A Few New Year’s Resolutions for Tech Companies

Constructive advice for HP, Google, Netflix and RIM--because hey, nobody's perfect.

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4. “I’ll treat other people like grownups.”

Netflix is a swell company.  I’ve been a happy customer for years, and remain one. When it instituted humongous price hikes for many customers in July, however, it didn’t really explain its rationale for doing so. In fact, it still hasn’t–even though the changes were hugely controversial and caused many people to cancel their accounts.

There’s no scenario under which stiff price increases make consumers happy. But part of Netflix’s problem was its refusal to tell us all why it did what it did. A clear, honest explanation wouldn’t have hurt the company’s reputation, and might have helped.

5. “I’ll have my midlife crises in private.”

Sorry, Netflix, this one’s for you, too. Everybody, and every company, occasionally flirts with doing things that are profoundly ill-advised. Most of the time, we take a deep breath and snap back to our senses.

If only Netflix had done that rather than using a weirdly amateurish and self-indulgent video to tell the world that it was splitting off its DVD-by-mail service into a company called Qwikster. So many things were so terrible about the idea that it wasn’t the least bit surprising when Netflix changed its mind less than a month later.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever learn the inside story of the Qwikster misadventure, or how thoroughly Netflix vetted the concept before springing it on customers. This much is clear, though: It didn’t think the idea over enough, and it was completely unrealistic about how the world would react to it. I classify it as a brief moment of madness–and, I hope, a lesson learned for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. If only he’d asked me, you, or almost anyone else before making the announcement.

(MORE: First Look: OnLive’s Cloud Gaming Service Comes to Tablets and Phones)

6. “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yup, that is indeed a quote from Yoda, and I thought of it in recent weeks as I’ve been reading about a flurry of predictions that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been making. He told an Italian newspaper that Google will release a tablet of “the highest quality” within the next six months. In the same timeframe, he says, the “majority” of TVs will have Google TV built in. Oh, and Android will ne Apple’s iOS as the first mobile platform that developers build apps for–also within the next six months.

I’m not going to criticize Schmidt, because–well, it’s just barely possible that all three of his predictions will come to pass. If they don’t, however, Google will look far sillier than it would have if its chairman hadn’t raised everybody’s expectations months in advance. And if Google were to pull off all three of Schmidt’s prognostications without discussing them publicly beforehand, wouldn’t that be particularly impressive?

OK, I’ll lay off now. Companies, after all, are no more capable of attaining perfection than people are. But if the tech industry’s Corporate Persons simply come a litle closer to perfect than they did in 2011, they’ll be outperforming most of us Non-Corporate Persons. A happy new year to all of them–and to all of you.

MORE: Tech 2012: Please Don’t Call These Predictions

McCracken blogs about personal technology at Technologizer, which he founded in 2008 after nearly two decades as a tech journalist; on Twitter, he’s @harrymccracken. His column, also called Technologizer, appears every week on


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