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Steve Jobs, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google: Tech's most notorious betrayals

Technology is a cut-throat industry. With innovation essential and fresh breakthroughs happening every single day, companies are always looking to gain an advantage over their rivals. Unfortunately, morals are sometimes tossed out of the window in favour of questionable - but certainly effective - tactics. However, it does make terrific reading.

Here are our top 10 moments of betrayal, deceit and shameless sabotage in the lovely world of tech. Many individuals from the picture above are heavily involved in proceedings.

Microsoft steals some help from IBM

Back in 1985, when the tech landscape looked a little differently to how it does today, IBM (already an industry powerhouse) and Microsoft (relatively small fry) struck up a partnership. It was agreed that Microsoft would build a graphical user interface (GUI), called OS/2, for its larger counterpart's computers, but the company instead developed its own version, Windows 3.0, which would go on to compete directly with IBM's.

The partnership was eventually terminated in 1991 but, as far as IBM was concerned, the damage had already been done. At the time, there were 13 million copies of Microsoft's product in the wild, compared to a mere 600,000 of IBM's. As we all know, Windows kicked on to become the most popular computer operating system of all time. Watson would have seen this coming a mile off.

Apple cuts Jobs

Many still struggle to get their heads around this one. In 1985, a 30-year-old Steve Jobs quit the company he co-founded less than a decade earlier.

At the heart of this move lay the launch and ultimate flop of the Macintosh Office. Jobs and then Apple CEO John Sculley locked horns over this failed product, with the former calling for the company to slash prices and ramp up advertising and the latter insisting that such a move might cut away the legs from under Apple, according to Sculley.

The board sided with Sculley, removing Jobs from his position as head of the Macintosh division, effectively stripping him of any responsibilities. Jobs felt betrayed and duly set up NeXT as a rival to his former company. 11 years later, NeXT was snapped up by Apple and Jobs enjoyed immense success on his return to his first love until his death in 2011.

Jobs angers the fanboys

The late, great Steve Jobs is idolised by Apple - and indeed, tech - enthusiasts the world over, but even he was not exempt from a good old fan backlash. That's right, Jobs incurred the wrath of thousands upon his return to the company in the late 90s. Why? He decided to kill off the Newton MessagePad, a sort of primitive ancestor of the iPad.

The reaction was powerful, with many opting to make their feelings known at subsequent editions of MacWorld conventions, and others even penning lengthy obituaries for their fallen comrade. The device was immortalised in an episode of The Simpsons (Lisa on Ice), which might have consoled some MessagePad fans, if the handset wasn't just openly ridiculed.

Facebook vs the world

Remember when you had to have a school email address to sign up to Facebook? It's difficult to believe now but, once upon a time, Mark Zuckerberg's pride and joy used to be considered one of the most secure and privacy-conscious social networks in the world. How times have changed.

Read more: How to protect your identity on Facebook and other social networks

In a complete reversal of attitude, Facebook now appears to be a data collection machine, focused almost solely on gathering as much user information as possible, in order to boost advertising revenues. Great for businesses but not so great for ordinary people. Those fooled into thinking that the company's new alliance aims to put right some of its misdemeanours need a wake-up call. Ever think about changing its name to Facecage, Mark?

The world vs Jerry Yang

Yahoo is currently reaping the benefits of its major image overhaul, but the search giant's outlook hasn't always been so rosy. 2008 was a particularly turbulent year for the company, and was dominated by stories of internal feuds and powerful external forces.

Yahoo's co-founder and then CEO Jerry Yang was involved in a bitter war with Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor who sat on the board at the time. Icahn led a very public campaign, calling for Microsoft to take over the company and Yang to leave. Yang, however, wouldn't play ball and could only watch on as Yahoo's value fall by a massive $30 billion (£18 billion) in a matter of months.

Eventually, with his position seemingly untenable and a deal looking more than likely, Yang announced his departure in mid-November. Later that week, then Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer quashed all rumours of an impending deal between the two firms and less than a year on, Icahn stepped away from the company. Watch your back Marissa.

