Monthly Archives: December 2011
We’ve discussed a lot of business on Talknowledgy, and certainly a lot of stories seem to come up week after week. A lot has changed in the technology world in 2011, and here’s MY take on the five biggest stories in tech and social media this year.
5. The PlayStation Network Outage
It feels so long ago, but this was a dominant topic on the show week over week, starting in mid-April. Sony’s entire online gaming network was attacked starting on the 17th of that month, prompting Sony to shut PSN down entirely on April 20th. By the time the dust had settled, the personal data of over 77 million PSN customers had been stolen, making it one of the biggest breaches of online security in history.
Sony went so far as to have its corporate executives to apologize in public for the break-in.
Sony offered a selection of free games for the PS3 and the PSP to its users as an apology. This may have satisfied some gamers, but sadly, the shareholders were not so happy. Sony’s shares have dropped pretty much month over month since April. They close in December at nearly half the value they had when the year started.
This isn’t just about the new social network, although that’s a major part of it. Google has gone to great lengths to ensure it retains top mindshare on the ‘Net. With the launch of their new social network in June, every Google website underwent an overhaul. Google has been working towards an entire, encapsulated, Google-fueled web, and Google+ is a big part of that.
Google+ came with the Google Bar, a black bar at the top of Google sites that provides quick, easy access to just about every service Google offers. This is all designed to keep you on their websites, using their services and, most importantly, seeing their ads.
Google+ as a social network started out very strong and grew quickly. In the six and a half months it’s been active to some level of the general public it’s gained 62 million users according to Google. They’ve improved their brand pages, added new functionality and the projections by Google say over 85 million users by next year.
To put that into perspective, it took Facebook over four years to hit 60 million active users. Of course, 2008 and 2011 are vastly different times online and by now Facebook has 800 million users, and it’s not being a slouch in terms of mindshare either, which brings me to…
Facebook hit 700 million users earlier this year and it’s ending the year at 800 million users. They’ve maneuvered and bought and sold various properties. Facebook has taken the best parts of other social networks and brought them over. Google+ offered Hangouts, Facebook brings in its own video chat. They now let you subscribe, a kind of Twitter-like following of someone who allows it.
Not only that, but this was a year of talk about Facebook’s inevitable IPO. Talk has been circling the company for awhile now, but it heated up after a 450 million dollar cash injection by Goldman Sachs very early in January. Facebook didn’t make it’s initial public offering this year, but it has gone to great lengths to gain more and more financial clout.
The year closes on Timeline, and the talk of advertisements in the Facebook news feed. My prediction: Facebook hosted web search power by the end of 2012.
2. Tech Stocks Drop Overall
Some companies have had a good year. Many others have not been so lucky. I’ve already discussed Sony, whose shares have dropped by over 50% since January. A few other companies have similar stories.
Hewlett Packard has dropped month over month since February, peaking at about 49 dollars. They’re down to about 25 dollars now. WebOS tanked, they had to divest their tablets and handheld Palm devices, selling them for rock bottom prices. There was talk they were getting out of the PC manufacturing business; only to have an executive shuffle and release news they actually weren’t stopping their PC making endeavors. With so many people going mobile these days, it will be interesting to see where HP and the desktop PC go in 2012.
Nintendo is another company whose stock prices have been cut in half in 2011. Nintendo faced very poor sales of its new 3DS console in Japan, and subsequent poor sales in North America and Europe. Fearing another Virtual Boy incident, in which a system flops entirely, Nintendo quickly cut the retail price of the 3DS by 30% only four months after its release in North America. This is the biggest console price cut, so soon in a system’s lifespan in Nintendo’s history.
They appeased angry fans who bought full price 3DS models with an offering of 20 free games, 10 of which would be completely exclusive to early adopters. As with the PSN outage, gamers may have been happy, but shareholders were not.
Nintendo also announced a new home console, the Wii U, at E3 in June. This, too, caused some doubts in the minds of shareholders, and prices dropped 10 per cent in the two days since the press conference. Investors were doubtful of the strategy behind a large, tablet-like controller for a home console, fearing it to be too expensive for the target market of young families.
A slew of new software for the 3DS near the end of 2011 seems to have revitalized that system a bit, but will 2012 be kind to the Wii U? There’s no doubt being the first to release a new-generation console has its benefits, but Nintendo’s success with the Wii U depends almost entirely on its price point.
And, of course, this list would be nothing without mentioning RIM. The future looks grim for the little Canadian company that could. What hasn’t been said about RIM in the last few weeks on Talknowledgy? Shares are down, executives have been embarrassed, and the new hardware has been delayed. RIM is the third company on this list to give users free software, this time for the October Blackberry Outage, and predictably, shares didn’t budge in the right direction. (Those free apps are available until Saturday, by the way)
RIM will have to pull out all the stops in 2012 to break back into the big market. Android rules the roost in mobile market share and Windows Phone 7 is coming up quickly. I like to be an optimist, and I don’t think RIM is down for the count just yet, but the clock is ticking.
