WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

The Best and Worst of Business 2009

Remembering the good news and bad in a year we won’t forget.
By Leslie D. Helm, Chris Winters, Talia Schmidt, Kate Vesper, David Volk, Randy Woods, Elizabeth Economou and Art Thiel |   December 2009   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Illustrations by Mark Brewer

Dramamine. The future, at least, looks a lot smoother. —Chris Winters

 

Most Eagerly Anticipated and Desperately Needed Upgrade: Windows 7

Let's face it. Microsoft blew it with Windows Vista. When it was released, it was obviously not ready for prime time, was too bloated, and worst of all, all those "Vista Ready" PCs turned out to be ... well, not. Not by a long shot.

It was a PR nightmare that even bringing Jerry Seinfeld out of retirement couldn't save. But here we were in 2008, Windows XP was seven years old, and while it was a perfectly decent product, it was getting long in the tooth. Besides, all the Apple fanboys wouldn't stop their cackling over all the cool stuff they were doing with Leopard. Those "I'm a Mac" commercials were especially grating.

The answer was Windows 7, which you'd have to think was what Microsoft should have/might actually have been working on all along, kind of like the Coca-Cola Classic to the New Coke that was Vista. Early reviews were good. Great even. "What took you so long?" they asked. Good question.  —Chris Winters

 

Kind of a Big Deal Dept.: Amazon Buys Zappos

Jeff BezosYou may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but to online retailer Amazon.com, shoes are another story.

In a deal apparently blessed by St. Hubbins, the internet bookseller's $880 million purchase of the internet shoe company Zappos not only enabled Amazon to get a better toehold in the online footwear market, it also allowed Jeff Bezos to brag that he finally owns more shoes than Imelda Marcos could ever dream of.

In a close second place, Microsoft sold off Razorfish, pocketing $530 million for the digital ad agency, which lost $50 million on $360 million in revenue for fiscal 2008-2009, and was forced to lay off 70 people earlier this year. The new owner of Razorfish, which Microsoft bought as part of its $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive in 2007, is PR firm Publicis in the West. Maybe Publicis will be a more natural fit for the agency, which has somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 employees worldwide. —David Volk, Chris Winters

 

Best Loss Leader: Microsoft Windows Live

Last year's financial results for Microsoft's Windows Live division read like the punch line of a good-news-bad-news joke. The good news: The division that includes Hotmail and