Oracle spells doom for Sun

Larry Ellison-led Oracle picked up Sun Microsystems in April 2009 and - for one company at least - the consequences were disastrous. From the very moment it went through, this particular deal was somewhat baffling. If such a spectrum existed, ownership-obsessed Ellison would stand on one end and open source-friendly Sun would lie on the other.

Sure enough, Oracle quickly launched into a legal war with Google over a number of Java patents and by September 2010, the majority of OpenOffice developers had quit the project in favour of a version that did not involve Oracle. A year later, Michael Widenius, the original creator of MySQL, claimed that Oracle tried to smother his open source baby.

Apple vs Google

"I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," read an infamous passage in Steve Jobs' biography. "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple $40 billion [£24 billion] in the bank, to right this wrong." It's probably fair to say that Jobs threw a bit of a hissy-fit when Google took fire at Apple's mobile operating system with Android.

The person Jobs blamed for this alleged theft was Eric Schmidt, the current chairman of Google. It's difficult to believe now, but these two heavyweights were once close allies. In fact, back in the days when Google was just a search provider and Apple was a hardware and OS company, Schmidt used to sit on the Cupertino-based firm's board.

During his time there, Schmidt was involved in secretive discussions about the original iPhone, which was launched in June 2007. Later that year came Google's mobile OS. The two firms are still scrapping today.

HP slaps down Palm

How things could have turned out so differently for Palm. Armed with its highly-promising webOS, the company was snapped up by HP in the summer of 2010 for $1.2 billion (£766 million) and much of the world expected big things, not least brand new lines of PCs, smartphones and tablets. After all, raw potential had finally been supplemented by plentiful resources. Or so it seemed.

The reality could barely have been more different. HP ended up shuttering sales and discontinuing support for webOS products, cut loose former Palm employees, open-sourced its mobile operating system and spun off webOS as a new entity called Gram. Former Palm boss Jon Rubinstein later referred to the deal as "a waste." Who could argue with that assessment?

Elop infiltrates Nokia

It's the €5.4 billion (£4.6 billion) question that we can't definitively answer. Was Stephen Elop a "Trojan horse" sent to Nokia by Microsoft in order to prepare the Finnish firm for dinner?

Read more: Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's mobile business - An effort to imitate Apple?

He joined Nokia from Microsoft in September 2013, becoming the firm's first non-Finnish head in the process. Just a few months later, he announced that Nokia would produce Windows Phone-running devices only, and the company's stock tumbled. Three years later, it was announced that Microsoft had agreed to buy up Nokia's mobile devices, services and patents, in a deal that took most of the world by surprise. After all, the smartphone manufacturer was finally gaining precious ground in the mobile market and was dropping hints of an impending partnership with Android all over the place.

Elop, who stepped down from his position as CEO when the deal was announced, somehow managed to earn €18.8 million (£15.5 million) in bonuses from the deal and has since been appointed vice president of Microsoft's devices and services group. Shadier still is the fact that his contract at Nokia was revised on the very day that the Microsoft deal was announced.


BlackBerry's woes have been painfully well-documented. From BYOD to job cuts and botched launches to the spectacular flop that was BB10 – very little has gone right for the former smartphone powerhouse. But nothing has been more embarrassing than the Fairfax merry-go-round.

BlackBerry put itself up for sale in August last year and there was no shortage of eager suitors. Lenovo and SAP were early frontrunners, but the Canadian government's desire for the firm to stay on native ground scuppered their attempts and opened the door for a consortium led by Canadian outfit Fairfax Financial.

The two parties quickly agreed a $4.7 billion (£2.9 billion) deal. "We're not in the business of offering a number and at the last minute changing the figure," said Fairfax chief Prem Watsa, just before the takeover was due to go through. "We just don't do that." The fact that Watsa felt it was necessary to clarify, completely unprompted, that he wasn't planning on backing out of the deal at the last minute seemed to suggest that he was indeed planning on backing out of the deal at the last minute. Shock horror, the Fairfax takeover fell through at the 11th hour, leaving BlackBerry totally lost. Cold as ice.

N.B. The Samsung vs Apple case might be up here if it wasn't still ongoing (and incredibly dull).

Image credits: Flickr (George Nimeh; Robert Holmgren; tonnydan), Gizmodo