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Hey, Santa, which tech execs were naughty or nice this year?

Christmastime is coming soon, Santa’s on his way. As jolly old St. Nick makes his rounds of Silicon Valley this weekend, which tech CEOs will be on his “Naughty” and “Nice” lists this year? We here at BetaNews are secret elves, and we’d like to help out the man in red by giving our opinion on who should get what they asked for, and who needs a big lump of coal.

Some of our picks are pretty obvious, while others may surprise you. Our list is intended to make you think and to spur some discussion on the trends in tech during 2011. Either way, we want to hear from you on who you think deserves to be on this list. We’ll follow up Friday with your responses.

On The “Naughty” List

Leo Apotheker, former HP CEO: Oh, Leo. You came in with blazing glory to replace shamed CEO Mark Hurd. But I gotta say, you left with about as much shame but for different reasons. You attempted to ditch your company’s signature consumer PC business, and tossed out TouchPad before it even had a chance to establish itself. This all while HP found itself missing sales targets. Not a way to get on Santa’s good side, eh?

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazardis, co-CEOs of RIM: Before I start, is it too much to ask for a single CEO at RIM? Two of them certainly aren’t cutting it. RIM as a company is failing, with trouble in meeting deadlines for its BlackBerry 10 OS, and an inability to produce compelling devices. Its flirtation with the tablet market has been a disaster, and so has its stock price, which is down a staggering 80% percent from its February high. It’s time to face the music here…

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft: Everyone knows we love to pick on Mr. Ballmer here at BetaNews in our commentaries, but it’s well deserved. As CEO of your company, you’re expected to perform. Ballmer’s record isn’t too stellar. Since he took the helm of Microsoft in 2000, the company has had few successes. Look at its stock price, too: essentially stagnant at or around $25 for the past decade. What other chief executive would be able to get away with such crappy share performance?

Reed Hastings, Netflix: No CEO is more deserving of being on our naughty list this year than Mr. Hastings. First he and his company jacked up the rate for keeping both DVDs by mail and streaming by 60 percent. Then Hastings decides to spin off the DVD business into something called Qwikster, but quickly takes that back. That’s not it: after all this he goes on YouTube and admits he really screwed up. This while customers begin to second guess their Netflix subscriptions. Not building a good case for a big gift there, Reed!

Steve Jobs, late CEO of Apple: We are saddened to give Mr. Jobs this distinction posthumously. But it’s deserved. Why? Apple’s relentless patent attacks against competitors licensing Android. Take this quote from his biography: “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this”. All these patent lawsuits aren’t play-nice behavior. How could Santa approve?

On The “Nice” List

Meg Whitman, HP CEO: Color us surprised. Fresh off her not too successful run for governor of California, we think Santa’s happy with Meg this year. She’s hit the ground running with HP, making the right decision in keeping the company’s consumer PC business in house, and at least giving WebOS a chance by spinning it off into open source. Her hints at a possible WebOS tablet again in 2013 make us think that she’s ready to completely repudiate Apotheker’s leadership.

Jack Dorsey, Square CEO: Mr. Dorsey deserves Santa’s attention just for what his company has done to credit card processing. Once a luxury of big business, now anyone can process credit cards and at a reasonable rate. Offering features like next-day deposits makes it all the better. There’s no wonder that Square now processes some $4 million in transactions per day in less than a year in existence.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon: To his shareholders, Mr. Bezos couldn’t be anything but nice. He understands that it’s just not the product itself, but the ecosystem around it. This is why Kindle Fire will be so successful, and Amazon likely will soon be the de-facto Android device manufacturer. While Kindle Fire is certainly getting a little bit of pushback over some growing pains and quality issues, Amazon as a whole is doing extraordinarily well for its first entry into the tablet sector. Besides, we’ve heard from unnamed sources, Mrs. Claus bought a Kindle Fire for Santa’s stocking.

We’d love to publish a second list from you. Please tell us which tech CEOs you think were naughty or nice this year, in comments.

Photo Credit: Joe Wilcox

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