<- Back

Top Tech Stories of 2012

February 20, 2012

Top 5 Technology Stories of 2012 Here is our list of some of the most interesting technology trends and stories for 2012. In no particular order.  The Facebook IPO With over a billion users, Mark Zuckerberg took Facebook public on May 18th with a valuation of $108 billion, which is the highest valuation ever for a newly public company. The overhyped offering was plagued by technical difficulties and shareholders brought suit claiming that certain large banks were given secret information about advertising revenues. From $38 per share at opening, prices had dropped near $18 per share by the end of the summer. If advertising revenue isn't enough, Facebook will have to figure out how to monetize all the personal data which users give them if they are going to appease their stockholders. A lot of gullible Facebook users were told that if they posted a "Privacy Notice" on their page it would give them some sort of protection but the law doesn't work that way. Anything you post to sites like Facebook is data for them to use in any way they want.  Apple Highs and Lows It has been a very busy year for Apple. Under Tim Cook's leadership, Apple released a new tablet, a mini tablet, and the iPhone 5 this year. Apple won a $1 billion patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung. And Apple Stores generate more revenue per square foot than any retail space in the world. On the other hand, earning did not meet expectations every quarter and Apple is losing market share to Android phones. Cook also had to apologize for the Apple Maps fiasco and fire Scott Forstall, the guy responsible. In addition, Apple has had labor problems in both its chinese manufacturing plants and in domestic retail. It has been a year since Steve Jobs passed away and Apple appears to be thriving. Realising the products released this year have been in the pipeline for a while, it is probably too soon to know how the company will change. The firing of Forstall, who oversaw development of the mobile operating system and was once thought to be a possible successor to Jobs shows that either Apple doesn't have a place for execs who don't play nice with others, or that it's not safe to anger Tim Cook with shoddy work and attitude.  Windows 8 Microsoft spent over $1.5 billion rolling out Windows 8 with a touch optimized, mobile friendly user interface which is getting a lot of criticism from reviewers. Windows 8 bundles a lot of new Microsoft offerings like the online apps store, Office & Outlook Online, and Xbox Music. Windows 8 is obviously Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer's long awaited attempt to compete in the mobile and internet markets where Apple & Google are doing well. Balmer says Windows 8 is the start of the transition of Microsoft from a software company to being a company that’s “great at software expressed through devices and services.” Every IT company wants to bill you monthly in a nice, even revenue stream and Windows 8 is a step in that direction. Microsoft has done a poor job so far of making money in the mobile & internet services markets but Microsoft is big enough that whatever they do impacts the IT landscape. It is nice to see Microsoft try to be more competitive but many of their new initiatives make them less open to hardware and software developers who traditionally filled the Windows environment with cool stuff.  Patent Wars http://visual.ly/tech-patent-wars Despite attempts to fix the patent system like the Leahy- Smith America Invents Act, 2012 saw an all-time high in patent litigation. Apple's $1.05 billion win vs. Samsung is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the total under litigation. Companies like Nortel, Motorola, and Kodak were purchased for their patents, allowing new owners to collect license fees or file suit against the competition. Google's Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal that "Google is fine" and "Apple is fine" but the patent wars hurt startups the most as they can't "get the patent coverage necessary to offer version one of their product". The patent system, designed for mechanical devices, is badly flawed in regards to digital & process patents. It is bad enough that the biggies are beating on each other with patent suits but they are also buying up other companies merely for their patent portfolios. Add "patent trolls" to the mix whose business is solely suing anyone whose products come anywhere near their patents and you get a very chilling effect on innovation. The entire IT industry is built on the technology that came before it and nobody should be getting patents for "double clicking on a mouse" or "the digital transmission of images" or suing because a competitor uses "slide to unlock".  Data Breaches The people entrusted with protecting our data were not flawless in 2012. Credit Card processor Global Payments exposed 1.5 million credit card and PIN numbers. Over 400,000 yahoo passwords were posted on the Internet. Wyndham Hotels lost 600,000 credit card numbers which were used for over $10 million in fraudulent charges. eHarmony, a dating site, reports that the 105 million passwords stolen was "only a small fraction" of the information they put at risk. Hackers published 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords to get help in decoding them. And Zappos lost account information for over 24 million users. As businesses make things more convenient for customers, as more data is trusted to "the cloud", and as companies are getting by doing more with fewer resources, data breaches are going to happen. Security is a constant battle and it should not surprise anyone that they need to keep a careful eye on their accounts these days. While we put pressure on companies like those listed above to not leak data, we also need to use better passwords ourselves, not use the same password at multiple sites, and not ask ecommerce sites to remember our payment details. A presidential candidate and the head of the CIA both got hit with data leaks this year so your safety is certainly not guaranteed.