A Look Back at Tech from 2011.

September 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

f I have to summarize what 2011 was for the tech industry, it was undoubtedly the year of the lawsuits. Most technews articles tread the path of Bollywood titbits,

Who is suing whom?
Are these icons exactly the same?
You are infringing my market space!!
For the most part, you would be surprised how naïvethey believe their user base is, when they make their arguments in these lawsuits. Nevertheless, it has been talked about quite a bit and quite frankly I would much rather discuss other things. How about nursery rhymes?

A Basket full of Apples

There is something about people who fight cancer to comeback to excel in their chosen craft, whether it is Lance Armstrong or Steve Jobs. They look very frail.
But boy do they get heard. Beauty in design and simplicity in delivery have not only become a hallmark but have also put Apple Inc. in a different league from the rest of the tech world.
Twenty eleven has cemented their place as a global entity and much more importantly a household name. The stock prices are going only one way, and if you had the money back in 1996, the joke is on you. The product line is now at a commendable number, inhabiting desks, bags, cars, pockets and even wrists. Joshua Topolesky, a renowned industry commentator, makes an interesting point. He says young kids and teenagers are now being exposed to the design rich world of iOS earlier than any other platform. Whether it is using the iPod touch they got for their birthday, or the household iPad the family uses to browse their vacation photos. His hunch is, and this is something I am starting to believe as well, that chances are these kids grow up feeling more at home with a Mac in college and further on, iMac and iPhone at work.
This year may still be as challenging and critical as the last. Apple has taken a second leap at synchronous services across the Cloud. They have chosen a great time, three to four high performance devices must to talk to each other. Connectivity has become ubiquitous in the west. But few seem to realize that another giant, Google, is on this turf pushing its own agenda, arguably a more imaginative exploit at what Cloud means. Not to mention the new iOS and a crack at voice assistance. One might say, they need Steve Jobs today more than ever before, but he is no more. John Gruber, sole writer of DarlingFireball.net is perhaps the most articulate proponent of the ‘Apple way’, is not concerned. Apple has a well-structured team in product design and implementation that reaps of the philosophy that put the company where it is now. In fact he is hopeful of interesting new innovations that Steve failed to recognize.  I for one, feel J. Gruber is being uncharacteristically optimistic. I just hope they have Steve Jobs stored in some cryogenic time capsule so that he can be brought back to life when the wireless internet situation in India is sorted out. 
It Rained Tablets, But Went Away
They came in varied sizes, overly priced, badly built, and poorly designed. Typical of any fashion trend that spawns late copycats. Following these tablets was like that one funny picture that people on Facebook keep reposting again and again. Press release quotes like “A revolutionary new touch tablet, with a great design” is a generic terminology that simply means, yet another company has put a capacitive touch screen over an ARM processor from Qualcomm that runs some stock version of Android.

 It just so happened that a brilliant design team lead by Matias Duarte, designer of WebOS, built a wonderful design interface of Android.  Unfortunately, the design on the Android is the one thing these companies want to work on. So, 2011 saw some ugly, exceedingly glossy skins of Android that made me miss the user interface of my Nintendo GameBoy.

There is absolutely no doubt now that the Apple iPad will dominate the tablet market space despite the hefty price tag.  This made me realize what a brilliant service Microsoft had done to the world. For the last two decades, maybe even three, the Windows PC’s have provided a great compromise between the pricy perfection of Apple and the exceeding nerdiness of Linux.  I hope 2012 will see a similar effort with the teaming up of two old friends, Microsoft and HP.
Humpty- Dumpty’s that Had a Great Fall
Last year has seen several big-league companies who sat high up on their wall, quiver and fall. Whether it was bad selling strategy, complete misunderstanding of user preference, lack of adaptability, they all lost market shares. What followed was the inevitable, heads rolled, multi-billion dollar acquisitions were made. They did entered new and uncharted markets and with no clarity in vision lost even more market share. Let’s talk through my list of the Humpty-dumpty’s of this year:
Research In Motion
I can tell you now that watching RIM go down a spiral this year was the saddest movement since a Bollywood actress complained that the industry doesn’t take her acting skills more seriously.
Industry watchers put the blame squarely on the CEOs for continued internal politics. BlackBerry10 OS, hailed as the company’s saviour is pushed back to 2012 citing conflicting and unconvincing reasons, even as anonymous reports suggest the new OS has a patchy email client and a BB Messenger that is very yesterday. With the fizzling out of their tablet entry, PlayBook, some dark days ahead for the company as some major reshuffling and laying-off is on the cards. These measures are only temporary and in many ways RIM looks like the Apple in the late 90’s. A blogger commented that RIM should focus squarely on innovation, not completing with iOS4 but with iOS5 or maybe 6. He also suggested RIM start afresh, and throw away the BlackBerry altogether. I don’t know if they can be that extreme, but it does sound like something Steve would do, and RIM can use a lot of the Jobs’ magic right now.
You would think that the story of HP and Nokia would be any different, but alas not to be. HP got into the tablet business like they were going to own it. You would think to, it is the first truly giant product company outside the Google Android OEM space. It had the financial muscle; the hardware was different, very small to be precise. The Palm acquisition rang all the right bells. Few months later, HP TouchPad prices are slashed, the WebOS, HP’s mobile and tablet platform is closed down and open sourced. The CEO is fired, Du! And any talk of a product in this segment is pushed back to late 2012. Glad I didn’t put any money on HP!
Nokia too failed to adapt, scrapped and open sourced their Symbion OS and, just like HP, teamed up with Microsoft for future platforms. They however forgot to put a front facing camera on the new Nokia Lumia to help Microsoft and its $8.5 billion acquisition, Skype.
And I thought my friends were inconsiderate!!

..Open your mouth.. Ha Ha Ha!

It has been quite disappointing to see a lot of bluffs being called this year. Companies crumbled and fell under their own weight. They tried to pull a Johnny eating sugar with their false promises. But it didn’t work and this has cleared the platform for revolutionary ideas and innovation. The harbingers of the year are no doubt, Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon.  I wish I could say more about how Amazon Kindled a Fire. Primarily, I believe that these companies hang on to their startup roots and are not afraid to change.
Nevertheless, my prediction for 2012 is as follows: Apple enters and own the TV business, at least in the US; Facebook continues domination in social media, integrating services such as Spotify, probably even venture out to a phone or a phone browser; Google will bring in the best Android version yet, and continue to push Google+ integration.
The company to watch out will however be Microsoft. I foresee Ballmer paving way for someone more tech savvy. Look out for some brilliance in natural human interfacing and hopefully a rich mobile and tablet platform.
The author writes his own opinions spurred by his continuous interest in technews.
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