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Buyouts, betrayals, and booty calls - the tech industry is steamy with merger and split-up intrigue
High-tech Valentine's: 10 hookups and breakups for 2013
Ah, Valentine's Day -- even in the high-tech industry, it's a time when secret crushes are revealed and lifelong connections are made. But it's also when troubled relationships hit the rocks and couples are torn asunder. Who should call it splitsville, and who really needs to put a ring on it? Read on to find out.
Breakup: Microsoft Enterprise & Microsoft Consumer
The late Steve Jobs said it best when he told Larry Page that unless Google stopped churning out mediocre products, it was in danger of turning into Microsoft. Because let's face it: With a few rare exceptions (mainly the Xbox), Microsoft is a wildly successful enterprise software company that makes crappy consumer gear. It then bends itself into pretzels trying to make them all part of one big, dysfunctional family. Our advice to Redmond: Let your consumer people go. They might feel freed up enough to build something truly innovative. Or they'll die off. Either way, we win.
Hookup: Google + T-Mobile
This notion has been circulating for years, and it's time for Google to finally dial in or get off the line. Buying T-Mobile would give Google a ton of spectrum, a network of cell towers, the freedom to make handsets without restrictions, and the retail presence to sell them direct to consumers. Unlike anyone else who buys T-Mobile, Google doesn't need to make money competing against AT&T and Verizon -- which could, theoretically, drive down prices. T-Mobile gets a new sugar daddy with deep pockets, and we can all start calling them G-Mobile. We call that a win-win-win-win.
Breakup: Apple & Intel
As InfoWorld's Tom Halfhill notes, there are good arguments both for and against an Apple-Intel divorce. Historically, Intel's chips have been too power-hungry for mobile devices, while the ARM processors have been too anemic for desktops and notebooks. But as Apple's desktop and mobile OSes inevitably converge, something's got to give. Just as it dumped Motorola for IBM, then IBM for Intel, we're betting Apple gives Intel its walking papers and hooks up with a new chip partner -- maybe Qualcomm -- for iDevices of every size. In love one day, in divorce court the next; that's just how it goes with celebrity marriages.
Hookup: BlackBerry + Anyone
Poor BlackBerry. Before the iPhone appeared, BlackBerry was the heartthrob of the smartphone world. Now BlackBerry couldn't get a hookup if its life depended on it. Rumors are swirling that Lenovo may make an honest company out of them, but we've all heard those kinds of things before. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung have all been trotted out as potential suitors, only to eject well clear of the altar. If the Lenovo thing falls apart, remember: Spinsters can also lead rich, fulfilling lives before they die quietly alone with their cats.
Breakup: Microsoft & Ballmer
While we're separating Microsoft into its component parts, let's revisit the notion of its legendary CEO riding off into the sunset. Sure, the Bald Sweaty One fended off a chorus of critics calling for him to step down in 2011, but a new bio by former Microsoft exec Joachim Kempin may reignite the flames. In it, Kempin charges Ballmer of lopping the heads off anyone who might challenge him for the big chair -- and, by extension, keeping the company in a leadership vacuum from which it may never emerge. It's not you, Steve; it's us. Actually, it is you. But we'll pretend it's us if you'll agree to go away.
Hookup: Yahoo + MySpace
Yahoo is still kicking itself for failing to snag Facebook when it had the chance back in 2006. But it can redeem itself and get a toehold in the social networking space by swallowing MySpace. Sure, the old MySpace was a cesspool of trailer-trash teens, going-nowhere garage bands, and sclerotic exotic dancers. But the New Justin Timberlake-flavored MySpace is the epitome of Hollywood hipsterism -- and Yahoo could use a little fresh blood right now.
Breakup: AOL & CompuServe (and Netscape)
Thought to have been quietly euthanized by AOL in 2009, CompuServe.com survives today as a circa 2002-era news portal. Even weirder? Its headlines are delivered by the vestigial remains of Netscape. Have we entered a time warp? Possibly. But it's a golden opportunity for AOL to spin off the portal as a retro social network for digital hipsters who were still in short pants when it acquired CompuServe in 1997. Could anything be cooler than sporting an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org on your business card? We think not.
Hookup: Rovio + Zynga
Zynga is desperate for mobile gaming street cred, while Rovio searches anxiously for a followup to the insanely popular Angry Birds. We can't think of a better home for furious fowl and greedy pigs than Farmville. This is not an entirely original idea, of course; Rovio apparently turned down a $2.25 billion acquisition offer from Zynga CEO Marc Pincus in 2011. Given Zynga's current stock price, that offer would now be worth approximately $37.52, which means Rovio could snag Zynga for a song. Think Angry Nerds: Instead of flinging songbirds at swine, we could be tossing pinecones at Pincus.
Breakup: WikiLeaks & Julian Assange
While Julian Assange waits alone in an anteroom in Ecuador's London embassy, hoping a camera crew will wander in, the whistleblower site he helped create struggles to stay relevant. The egocentric Aussie has alienated many of his staunchest supporters, who still support WikiLeaks' mission to expose facts those in power would rather remain secret. Separate the two, and WikiLeaks can get back to afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, while Assange can return to doing what he does best: Posing for portraits and lobbying for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hookup: Facebook + The National Security Agency
One is a worldwide organization hell bent on siphoning every scintilla of data from every person on the planet. The other is a taxpayer-funded surveillance colossus. Together they are a match made in data-mining heaven. Do you like building explosive devices out of common household items, post-1980s Cat Stevens records, and movies involving one or more characters named Bourne? You could be eligible for all-expenses-paid vacation to picturesque Guantanamo Bay.