The biggest tech company in the world. The death of their founder and mogul. Some less than stellar product releases. Apple’s 2011 has been one of great success and great loss. Could anything else be expected of a giant like this?
Shares grew exponentially in June and July and they became the biggest, most valuable tech company in the world. During the U.S. debt crisis, it was joked many times that Apple’s overall value was more than the debt load of the entire country. A single company that could, in theory, wipe the debt of an entire nation.
Of course, great gains were joined by great losses. We saw the death of Steve Jobs, the founder and visionary who made Apple what it is today.
We saw the release of the iPad2 and the iPhone 4S, which didn’t meet consumer expectations nearly as well as they could have, but Apple keeps on truckin’.
But now, they approach 2012 in a familiar situation: Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm. The last time that happened, the company nearly went bankrupt. This time, Steve isn’t coming back.
Then again, this was before the iPod, before the MacBook and before the iPhone. It’ll take some major blunders, or an even stronger competitor, to knock Apple off the hill.
It’s amazing the difference a year can make in the world of technology and social media. I can’t wait for the 2012 review, just so I can look back at this one and laugh and laugh at what cavemen we were so long ago!
We touched on this a bit during our last show, but for this week’s blog post I want to break down what I felt were the top 5 tech stories this year and offer some predictions for next year.
5. Google Enters Social Media
While it hasn’t set the world on fire yet, don’t dismiss the launch of Google+ out of hand yet. The other movers and shakers (Facebook in particular) have been forced to make changes because they’re worried what a new entry could do to the social media marketplace. Google has made small updates slowly and for now it’s as much a learning experience for Google as it is for the users. Watch for them to push the mobile apps more heavily next year, and with any luck they’ll be added to Hootsuite in 2012.
On the surface, it seems like a typical everyday business deal. In reality, Google’s purchase of Motorola has major implications for all of the other Android smart phone makers. Some have said they’re looking more carefully at developing their own platforms and many speculated it could give rise to yet another smart phone operating system. Android became very popular because companies like Samsung could load it on their devices for free, its easy to tinker with and create apps for, and it’s updated constantly so it stays on the cutting edge. However, arguably the most attractive feature for HTC, Samsung, and many other device makers was the fact they didn’t actually have to compete with Google. Not so anymore. They aren’t likely to fully jump ship especially since the only mobile operating system manufacturer who doesn’t make their own phones is Microsoft (who has a close partnership with Nokia, and Windows Phone 7 still has some catching up to do). Watch for the rise of a fifth (and possibly sixth) operating system to join the race. Who knows, one of them could even be made by…
It’s been a tough year for the former biggest technology company in the world. Their most recent entry into the tablet market tanked and shortly thereafter they gutted Palm, effectively ending their presence in the smart phone market. And while we’re talking about downsizing, the world’s largest maker of personal computers almost got out of the personal computer business in 2011. They’re now in the midst of a multi-year rebuild with a new CEO at the helm, and while 2011 was bleak Meg Whitman is warning 2012 could be worse. They haven’t talked publicly about the future of WebOS recently, but many tech analysts have called for them to offer it up as open source, like Google does with Android, and make money off of advertising. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens to them in 2012, but in the meantime we’ll be keeping an eye on the company who passed them up to become the world’s biggest tech company…
It was a relatively quiet year product wise for Cupertino, with the most spectacular product announcement being Siri (which was out in 2010, but Apple then bought the developer and touted it as a new feature when they released the iPhone 4s). Of course the death of Steve Jobs captured the attention of Apple fans around the world and lead to vigils at their stores, but behind the scenes it raised questions of where the company will go next and if they can maintain their number two spot in the smart phone market without the man who helped them achieve that ‘cult brand’ status. I would expect no big surprises next year but their market share in the phone and tablet market will likely continue to slide. Still, it’ll be nothing compared to…
1. Research in Motion
What a difference a year makes. Research in Motion began the year with a stock valued north of $59. In January, they were neck and neck with Google and Apple in the global smartphone race, each taking about 25%. They were touting upcoming improvements to Blackberry OS, their new tablet that was on its way, and things were looking up. Fast forward to today…massive layoffs, a crippling service outage, delays to their new Blackberry 10 operating system and to upgrades for the Playbook, the Playbook itself is seeing sales even weaker than forecasts, their market share is rapidly shrinking, and their stock has slumped to the $14 range. The company is considered a sinking ship, and there have been calls all year for the two CEOs to step down. 2011 will mark the first time there’s a year over year decrease in their phone sales, and it could mean as many as 4 million less phones sold when compared to 2010. It seems even their strengths became weaknesses this year. There were repeated calls by many world governments to hand over confidential user data which was so secure, they weren’t able to monitor it without RIM’s cooperation.
For those holding out hope on a comeback, remember recent statements by the company that phones based on their new operating system are still nearly a year away. That’s a long time. And based on everything that’s happened to them this year, they may not have that much time to right themselves and set the smartphone world ablaze once again. The real question is: who will snap up the Blackberry faithful during that time?
If you have a different top 5 stories or want to offer your feedback, leave a comment below. Have a Happy New Year, and remember our next show is January 7th on 580 CFRA!