Sales couldn't be better, the stock price is soaring, and the company's new products are the absolute envy of its rivals. So if you're Steve Jobs, job security is not an issue--no matter how much uproar there might be over Apple's backdating peculiarities.
Other CEOs have been forced to walk the plank simply for the appearance of impropriety. But getting rid of Jobs would mean Apple loses its leader, savior, and prophet in one swoop. The company's board of directors knew that and that's why they made sure not to get rid of its oh-so-golden goose.
That's just the way the game gets played. But how might the current spate of scandals impact tech's future? Not an easy call and, to be sure, complicated by the paucity of convictions of wrongdoing so far. Still, for Stephen P. Mader, an expert in the recruiting field, the assorted stock scandals being unearthed by regulators may well trouble Silicon Valley down the road. Here's one worst-case scenario: institutional investors may actually start pulling out of tech-sector stocks if backdating scandals aren't cleaned up. If that happens, then what started as a way to lure talent to tech start-ups may end as the hammer that quashed innovation.
Who would argue that the spread of the Internet and assorted Web 2.0 technologies around the world hasn't had a salutary effect on the lives of computer users? That's been especially true in countries run by repressive regimes. Many of these same governments have learned to exploit these new cyber technologies to improve their abilities to censor.
All that presented a quandary for Silicon Valley, and as the year wore on Congress turned up the political heat. One idea floated was to study the history of the divestiture movement in South Africa and adopt industrywide rules that would govern the tech industry's dealings with China and other authoritarian states.
The debate over how best to develop alternative-energy sources picked up steam--pardon the pun--in 2007. The only consensus on the matter--here in the United States and the rest of the world, for that matter--was that sticking with the status quo was untenable. With governments and scientists increasingly voicing concerns about the impact of fossil fuels on the economy, the technology industry probed myriad alternative-energy ideas, ranging from solar to nuclear.
Which offered the best route to energy independence? That's where the conversation got spirited. When uber-venture capitalist Vinod Khosla squared off in these pages against German parliamentarian Herman Scheer in the debate over solar power and other energy options, we got a hint of that absence of unanimity. Meanwhile, sundry dissonant voices warned against the rush to embrace corn-based ethanol as a panacea, just as critics began to point out the downsides of some so-called clean technologies. Mark this one down as a "continuing conversation."
The courts put the original Napster out of business in 2000 but the controversy over unauthorized digital file sharing continues to divide content owners and consumers. It reached a crescendo in late fall when Michael Eisner blamed the problems facing the entertainment industry on Steve Jobs and iTunes. That annoyed critics who countered that the former Disney chief was acting as a stalking horse for the recording and movie studio interests and scapegoating yet another digital whipping boy.
Still, there was no denying that the theft of creative works was hurting the music business. For Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, the slumping sales charts spoke volumes: This was turning into a fight for survival.
In the first half of this decade, digital security and cybercrime loomed as big problems for individuals and companies alike. By the end of the decade, the expectation among many was that the powers that be would have a handle on things. Well, they have a couple of years to make good on that promise. In the meantime, you can safely sum up the state of online privacy and cybercrime as somewhere on the scale between disappointing and lousy. The nature of the challenge is getting more serious, as Finjan CTO Yuval Ben-Itzhak noted in this space, user data increasingly is driving "criminal-2-criminal" business.
If there's a silver lining behind the clouds now forming, the new urgency to fix online privacy explains why the business world is mobilizing behind what it sees as a real threat. But as the year ended, there was still debate about whether Uncle Sam or the private sector should take the lead. One idea being bruited about was the idea of a national ID card issued by the Department of Homeland Security. But as security experts Richard Forno and Bruce Schneier warned, such a step would constitute a blunder of historic proportion. Long story made short, a lot more ink will likely get spilled on this topic before we see a satisfactory resolution to any of this.
CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says the appearance of impropriety won't be enough for the board to force out the CEO.
Reporters Without Borders' Julien Pain warns that ethical blind spots surrounding technology may usher in a world where all our communications are spied on.
Scientist Jonathan Koomey and AMD exec Mario Rivas say the amount of energy required to run data centers has gotten out of hand.
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith says policymakers and the public risk drawing the wrong lessons from recent patent controversies.
The worst may be over, but executive-search veteran Stephen P. Mader says the fallout from the options backdating scandal will haunt Silicon Valley.
CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says Silicon Valley would do well to borrow a page from the history of the antiapartheid struggle.
CoreStreet founder Phil Libin says the absence of meaningful debate has hindered serious discussion about the implications of a controversial new technology.
For Vinod Khosla, the debate over solar power and other energy options comes down to pragmatic questions of cost.
German parliamentarian Herman Scheer responds to criticisms from venture capitalist Vinod Khosla about how best to develop renewable energy sources.
CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says it's time to explode the myth surrounding the corn ethanol mania.
Venture capitalist Kirk Washington cautions that achieving eco-excellence in the 21st century won't be fast or easy.
How should tech companies deal with nations that oppress their citizens? Professors Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey lay out their ideas.
IP attorney Nancy Prager says the movie studios and television producers are to blame for the economic woes of their industry, not Steve Jobs or Apple.
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