All in, 2013 was an embarrassment for the entire tech industry and the engine that powers it—Silicon Valley. Innovation was replaced by financial engineering, mergers and acquisitions, and evasion of regulations. Not a single breakthrough product was unveiled—and for reasons outlined below, Google Glass doesn’t count.If it’s in the nature of progress to move in leaps, there are necessarily lulls in between. Here are all the reasons 2013 was a great big dud for technology as a whole.
Samsung’s update to history’s best-selling Android phone, the Galaxy S series, delivered on the technical specifications but continued the line’s “unpleasant, cheap design.” Packed with new features like touch-free gesture control, the phone also has an “easy mode” in recognition that many will want to switch them off, and suffers from an interface that stutters at odd moments despite its powerful electronics. Meanwhile, Google’s mysterious superphone turned out to be the Moto X, which is a nice Android phone but hardly revolutionary.
Google killed its much-vaunted 20% time—the policy of allowing engineers to spend a portion of their working time on their own projects—while insisting it hadn’t, leading to a furious (and public) debate among its employees about whether or not the company is still friendly to bottom-up innovation.
The Arrogance of Technology’s Ruling Class Increased
Facebook did crack the code on how to increase its revenue and boost its share price back to the levels of its 2012 IPO. Unfortunately, those methods included obnoxious video ads. Twitter’s IPO, meanwhile, suggested that the company will have to follow in Facebook’s wake—more, and more intrusive, advertising—in order to justify its share price.
Media Ravenous for Stories Bought Into Techno-Hype
The NSA Spying Scandal Put a Chill on the Biggest Technological Shifts of Coming Years
As more and more revelations emerged from the documents Edward Snowden lifted from the US National Security Agency, observers seemed numbed by the sheer scope and audacity of the agency’s domestic and foreign internet surveillance. The fallout for the tech industry has just begun: US companies must now prove, especially to foreign customers, that the move to cloud-based services, which necessitates sending all their data through the very same communication nodes to which the NSA has access, won’t put all of their secrets in the hands of US spymasters by default.