Technology's 10 Big Surprises of 2011
Filed under: News and Trends
The year 2011 was a time of dramatic events and changes for the technology industry. From surprising new product introductions to declines of once-great giants of tech. Industry observers from enterprise IT professionals to end-users of technology to consumers found changes around every turn. There's no telling what 2012 holds, but as we take a look back at 2011, it's clear that it was a crucial turning point in the industry that could be pointed to as a time when the industry grew and became even greater, or slowly but surely started its decline. Here's a look back at some of the stories that surprised us this year, and helped cement the idea that no matter what sort of predictions might come up at the beginning of a year, they tend to fall short to reality.
1. The iPad 2
Apple's iPad 2 was supposed to be a major step up for the company. Instead, the tablet was a nominal upgrade over a product that many people already liked. Of course, iPad 2 sales were still strong this year -- this is Apple, after all -- but after rumors suggested a major update was coming, an iterative improvement surprised many consumers.
2. The iPhone 4S
If the iPad 2's nominal upgrades were a surprise, the iPhone 4S was a shock. Prior to the iPhone 4S announcement, rumors suggested Apple would show off a dramatically improved iPhone 5 that featured everything from a bigger screen to 4G. Instead, the company showed off the iPhone 4S, which added a dual-core processor, the same design as its predecessor, and no 4G connectivity.
3. RIM's Decline
Who would have thought just a few years ago that RIM would be in the position it is now? Over the last 12 months, the BlackBerry maker has watched its market share plummet as more agile competitors deliver more appealing products. Now, there's a possibility RIM might be sold. Wow.
4. Microsoft's Nokia Deal
Going into 2011, everyone knew that Microsoft was having trouble in the mobile market. Then came a major partnership with Nokia that makes its Windows Phone 7 operating system the principal software on that device maker's product line. Now, both companies hope the other can carry them through a highly competitive mobile market.
5. Google's Motorola Mobility Buy
Google has been content to stay out of the smartphone and tablet hardware business. But earlier this year, the company announced that it plans to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The deal is reportedly designed to help Google improve its patent portfolio, but it could have a negative impact on its relations with other handset makers.
6. AT&T's T-Mobile Bid
If the Motorola Mobility deal was a surprise, what can we say about AT&T's $39 billion T-Mobile USA bid? Although it has been abandoned due to regulatory issues, the deal was rather shocking to those who thought AT&T wouldn't want to spend that kind of cash on a seemingly dying carrier.
7. Netflix's Decline
Netflix was supposed to be the company that would continue to deliver the finest streaming service on the Web. And although it still might be doing that, the company's poor decision to raise prices 60 percent and its ill-fated DVD-by-mail spin-off plan threw the firm into a tailspin. Now, Netflix, which was soaring at the beginning of the year, could be well on its way to a sale.
8. Steve Jobs' Death
When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' death was announced by Apple earlier this year, the world was in a state of shock. For years, Jobs had been the force behind some of the greatest products the industry has seen. Jobs was a visionary who will be missed.
9. A Google Executive Shuffle
With Google's stock price soaring and its financial performance skyrocketing, it only made sense that Eric Schmidt would be the de facto leader at the company for years to come. However, earlier this year, Google announced that Schmidt was going to become executive chairman, and its co-founder Larry Page would assume the role of CEO. It was a surprising development that could have a major impact on the marketplace for years to come.
10. Microsoft's Tablet Troubles
Microsoft started the year saying that it could establish a presence in the tablet space. But after Windows 7 was ignored by tablet vendors, it quickly became clear that the software giant would have to wait until 2012 to make its mark. The only question now is, after all this waiting, will it have a chance to achieve its lofty tablet goals?