We’ve been through a roller coaster of a year; everything and anything that could have happened in the tech world did. We lost a very influential leader and companies are having it out for one another all over the place. Big tech news is happening at lightning speed every day; if you don’t read about it on a daily or even hourly basis, you’re likely to miss something important. Since 2011 was all about the tech industry, we’ve compiled a list of the major news and controversies that happened this year.
Let’s take a look back at this year and see what we’ve gone through. Some of it is sad and makes you want to cry. Other news will make you ball up in anger. And then there are the hopeful tidbits that are just interesting and indicative of the innovation that keeps the tech industry flowing and creating new and exciting things that we all love.
Steve Jobs’ death struck everyone where it hurts. Shortly after the announcement of the iPhone 4S, news of his passing eclipsed everything else for the week; all eyes where on him as the tributes poured out and everyone focused their attention on Jobs and the life and company that he left behind. His book that came out right after his death hit the #1 spot on Amazon’s bestseller list quicker than anything before. As a pioneer in computers and highly innovative technology, Jobs brought us the iPod, iPhone, and beloved iPad that created a new sector in mobile electronics. He was a man who didn’t make any product to fit the state of the current market; he created the product and the market came to him.
The HP TouchPad was a huge flop in 2011. When Apple released the iPad, it had no competitors; other companies were striving to create something that would be its worthy rival. One of the tablet computers that seemed like it might approach this goal was the HP TouchPad (something that I’ve both owned and reviewed). Everyone had high hopes for the TouchPad to compete with the iPad, but ultimately it failed. In only a recent spike did it become widely popular due to the fire sale that HP held to recuperate its losses. The normally over $300 tablet sold for only $99 and people bought them up like hotcakes. When the inventory was sold off, developers got to work; the possibility of porting Android (rather than its native webOS) over to the HP TouchPad may just breathe new life into the tablet. HP ultimately lost money to try to compete with the iPad, but it proved that it could be done to create a competition to the iPad.
SOPA and Protect IP have caused a flurry of rage from everyone in the tech industry. Lawmakers are trying to create a DNS black hole for alleged “copyrights.” Their terms are loose and would give record labels and other media producers a big red button, fictitious of course, to press when they suspect any amount of copyright infringement going on with a website. This would send sites into a state of limbo where they could not be accessed while the matter is “investigated” (which could take an indefinite amount of time). Both bills are written poorly enough that common news sites could feasibly be taken down if the media companies take issue with content that is reported; this paves the way for a scenario as experienced in China where media blackouts triggered by arbitrary rules of censorship are common. A vast mass of the Internet’s population has been up in arms about these proposed acts, and companies that publicly support SOPA and Protect IP have come under fire and threat of boycott. Domain registrar Go Daddy is just one company (but perhaps the most famous) that withdrew its support of the acts in response to outrage from its customer base.
iCloud, iOS 5, and OS X Lion were the big products to hit the market from Apple this year. Starting with OS X Lion, Apple introduced a new method of releasing and distributing its software. Going for an all online method, Apple has completely eliminated installation disks and created an environment where you download the upgrade from its App Store and install it all without using a physical DVD drive. At first, people were opposed to the method because it alienates users who have Internet connections that are slow and poorly equipped to handle multi-gigabyte downloads. Apple did eventually release a USB version of the install for users, but it costs twice the price of just downloading it straight from the Mac App Store. iCloud was an anticipation of Apple’s release to a cloud-based architecture; over all, consumers are in love with the features that it provides: access to all of their purchased music anywhere, as well as easy storage and included email address. Both iCloud and OS X Lion have been great successes so far by allowing everything to be shared between various computers and Apple devices.
Spotify came to the US this year and started off with a huge boom. The popular streaming music service has dedicated software for the desktop — not unlike iTunes — that allows you to make playlists of your favorite songs and play them over and over again. Unlike competitor Pandora, which chooses the music you hear based on your preferences, Spotify lets you pick specific songs and even import your own music library to make playlists of everything you like. Will this freedom of choice win over those who might otherwise flock to Pandora and similar music streaming services? That’s for 2012 to decide.
