This is about the time of year when most news organizations, bloggers and tech sites discuss the significant events of the past year. I’m no different, and that’s what I’m going to do.
Without a doubt, the most significant even in 2011 (at least in the tech world) was the death of Steve Jobs. The second most significant event was Steve Jobs resignation from Apple. Now, had he not passed away, this would be the number one event. However, his death over shadows everything else. When he announced his resignation, people had already begun to speculate on his health and the health of Apple. Indeed, death knells for both were foretold. Much speculation over the future success of Apple was tied to Steve Jobs and nay sayers were writing that the iPad was Jobs’ last influential product for the company and all innovation would, somehow, dry up. This just is not the case. He was the guiding hand, no doubt, but the real talent-the designers, the thinkers, the engineers, you know, the people that made him look good-is still there. Apple is in good hands and they have a lot of very smart people working there.
The third significant event turned out to be rather a non-event, but could have ramifications for years. The aborted merger between AT&T and T-Mobile resulted in the sidelining of T-Mobile for most of the year, a time during which they did little. They missed out on the iPhone and have done very little advertising. AT&T, on the other hand, comes out smelling like a rose, no matter the outcome. The three billion dollar (US) fee they will pay T-Mobile for the breakup is nothing to them, plus they will, likely, end up recouping that when Deutsche Telekom breaks up the company (which, they likely will do.)
Next is the killing of Palm. HP purchased Palm in 2010 with the idea of incorporating webOS into everthing from printers to computers and tablet. They brought out three cell phones and the wonderful webOS based TouchPad tablet. During the time that HP was ramping up webOS, they went through three CEO’s. The first one bought Palm. The second decided HP was not a consumer company and disbanded most of Palm and killed of the Palm hardware. The TouchPad was a product for a mere seven weeks before it became the number two tablet when HP sold them for $99 a pop. Then, CEO #2 was forced out and CEO #3 came in. She decides that, for now, they will not make any webOS based tablets, but may in the future. They won’t be making phones, but they will continue webOS development. Oh, they are going to open source the operating system. Huh.
The downward spiral of RIM is the next major event. Well, not really one event, but a series of blunders, miscalculations and mismanagement. RIM, to their credit, tried to catch up, but they failed. The Playbook tablet, while the hardware is nice, was a huge blunder because: they sort of forced you to have a Blackberry phone to use the calendar and contacts; gave the impression that you needed a Blackberry in order to use the device; priced it to compete with a Lexus auto; made it nearly impossible for developers to develop apps for the thing. I could go on, but you get the point. The dual CEO debacle probably does not help them either. Oh, the next gen Blackberry was, initially, not going to work with existing BLACKBERRY infrastructure, which is what made RIM RIM. Sad. Now they are desperately playing catchup. They are in far worse shape than even Palm was…or is, for that matter.
Other notable things would include the fall of Nintendo, Netflix’s indecision’s, Blockbuster’s demise, Sony, Sony and Sony. Let’s look at Nintendo for a moment. The Wii has, effectively, ended its reign as the top selling console. It seems everyone has one so Nintendo cannot give them away. Couple that with the dearth of good games and that adds up to lackluster sales and Nintendo’s loss financially. Blockbuster was purchased by Dish Networks and was forced to shutter a significant number of stores as the rental market has tanked. Netflix could not seem to do anything right. They announced several price hikes, the separation of DVD and online rentals, the creation of the DVD only company only to shutter that before it got going and the assinine ramblings of its CEO. They were a good study in what NOT to do in the PR department. Or in business. Or anything.
And then there’s SONY. This company tries so hard to make you think they are the Lexus/Cadillac/Infiniti/Maserati/Porsche of the consumer electronics world. They fail on so many levels. It is sad, really. Take the PS3. This turd of a console was released at a high price and, eventually, Sony was forced to price it so that normal people could buy the thing. Touting its online play, they build an online presence and backbone so we could play things like Motostorm and Call of Duty on line. For free. Problem is, they didn’t quite know how to protect this online backbone and they were hacked. Multiple times. The worse was in April. They were offline for a month worldwide and six weeks in Japan. The Japanese government was not convinced that Sony had fixed the problem that they forced them to keep the plug pulled for two more weeks. Since then, they’ve been hacked several more times. Sad. Oh, the replacement for the PSP, the Vita, has already tanked-less than a month on sale, no less. Sales fell nearly 78% from the first week. This is one company that has its head up its collective ass.
All was not doom and gloom during 2011. Bright spots include Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. The release of the early developer preview of Windows 8 got rave reviews, Mango-the Windows Phone 7 update-was released to rave reviews as well. Windows 7 is selling very, very well as is the Office line. XBOX 360 sold nearly one million units over the black friday weekend and the fall update was released for the XBOX with nary a hitch. And, they reported record profits. Again.
Ford proved its meddle in technology with it’s Sync. Sync is, technically, a Microsoft product, but Ford has incorporated the product in most of its line and they are doing very well. The latest version has a revamped interface (one of the big complaints was that it was confusing to use) and they seemed to listen to users. This is how to run a company.
I would not venture a guess or make any prediction about 2012. I have tried for the last few years but will not do so this time. Suffice it to say that the tech world is changing so quickly that what seemed like science fiction yesterday will be fact tomorrow. I am, though, still waiting for that flying and folding car that George Jetson has as well as a VCR that’s easy to…oh, wait…