Here’s a great review of Tech Trends for 2011 compiled by a group of UK Telegraph journalists. Obviously Hacktivism being at No. 1 is the most profound element and one that we at The RAW Media Group all celebrate and fear in possibly equal portions (haven’t measured!), but that’s the beauty of the evolutionary and revolutionary times we live in! Sometimes scary is good!
The most interesting appearance is that of Google+ being at No.2 here, considering it’s the new guy on the block. But these journo’s obviously see what we see (have a look at my previous post) – ignore Google+ at your peril!
1. The rise of hacktivism
This was the year in which hacktivism entered the mainstream thanks to a brief and chaotic digital crime spree by LulzSec, a media-savvy offshoot of Anonymous, a more po-faced and political group. Over 50 days in May and June, LulzSec breached security systems and crippled websites of major corporations including News Internationaland Nintendo, and government agencies, such as SOCA and the CIA. The attacks were accompanied by press announcements and Twitter boasts brimming with nautical humour. As quickly as the group emerged, it disappeared, as alleged members were arrested. British suspects awaiting trial include a 19-year-old “recluse” from Essex and an 18-year-old from Shetland. But it is clear hacktivism is here to stay as something corporations and governments must be wary of as cyber security moves up the agenda. Sony suffered arguably the most damaging attack of the year, when 77 million PlayStation Network users’ personal details were accessed by hackers, forcing the firm to shut down for three weeks. It has been estimated the incident, which Sony has linked to Anonymous, cost $170m. Later in the year we witnessed the influence of hacktivism in the real world, as the Occupy protesters adopted Anonymous’ rhetoric and Guy Fawkes mask.(Christopher Williams)
2. Google+ launches in a bid to rival Facebook
When Google co-founder Larry Page took over the company as chief executive this year, he prioritised achieving a decent social strategy above all else – making all staff’s bonuses dependant upon it. Google+, a new social network aiming to steal Facebook’s users and mindshare, was the result – launching in June. Despite claiming it has more than 40 million registered members, the company will not reveal how many of those are active. Further confusion came when Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer, told The Telegraph a few weeks ago that Google+ was not a social network which competes with Facebook. However, all evidence points to the contrary. Next year it will be make or break for Google’s latest social project. (Emma Barnett)
Google’s Android operating system has been taking over smartphones for a number of years, but in 2011 it passed the tipping point when more than half of all sales were Android. With 10 billion appsdownloaded and a growing range of mobile phones and tablets on the market, it is set to grow and grow. If anything, however, 2011 was not about a continuing numbers game: the latest products are available across a huge range of prices, from Tag Heuer’s decadent Link to bargain products from Huawei and ZTE, and it is also saw the launch of new operating system Ice Cream Sandwich – although the Galaxy Nexus is an impressive device, it’s the improved design of the software that should make the major impact. That makes Android feel like a suitably premium experience to rival Apple, and with the “face unlock” feature, Google is also demonstrating that it’s leading in innovation as well as polish. (Matt Warman)
4. RIM on the rocks
The riots in August provided a good demonstration of the role technology now plays in virtually every major news event. It quickly emerged that troublemakers were using RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger, an instant messaging service popular among youths, to organise and encourage disturbances. The private and yet viral nature of BBM “broadcasts” – messages designed to be repeatedly forwarded – posed an intelligence challenge to police. The Met later admitted in Parliament it had considered shutting down internet services in an attempt to control the flow of information, but had balked at the legal challenges. Senior officers also told MPs that they had used some intelligence gathered from the BBM network to prevent riots in some places. RIM was called to account for the role of its services in the riots, as were Facebook and Twitter, by the Prime Minister. It quickly became clear that threats of new police powers to restrict the internet during disturbances were just that, however. The pressure the riots put the BlackBerry brand under was as nothing compared to a self-inflicted crisis in October. Web browsing, instant messaging and, crucially, email services collapsed across the whole of Europe, the Middle East and Africa for more than three days. As RIM remained virtually silent, users grew more frustrated. The unprecedented outage was eventually explained by a cascading hardware and software failure at RIM’s British data centre. (Christopher Williams)
5. It’s not a tablet market, it’s an iPad market
If 2010 was the year that Apple proved the sceptics wrong and showed just how much demand there is for the iPad, then 2011 was the year the competition realised just how hard an act it is to follow. It was hard to keep count of the number of ‘iPad killers’ that were released this year. The Asus Transformer and Sony’s S and P tablets had their fans but there were no queues around the block to buy them. Meanwhile,HP’s TouchPad and RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook have been such failures that both companies are still sorting out the mess. The strongest competitor, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, is according to Apple a ‘slavish copy’ of the iPad, hence the intellectual property lawsuits the iPad-maker has been filing against it around the world. Regardless of the patent battles, the Galaxy Tab has not put much of a dent in Apple’s market share either. It is not clear whether the tablet market will be like the PC market, in which Apple is a small player among many providers, or whether it will be like the MP3 player market, in which Apple’s iPod was never beaten. One thing is certain: what we have right now is not a tablet market but an iPad market. (Shane Richmond)
