Kanye West, President Obama and David Letterman grabbed headlines this year when they apologized for assorted ill-advised acts or rash statements. But they more than met their match in the high tech industry, where big names from Amazon to Apple to Microsoft were forced to issue mea culpas in the wake of bad and worse decisions. Here's a recap of what the tech industry has been most sorry about in 2009.
Amazon apologises for Kindle book deletions
In what might have been the most blunt apology of the year, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos in July pleaded stupidity and thoughtlessness for his company's decision to delete copies of George Orwell's "1984" and other books from Kindle e-readers that Amazon had not gained permission to sell in the first place:
"This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of "1984" and other novels on Kindle. Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.
"With deep apology to our customers,
"Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com"
iPhone apology #1: Baby Shaker
Granted, Apple does have a lot of apps to keep track of in its App Store – the number was at 100,000 as of November – but that didn't excuse it from letting the notorious "Baby Shaker" app onto its site in April. That app, if you don't recall, involved shaking the iPhone vigorously to get an on-screen baby to stop crying. And its existence in the App Store got brain injury activists on the case in a hurry. Apple yanked the app and issuing the following apology:
"This application was deeply offensive and should not have been approved for distribution on the App Store. When we learned of this mistake, the app was removed immediately. We sincerely apologise for this mistake and thank our customers for bringing this to our attention."
A website bearing the name of Sikalosoft, the developer of the app, also contained an apology of sort, plus information about Shaken Baby Syndrome:
"Okay, so maybe the Baby Shaker iPhone app was a bad idea. You should never shake a baby! Even on an Apple iPhone Baby Shaking application. No babies were harmed in the making of Baby Shaker."
iPhone apology #2: Amp Up Before You Score
Pepsi in October apologised for and eventually pulled an App Store entry called "Amp Up Before You Score" that offered guys advice on how to pick up various types of women and document all this on a "brag list" online. The apology, via Twitter, read:
"Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go2 get women. We apologize if it's in bad taste & appreciate ur feedback."
Microsoft's Danger lives up to its name
T-Mobile and Microsoft went into big time damage control after an outage at Microsoft's Danger subsidiary threatened to wipe out data from users of T-Mobile's Sidekick smartphones. The situation quickly earned the vendors a slot on the list of all-time cloud computing outages.
In the end, the vendors were able to recover most of the data, T-Mobile offered $100 gift certificate, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer characterised the episode as "not good" and Microsoft issued this apology:
"On behalf of Microsoft, I want to apologise for the recent problems with the Sidekick service and give you an update on the steps we have taken to resolve these problems.
"We are pleased to report that we have recovered most, if not all, customer data for those Sidekick customers whose data was affected by the recent outage. We plan to begin restoring users' personal data as soon as possible, starting with personal contacts, after we have validated the data and our restoration plan. We will then continue to work around the clock to restore data to all affected users, including calendar, notes, tasks, photographs and high scores, as quickly as possible.
"We now believe that data loss affected a minority of Sidekick users. If your Sidekick account was among those affected, please continue to log into the T-Mobile Sidekick forum at for the latest updates about when data restoration will begin, and any steps you may need to take. We will work with T-Mobile to post the next update on data restoration timing no later than Saturday.
"We have determined that the outage was caused by a system failure that created data loss in the core database and the back-up. We rebuilt the system component by component, recovering data along the way. This careful process has taken a significant amount of time, but was necessary to preserve the integrity of the data.
"We will continue working closely with T-Mobile to restore user data as quickly as possible. We are eager to deliver the level of reliable service that our incredibly loyal customers have become accustomed to, and we are taking immediate steps to help ensure this does not happen again. Specifically, we have made changes to improve the overall stability of the Sidekick service and initiated a more resilient backup process to ensure that the integrity of our database backups is maintained.
"Once again, we apologize for this situation and the inconvenience that it has created. Please know that we are working all-out to resolve this situation and restore the reliability of the service.
"Sincerely, Roz HoCorporate Vice President, Premium Mobile Experiences, Microsoft Corporation, Oct. 15, 2009"
Microsoft regrets photo-swap incident
Microsoft was red-faced after it was discovered that an ad featuring an image of a black man's face on Microsoft's US website was replaced with a white man's face in an ad appearing on the website of Microsoft's Polish subsidiary. The man's hand didn't change colour, however. Microsoft issued this statement:
"We are looking into the details of this situation. We apologize and are in the process of pulling down the image."
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