Opinion » Cybernaut

The year in tech



It was a big year for the technology industry in a lot of ways, good and bad, happy and sad. Without further ado, here are some of the biggest tech stories of the year.

R.I.P Steve Jobs — the death of Apple founder and visionary Steve Jobs captured headlines around the world, and for good reason. In his latest tenure with the company he took Apple to number one, based on gadgets that people drool over and a software app model that is changing the world.

His wasn't the only notable death in tech. Dennis Ritchie, called the father of the C and Unix computer languages on which everything is based, also passed away this year.

RIM meltdown — Research in Motion couldn't get a break this year. Its Playbook, while impressive, failed to win much in the way of market share. It lost ground in the phone market, and made headlines when its servers crashed and Blackberry users were without email for more than three days. Updates to phones and the QNX operating system were also behind schedule. In many ways 2012 will be a make-or-break year for the Canadian company.

UBB — The big story in Canada was telecoms enforcement of usage based billing, essentially charging customers for every bit of data used over a monthly limit. While it's always existed, most telecoms didn't charge their customers — until the rise of Netflix, a service that competes with other cable/satellite/Internet media services offered by the telecoms themselves and accounts for roughly half of bandwith use in the evenings. When the big telecoms imposed UBB on smaller resellers the issue went to the CRTC, which created a new model that nobody is happy with — including consumers, who feel we're being overcharged on all fronts.

Sony hacked — The big news story in April was the revelation that hackers had broken into the Playstation Network database and stolen the personal information of up to 77 million users — including credit card information that was not encrypted for some reason. It also left the network down for over a month as the database was repaired and secured. To prevent lawsuits, Sony surreptitiously created an update to the Playstation Network with new terms of service that forbids users from suing the company — and now there's a class action lawsuit against those terms of service.

Anonymous / Lulzsec — Two of the most famous hacker syndicates in the world squared off this year, with Lulzsec going down in a string of arrests for malicious hacking activities. Anonymous continues to be a web Robin Hood of sorts, using its technological know-how for good in many cases — albeit illegally, mainly by launching Denial of Service attacks against companies by flooding its servers. Some of its activities in 2011 included continued attacks on companies that oppose Wikileaks, Operation Titstorm (where they hacked the Australian government to protest new Internet censorship legislation), and attacks against the Turkish government for their own censorship activities.

3DS — Financially, the Nintendo 3DS was a bit of a bust for the company, but the device itself, which offers glasses-free 3D graphics, has been hailed as a technological marvel. Still, most of the news stories accompanying the launch were about the impact the device could have on a child's vision, and headaches and nausea that some users experienced.

Death of video stores, book stores — The collapse of Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Rogers and other video stores has left Canadians in an awkward position as there are very few places to rent movies and video games, and not enough content available legally on the web to compensate. Lump in the fact all the people who bought HD televisions and Blu-ray players, and it's a sad situation.

On the book front, stores are in bad shape these days and the U.S. chain Borders closed its last 399 stores this year. While technology has its benefits the shift to downloadable content is also laying to waste a number of industries that employ a lot of people.

Google+ — Google's answer to Facebook was launched in July and it's pretty good. Google+ hit the 10-million user mark just three months after launch. Still, Google has a long way to go if it wants to compete with Facebook's 800 million users.

Video Game industry growth — Video games first eclipsed movies for revenues about three years ago, and growth has remained in the double digits since then. In 2011, total sales are expected to be over $70 billion. By 2016, total sales are expected to rise to over $81 billion.

Kinect hacks — Microsoft's Kinect gaming system sold over 10 million units in the first six months after launch, and by now there are probably close to 20 million out there. But the big news in just over a year is how the system has been adapted for use in literally thousands of applications.