6. The patent wars rage
In 2011 the fiercely-competitive smartphone business turned nasty. The tit-for-tat patent infringement claims that were already simmering boiled over in a bewildering series of court battles around the world, with all of the major players involved. The most intense fight was between Apple and Samsung. Apple claimed its Korean rival’s Galaxy range “slavishly” copied the iPhone and iPad and successfully banned sales of devices in Germany. The pair are now locked in legal disputes in 10 countries. In August Google said it would pay $12.5bn for Motorola Mobility. The price was considered high but compared to rivals the search giant lacked armour in the patent wars, and the acquisition would provide it. It emerged after his death that Steve Jobs reserved special enmity for Android, having previously worked closely with Google. Showing how high stakes are in the smartphone business, he told his biographer “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” The legal quagmire has sucked in at least 21 firms, including all the major manufacturers, big software firms such as Oracle and patent “troll” companies, who exist only to extract licensing fees. Calls to reform the technology intellectual property system grew through the year. (Christopher Williams)
7. The beginning of the Ultrabook era
When Apple launched the Macbook Air, some critics initially dismissed the super-thin, lightweight computer as a rich person’s toy, encapsulating a triumph of style over substance. As soon as consumers got their hands on them, however, it became clear that the appeal was significant. Why then did the likes of Dell, Sony and Panasonic produce similarly light models, or even try to? For years, walking into a retailer looking for a really nice looking laptop meant walking out with a Mac. Finally, in 2011, Intel’s cajoling – and $300million helping hand – persuaded manufacturers to give it a go. The result is the Ultrabook – products such as the Asus Zenbook and (unofficially) the Samsung Series 9. These attempts to turn the PC into a real object of desire are likely to meet with real success next year rather than this, but their debut in 2011 meant, for the first time in a long time, users could look at a PC as an object of desire. (Matt Warman)
8. A new tech bubble
This year has seen several large consumer technology companies float and a growing number of huge valuations. This has prompted widespread talk of a new tech bubble forming. A series of high-value Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) have already happened this year, with the likes of the profit-free digital music service Pandora floating for $2.6bn in June and LinkedIn going public soon after with a market valuation now touching $9bn. The new generation of the internet is here. Gone are the days of the information web – it is now all about the social internet and companies like Groupon and Zynga are the new hot tickets for investors. However, the potentially biggest ever consumer technology float is still on the horizon, with 2012 expected to be the year Facebook finally goes public with a predicted valuation of $100bn. (Emma Barnett)
9. The year of the ebook?
Plenty of people unwrapped Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader last Christmas and that showed as ebook sales continued to grow. At the beginning of 2011, Amazon announced that ebooks were outselling paperbacks at its US store. In May, the company confirmed that it was selling more Kindle ebooks than hardbacks in the UK. The company expanded its Kindle range in the Autumn with two new ereaders and a tablet computer, the Kindle Fire. So far only the cheapest of the new Kindles has been released in Britain but there is a good chance that the others will follow next year. Meanwhile, WH Smith began stocking the Kobo ereader and gave it a strong marketing push and Waterstone’s is working on an ereader of its own. Add to that the availability of ereader apps for most smartphones and tablets and you have a situation that is set up for very healthy growth. (Shane Richmond)
10. Rural broadband finally gets on a roll
Plans to get broadband into Britain’s rural areas finally kicked off in 2011 – the announcement of the first allocations from Broadband Development UK (BDUK) mean that councils are currently working out how to secure whatever additional money they need and beginning to tender for work that will actually get faster connections out to remote areas. Cities got a boost too, BT’s own Race to Inifinity connected a host of very rural exchanges, and the company continues to roll-out its national upgrade. Next year, more than half of the UK will finally get on to superfast, and BT has even brought forward many of its own plans, as well as hiring ex-servicemen to deliver them. Cynics argue that the latter is a political bid to get more favour from Government, but at the very least it’s an astute one. The BDUK process itself, however, has not been without problems: some companies believe it favours larger competitors and incumbents unfairly. It’s difficult, however, to see what else the organisation should be doing, given the nature of European regulations and procurement law. Mobile broadband, despite some recent and inaccurate headlines, is still on track to deliver services initially in 2013, with subsequent roll-out speeds dependent largely on operators. If the 4G spectrum auction is further delayed, however, real-world delays may become inevitable. In both circumstances, timetables are increasingly tight. But it would be mean to dismiss Government aspirations for the ‘best broadband network in Europe’ as unrealistic yet, especially as there’s no universal standard for measuring that claim. (Matt Warman)