A Brief History of Tech Execs ‘Doubling Down’ On Things

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Reuters/KFC/Techland Illustration

In blackjack, to “double down” means to bet up to double your current wager in hopes of earning up to twice the rewards. But lately, tech executives have adopted their own loose definition, something along the lines of “we’re getting really, really serious about this, guys.”

The excess of doubling down was on display this week at the D10 Conference, where Apple CEO Tim Cook used the phrase twice.

First, on Siri:

“I think you’ll be pleased where we’re taking Siri. We’re doubling down on it.”

Then, on plugging up rumors:

“We’re going to double down on secrecy on products.”

But Cook isn’t the only tech executive fascinated by the double down. Here’s Skype CEO Tony Bates, later on in the conference:

“I’m not going to talk about future products, but I’ll steal a line from Tim Cook. We’re going to double-down on integration with Windows 8, and we’re going to double-down on secrecy.”

He’s double-doubling down! I’m not sure what doubling down on secrecy entails, but perhaps Skype plans to reduce the number of rumors about the company by half.

Anyway, the doubling down of tech execs predates D10. Brian Humphries, who in 2010 was HP’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development, took liberties with the phrase after HP bought Palm and its WebOS software:

“WebOS is the best-in-class mobile operating system. Our intent is to double down on webOS.”

In this case, “double down” is akin to “pick up off the ground,” which of course didn’t happen. HP arguably folded too early, and abandoned WebOS after its first tablet, the TouchPad, flopped.

Andy Rubin, Google’s senior vice president of mobile, adopted a similar definition when talking about Android tablets, which haven’t sold very well so far:

“2012 is going to be the year that we double down and make sure we’re winning in that space.”

HTC, which saw its profits tank last holiday season, has realized where to place its bets, according to president Jason MacKenzie:

“It’s about the experience. We’re doubling down on design to make sure the phones feel great in customers hands.”

Jonathan Bellack, a director of product management for Google’s DoubleClick, had his own revelation about where to invest:

“This is the year where we’re doubling down on publishers, giving you the tools you need to make the most from today’s digital media landscape.”

Kevin Unangst, Microsoft’s senior director of PC and mobile gaming, comes close to the proper definition:

“So yeah, we’re still going to double down, you’re going to see us do more with Forza, with Halo, with Fable; all the franchises.”

Bigger investment equals more games equals bigger payoff. Makes sense.

But the award for most accurate use of “double down” goes to Rapid7 CEO Mike Tuchen, who goes back to the phrase’s gambling roots:

“First, we’re doubling down on expanding our existing engineering teams. We doubled the team in 2010, nearly doubled it in 2011, and plan to double it again in 2012.”

A literal double down! Good work, Mike.

One more for good measure, though it has nothing to do with technology, comes from Javier Benito, executive vice president of marketing and food innovation for KFC, in May 2010:

“Our plans were to feature the product only through May 23, but millions of Double Down fans have spoken and we won’t disappoint them. You’ll continue to be able to get the Double Down at KFC this summer.”

To use the phrase the way tech execs do, KFC doubled down on the Double Down. But only for a limited time, which is probably for the best.

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