Chrysler’s PR foul up was pretty embarrassing for the company, but somewhat hilarious for the rest of us. The PR person in charge of Chrysler’s Twitter account dropped the f-bomb (see above), offending people in the Detroit area. Not surprisingly, the social media agency responsible for the gaffe was quickly cut loose by Chrysler (and the new one — so far — seems to be more reliable at managing the account). This served as a lesson to companies all around: Watch who you hire, because people can be incredibly stupid. Check who you trust with the keys to your accounts. It might even be better to just handle social media activities in house.
Google+ hit the Internet and made a big digital splash. Starting out in private beta and recently going public, Google+ has attracted anyone and everyone from around the Internet to create a unique social media experience. It’s been said that its like Facebook, but more public; this is an accurate observation, but it’s more than that. Google+ brings in awesome features like Hangouts and Circles to let people connect on a deeper level. Hangouts are a cross between traditional chat rooms and conference calls, and Circles let people define different parts of their social media like news, friends, and people they like to follow. Even if you swear by Facebook, you should find the time to check out Google+ just to see if it offers you anything more than the other service currently can.
Facebook Timeline gave the community a new way to look at their Facebook history by making every status update and embarrassingly linked photo and interaction available for the world to see. In the past, Facebook users could wait out any awkward content as it quietly slipped off of their walls, but Timeline brings everything a user has ever done since their account activation back to potential scrutiny. The older generation of users seems to largely oppose the change, claiming that it’s too invasive, while the younger crowd seems indifferent.
Twitter had some huge milestones in 2011, as well. It acquired TweetDeck earlier this year, snatching it up before UberSocial could acquire it for its nefarious purposes. Twitter now owns the top desktop app for Twitter, and took the time to give it a major overhaul. To unify the look of Twitter across its products, it gave us the “Let’s Fly” theme that has worked its way not only into the website, but the iPhone and Android app, TweetDeck, and mobile site. Twitter’s look across the board is a major improvement over the older Twitter themes, but one thing that is still on people’s nagging list is the ability to access the features with more than one click. For example, direct messages take a total of three clicks before the user gets to the inbox. Over all, though, Twitter has done of great job of getting people to connect more on the website.
Motorola Mobility selling to Google is a unique purchase from Google. Never before has Google bought a hardware company, let alone a big phone manufacturer. Google’s Android platform has always partnered with phone makers to put its system on handsets; now Google has its own and looks to be in the process of developing its own Google phone. It now possesses the resources to create its own phone just like Apple has with the iPhone. This worries people because of the possibility that Android may close down its code to only Google produced phones. Even though Google Android owns the phone market over iPhone, it’s fragmented and so many different versions of the software are floating around that it simply just can’t keep up. Unlike the iPhone, where everything is linear and organized, it is thought that Google has lost its way with Android’s fractured distribution and is creating its own dedicated phone to fight this.
Research In Motion (RIM) had an unpleasant year with all of its sales dropping fast and lawsuits dragging it under. It has come to a time where BlackBerry isn’t the top phone anymore and others have emerged to take its place. The iPhone and Android systems are rising fast, leaving the slowly evolving BlackBerry in the dust. It’s also being dragged down by constant lawsuits — most recently over its next operating system. It was supposed to be called BBX, standing for BlackBerry 10, but it seems that a company already owns that trademark and is going after BlackBerry hard for using it. For all of 2011, BlackBerry couldn’t seem to get a break with its PlayBook or anything else; will we see the end of the company in 2012? We don’t want to speculate, but BlackBerry has a lot of hurdles to leap before it’s in the clear.
So this year has had its ups and downs and controversies in the wide world of technology. This is just a list of some of the top news that was reported around the Internet in 2011, but there’s more to be found. If you have any top news items or controversies that we missed, let us know in the comments.