you could get them to beat themselves. And they did on a fairly regular basis." -- John Swainson, CA president and CEO, realizing what was fun to watch when he was at IBM for 26 years is now his main issue as head of CA. (Oct. 12.)
"One of the most frustrating things that happens occasionally is you go into a client and they'll regale you with tales of atrocities and you say, 'When did this happen?' and they say 'Oh, 1993 or 94, I forget when' -- there's such a long tail to the memories of some of our clients." -- Swainson laying out the challenges he and his team face in trying to rebuild shattered customer confidence in the company formerly known as Computer Associates, now rebranded just plain CA. (Oct. 12.)
Oracle, the new software assimilator?
"When I was at Oracle, we watched Computer Associates buy all those mainframe software companies and milk them for their license revenue. I never thought that's what Oracle would be doing one day, and yet, here it is." -- Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com founder and CEO, as Oracle's hunger for enterprise software companies continues. (Sept. 9.)
"I know you're all wondering: is there some strategy behind all this bizarre behavior over the last six months, us buying all these companies, or is it just Oracle being Oracle?" -- Oracle President Charles Phillips. Hint: so far, the latter explanation looks like the right answer. (April 18.)
Don't know much about ... much
"I know what I don't know, and to this day I don't know technology and I don't know accounting and finance." -- Bernie Ebbers, former WorldCom CEO, speaking in his defense, yes, you've got that right, in his defense during the WorldCom fraud trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison, though he's yet to go to the big house because he's appealing his sentence. (March 1.)
"What were you going to do with the rest of your afternoon, offer jobs to Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds? Or were you going to stick to something easier, like talking Pope Benedict into presiding at a Satanist orgy?" -- Eric Raymond, one of the prime movers in the open-source movement, who also describes himself as "Microsoft's worst nightmare" after he received an e-mail pitch from Microsoft asking if he was interested in a job. (Sept. 9.)
Telling it like it is
"I'm an egotistical bastard, so I name all my projects after myself. First Linux, now git." -- Creator of the Linux operating system Linus Torvalds in typical self-deprecating mode, on why he used the British slang for "idiot" as the title of his latest software project. Ah, bless, you can't help but love this guy. (April 19.)
"Getting kicked upstairs and out of the way," -- How Craig Barrett humorously referred to leaving his long-time role as Intel president to trade up to chairman. (March 1.)
Nice to meet you -- I think
"We have so many rivals it's frightening. The week after next I will meet Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and I will [shake hands and] look down and see if I still have a hand." Sony's Stringer on his role at the top of the Japanese electronics giant. He added that his family thought he was "insane" to take the job. (June 22.)
"There are times when I get through the day by looking around the office and thinking, 'My God, aren't the natives here strange.'" -- Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist at Intel, on how she never gives up on her day job, describing being at the chip giant as a "field trip." (Sept. 15.)