Our 2012 Tech Company Report Cards: Who Flunked?

It's the end of the year — and that means it's the end of the semester. Before we all go on holidays, it's time to have a tough conversation, kiddos. Grades are in. Who misbehaved? Who shined? Who got detention?

Our pupils: the world's technology companies. We graded them in a variety of subjects. Did they play nice with others? Did they pay attention? Did they exercise creative thinking? Were they scolded? Not every company made honour roll this year, but don't worry. Everyone has room for improvement!


A star of the class, but this overachiever does have some trouble working with its peers. Facebook deserves outstanding marks for social development, after hitting one billion users this year. We're very proud of how far Facebook has come! Yet Facebook still runs into trouble: class discussions are practically non-existent after Facebook cancelled its voting functionality, and self-expression is a challenge — how exactly do we change our privacy settings this week?

But overall, Facebook shines: a social darling with some social issues. Looking forward to another great year!

Social Skills Universally loved, although a little showy with its allowance — we've heard about money troubles at home? Facebook won't listen to what anyone else says, but darnit, we just love it too much to care. Every single day.

Arts and Crafts Unlike years past, Facebook managed to not ruin anything too badly — in fact, it's actually easier on the eyes. Facebook has the occasional tantrum, insisting it's not working on a smartphone during class. We're glad.

Verbal Comprehension We're not sure what Facebook owns, for how long, or why. Student is uncooperative, and doesn't seem to care that we care. Can you sell our pictures? No? Yes? A little? Strangers can message us for a dollar? Why exactly? Are we going to get ads with auto-audio? Maybe? We hope not? What is Facebook going to do to make enough money off of us? Anyone's guess — they're not making it easy to predict.


This was a year of personal growth for Google. We're proud to see how much it's matured — Android actually feels like real smartphone software, and not DOS with makeup on. It's been a pleasure to watch! Still, we're worried that Google's social development is still stunted: its efforts to turn Google+ into anything desirable in 2012 were largely fruitless.

Social Skills Awkward. Means well, but doesn't click with peers. Keeps trying to show off a social network that nobody wants. A little oblivious. Executives might need a public-speaking coach.

Arts and Crafts Lovely progress! Android finally looks good enough to hang on the fridge. A huge step, and what matters most. But what was that Nexus Q all about? We like to see creative thinking but it was just a big black blob that didn't really do anything. Classmates puzzled by repeated mentions of "Google TV", whatever this means.

Verbal Comprehension Does anyone outside of Google's legal team really know exactly what the hell the deal is with its privacy policy? We know it's bad, but how bad? Google is great at self-expression in the form of warm blog posts, but seems to have trust issues with classmates. We're worried Google is alienating itself and pushing away peers. We'll keep an eye on it next semester.


Teacher's pet. Posterboy. Seems like it's in a bit of a rut. Inner turmoil. Fights with classmates. Won't talk about it. Frustrating year.

Social Skills Apple doesn't make it easy to get along. iMessage breaks frequently, the company is suing everyone it can, it pushed away its BFF Google, had to draw its own maps, and was mocked by the rest of the class. We think we saw tears, but Apple said it was fine.

Arts and Crafts Apple still makes the best stuff in the world, but that's not exciting anymore. Student seems stalled. That iPad Mini screen left us scratching our heads. iOS is starting to feel stale. Brutal Chinese labour conditions upset classmates. Extra points for vocab and attention to detail, though classmates aren't sure what a "chamfer" is.

Verbal Comprehension For the first time in its life, Apple gave an earnest apology for something, using words that made it sound like a real human. A proud moment!


Usually teased as class nerd, Microsoft has really been trying to reinvent itself. A cool new image isn't always easy! We applaud Microsoft's courage. But it's having some trouble following through.

Social Skills Wonderful to see a student not obsessively bickering over patents like the rest. And one of WP8's best qualities is plugging you in with all your pals in one central hub — it does this better than anyone else. This is a nice new side to see from Microsoft!

Arts & Crafts Microsoft has been working on one project all year, and, as much as we wanted it to be just terrific, we think it confused itself and cut corners along the way. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are exciting treats, but Surface is sloppy and frustrating. This was a big letdown for all of us — probably the biggest disappointment of the year.

Oh, and that new logo? Tsk.

Verbal Comprehension Microsoft is honest with itself, admitting that Surface isn't a big hit (yet). But it seems confused at the same time. Why did the head of Windows leave right after the launch of a new Windows?


Another popular darling in the class, but one that's quickly losing friends. Twitter has developed a serious attitude problem.

Social Skills Twitter is doesn't seem to care about the feelings of others — are things OK at home? It got in a fight with Instagram (we thought you were friends!), infuriated developers around the world, and debuted a photo filtering service nobody asked for. We were told we could read all of our old tweets this year, and now only a small fraction of Twitter's users have access to archives. The year is almost over.

Arts and Crafts We can tell Twitter has some jealousy issues with Facebook, ripping off its Cover Photo design in profiles. Facebook yelled "No copying!" and ran out of the room crying. Meanwhile, the official client for OS X hasn't been updated in ages, and is full of bugs. We need to sit down and talk about priorities.

Verbal Comprehension Still the gold standard in quick internet chatter. There's a reason we all keep using it around the clock.


It didn't appear Sony attended class much this year, and when it did, turned in assignments were shoddy. Very worrying.

Social Skills Sony is still being run with ear plugs in — some of its products are great, some are horrible, and nobody seems to be able to share insight within departments. And it shows.

Arts and Crafts We're still shaking our heads. A total lack of effort. Normally a student like this would be sent to do remedial coursework, but Sony used to be a star of the class — we have no idea what happened.

But we know you can do it. You still make some of the best cameras we've ever seen — cameras that look and work like things from Space Age commercials. You've got it in you. Find it in yourself! You can do it! We want you to blossom again, Sony. Stick with it!

Verbal Comprehension Sony is a confused student. It's trying to be too many things — a music store, a video game developer, a smartwatch craftsman — and can't articulate itself. Sony needs to focus, prioritise, trim down on its distractions, and dedicate itself to something. Too many ideas, good and bad. Focus, focus, focus — unless Sony pulls it together and starts speaking out of one mouth instead of 80, it's at risk of expulsion.

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