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The year 2013 has been a big year of highs and lows for the tech industry. We’ve seen some great start-ups hit the big league this year. At the same time we’ve seen the fall and demise of a few giants in the industry. Looking back through the year, here’s a few winners and losers that we thought stood out:
Losers of 2013
After years of development and promise, Blackberry finally launched its OS10 edition along with two great phones: the Q10 and the Z10. The only problem is their phones were five years late. If these phones were properly launched in 2007 they would probably still dominate the mobile industry.
A muddled executive and a mass-walk out of top members of the board, engineers and staff this year have left Blackberry near comatose. An international search for the proverbial Good Samaritan to bail them out hasn’t been forthcoming and even the idea of breaking up the company and selling it for parts hasn’t seen much promise. I wonder if they’ll make it through 2014.
2. Steve Ballmer
Poor Steve. He’s been at the helm of Microsoft for 13 years now and has seen the stature of the business decline rapidly. In a recent interview Steve admitted that Vista was his biggest mistake: tying up his A-Team developers for six years on an ultimately flawed product.
Although its Windows Phone operating system has been around for a long while, it’s only gained traction since Windows 8 launched, and then but barely. Its ill-fated marriage with Nokia meant they had to buy up the company to keep as least some semblance of a mobile market share.
Will the release of XBOX One be enough to turn around the fortunes for Steve?
Myspace is the grandpa of social networks and in its heyday had hundreds of millions of users, until Facebook opened its doors to the general public.
Users left in droves until MySpace sat quietly in the corner waiting for something big to happen. 2013 was meant to be the big relaunch. And to be fair, the new and improved MySpace platform is pretty. The problem is that Facebook has become so entrenched with over 1 billion users that the MySpace launch was more a Failure-to-Launch. A non-starter, if you will.
Blockbuster, the international Video-Rental company with thousands of stores world-wide saw the doors close on every single store during 2013. One could say it was the inevitable end to a concept of a bygone era. Ever since cheap bandwidth has become more readily available to homes across the globe more people are simply streaming their movies via platforms like Hulu, Netflix and iTunes.
So why have I listed Blockbusters as a “Tech Failure”? Well, because in its infancy Netflix approached Blockbusters for a buy-out and it didn’t see the potential in the concept. Streaming killed the Video Rental Star.
5. John McAfee
John McAfee, the founder of one of the biggest Anti-Virus companies in the world, has become a bit of a pariah. (Some would say he’s taken his cue from Disney and become a fulltime Loony-Tune). He’s claims of being hunted by police in Belize, hiding in the jungle and eventually making it back to US soil has turned this once-respected tech-giant into a far-fetched B-rated movie.
He’s also claimed to have lost his fortune in the process. In November 2013 he re-surfaced in the news after being evicted from his apartment in Portland and having charges of stalking pressed against him.
Winners of 2013
We’ve already mentioned the demise of Blockbuster as a result of companies like Netflix. 2013 saw the company take huge strides into becoming the dominant feature in online streaming, even though its coverage is limited to a handful of countries. Its subscriber base is just shy of 30 million people, now topping cable-favourite HBO.
Its first foray into a dedicated series, House of Cards, has also won awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award and has been nominated for 4 Golden Globes.
2013 has been a good year for Netflix and 2014 is going to be better.
2. Elon Musk
Elon Musk, the Thomas Edison of our time, is inventor, visionary and entrepreneur. 2013 has seen his global profile skyrocket into the stratosphere. (See what I did there?) His Tesla brand of electric vehicles, SpaceX and his Hyperloop Rapid Transport theory has placed him firmly into the limelight, and for good reason. This guy is a genius bar none and I look forward to see what he gets up to in 2014.
3. Marissa Mayer
Yahoo!’s new CEO, Marissa Mayer, has caused a few raised eye-brows in Silicon Valley. Most notably her ban on working from home (a big perk for people working in any tech company).
So why is she on the winners list? Let’s be honest. Yahoo! was on its way to the grave. The organisation was slow to adapt, its site was clumsy and over-loaded and it had no clear vision for the future. Rather than setting any trends it was simply copying everyone else and trying to play catch-up.
Well, take a look at Yahoo! now: the share price has gone up from $15.84 when she took over to currently standing at $39.73. That’s a huge growth in a little over 18 months, especially considering the monolithic size of Yahoo!
And the changes haven’t been cosmetic either. She’s shut down a few projects that have been floating around for decades (good-bye alta-vista) and focused her team on core-projects that bring in solid earnings. Ad Revenue is up. A strategic focus on yahoo mail, browsing, news, etc. means that the company becomes again a central portal for information, the way it used to be.
4. Evan Spiegel and Snapchat
Who ever thought that an Instant Messenger that intentionally deleted photos would become so popular? Snapchat is the mobile-based message service that, like Whatsapp and WeChat, allows you to send messages and pictures to your friends. The only difference is that it deletes the message once read.
The service has become hugely popular. So popular in fact that Facebook offered Spiegel $3billion for the company. He turned them down. A day later Google offered Spiegel $4billion for the company. Again he has declined. (I have to wonder what exactly he’s holding out for?)
It will be interesting to see what SnapChat will bring in 2014.
5. Edward Snowden
There are many folk, most notably the NSA, who would rather have me put Snowdon on the Loser List. Snowden gained notoriety in 2013 by releasing top-secret documentation that the NSA was spying on people in a big way. Anything online was tracked and recorded by the NSA in an effort to create “big data” for uncovering terrorist plots against the USA. The revelations left Snowden homeless for a while, living in the transit lounge of Moscow airport, with the US government labelling Snowden as a traitor to his country.
The world has been left divided on Snowden. On one hand he’s betrayed his oath to secrecy; on the other hand he has revealed the illegal activities of the National Security Agency. Could he claim a public defence clause?
He’s currently living in secret in Russia, but let’s see what 2014 brings.