Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reflecting Back to 2011

  It's that time of year again. While many journalists in the technology industry tend to make some ridiculous predictions for the coming year, I have cautiously avoided that route. Since the problem with making predictions is that timing is key, and many times, journalists' predictions tend to be off on timing. At any rate, I have decided to reflect back and review the big technology news and products of 2011.

3DTV (failure!) - Back at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas at the beginning of 2011, the big push of the television manufacturers' was on 3D television displays and 3D content. There are so many things wrong with 3D that I don't even know where to start. There was very little 3D content to begin with, and very few (high quality) movies were produced in 3D. Also, the need for glasses on many of the traditional, non-passive 3D displays, tended to make 3D very much a gimmick, and the fact that the glasses were expensive didn't help it much. Even with the non-passive 3D televisions, in which you didn't need to wear glasses to achieve the effect, didn't perform very well (in terms of 3D playback). The fact that 3D televisions only shipped with one pair of glasses, and the fact that the glasses were expensive didn't entice consumers, and as a result, didn't sell very well.

The invasion of Android tablets - One product we will see more of at CES in 2012 is tablets. In 2011, manufacturers started ramping up production of what they thought of as "iPad alternatives", when in fact, they weren't very much alternatives at all. The user interface on these tablets were terrible, and they didn't have very much applications or content to play with, and the overall hardware experience was poor. But in the later half of 2011, with the launch of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, some newer tablets will actually carry promise. Amazon launched the Amazon Kindle Fire, which is a two hundred dollar tablet running Android, but from the appearance, no one would be able to tell it was running Android. It has a skinned version of Android that grants you access to Amazon's wide variety of e-books, movies, TV shows, music, and applications that you can download for it. With the launch of the Kindle Fire, Amazon has set the standard for what Android tablets need to have. A low price point, and a great content eco-system in which you can acquire great movies, music, e-books, and apps, from one source. And while the Kindle Fire doesn't really compare to the iPad (you shouldn't really compare it to the iPad), it is an attractive offering for those who have a strict budget and want some of the capabilities of an iPad.

The Internet is the place to start real-world revolutions - Throughout the year, we have seen numerous real world revolutions start thanks to the Internet and social media. Egyptians started the concept by starting their revolution on Twitter, and rapidly gaining supporters through means of social media like Twitter and Facebook. Will Google Plus have the same opportunity to ignite a revolution? I can't really answer that, but is sure is possible based on what I've seen so far. The idea has spread far and fast, since other Middle Eastern countries have tried to gain liberty through the start of a revolution, thanks to the many possibilities of the Internet.

Apple's iOS ecosystem gets overhaul with iCloud and Siri - Apple has rapidly pushed their iOS ecosystem forward. The iOS platform consisting of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. With the announcement of iCloud earlier this year, and the launch just a couple months ago, Apple is pushing all their users towards the cloud. This isn't exactly a quick transition, but some of the offerings of iCloud will compel their users to trust Apple with their data. This makes Apple more of a center point for many iOS users, with the trust of Apple for music and movies, as well as apps and now, online storage of their data. However, iCloud really is mostly useful for iOS users who have been sucked completely into the platform. Those who don't hold much of a love for Apple won't find iCloud necessarily compelling.
The release of the iPhone 4S also delivered a very interesting feature, known as Siri, which is a digital voice powered assistant. Siri, which is exclusively available on the latest iPhone, (although I'm sure they will bring it to other Apple devices eventually) can respond to various voice commands. You could ask Siri to call your spouse, send a text message, send an email, give you directions to the nearest cafe or library, provide you with weather information, and more. Oh, and Siri isn't just a plain old boring artificial intelligence system, it also provides you with hilariously stupid remarks to silly phrases you say to Siri. It is an incredible feature, and while it is in beta, you can look forward to major improvements in the future. This is just the beginning of a future in which we interact with the device less, and interact with people more. Siri is clearly a move by Apple in the steps of Steve Job's vision, which was that technology gets out of the way for the user to achieve what he or she wants.

The Passing of Steve Jobs - One of the saddest days of the year, was the day of Steve Jobs's passing. Within a mere minute of Apple announcing Jobs's death, all mainstream media started reporting it and the Internet was devastated. Twitter activity was very close to reaching an all-time high. People, even the non-enthusiasts, started mourning for the loss of an incredible genius. I, too, was mourning for the loss of Steve Jobs. At that moment, it was extremely difficult for me to imagine a world without Steve. The creator of one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the world, passed away. Jobs was suffering with a rare form of pancreatic cancer for almost 7 years. At times he appeared in better condition than other times. In the last couple of years, his health had been draining at a faster rate, and at the last Apple event he spoke at, he appeared thin and fragile, and we all tried not to speculate too much into his health, but we all knew it was inevitable.
Steve Jobs had an extraordinary vision of simplicity, design, and overall good taste, that very few had. His, sometimes extreme desire of simplicity and elegance, led to remarkable products from the first Macintosh computer, to the iPhone and iPad. And I think we will continue to see his legacy at Apple for some years down the road. The concern that I share with other technology enthusiasts is, when will the legacy come to an end. Steve left Apple in very good hands, with some of the brightest talent working very hard to build great products, but at some point, without the leadership of such a visionary, the legacy will end. I'm not trying to predict the end of Apple here, but the legacy will die off eventually. When that happens, people will start to panic.
I don't want to spoil too much about Steve's life, so if you have a greater interest in knowing the whole story of Steve Jobs, I recommend you read the authorized biography of Steve Jobs, written by Walter Isaacson. 

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