I now pronounce you merged: Google buys Motorola
In a highly unexpected move (not even Motorola's local country manager knew about it), Google stunned the industry when it announced that it will be acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. This in order to "Supercharge Android, enhance competition, and offer wonderful user experiences".
The acquisition is believed by many to be Google's response to the ongoing patent wars (see see no.3), and a desire to strengthen its patent portfolio in order to shield it against patent lawsuits from the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page explained that Motorola will be run as a separate business and that Google would continue to work with other hardware partners, such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson, which have based their phones on the Android platform.
Nokia's burning platform - the jump to Windows Mobile
The year began with a brutally honest admission by Nokia that it was in trouble, with no product close to offering an experience that rivalled Google's Android or Apple's iOS. By February the company was prompted to announce that they will abandon the "burning platform" that is the Symbian OS, and jump into bed with Microsoft and their Windows Mobile operating system.
Fast forward a few months to November, and the company had launched its Windows Phone-based Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 smartphones into a competitive market, with another high-end model and a Windows 8 tablet planned for the future. Time will tell if it was the right move, but we have a feeling that the release of Windows 8 next year will do Windows Mobile devices a lot of good.
Patent wars: the bullets of technology titans
In 2011 the battle for market share was not fought in shop windows, but rather in courtrooms, as legal wrangling about illegal patent usage came to a head. At one stage it felt like everyone was suing everyone else, but one ongoing battle stood out: Apple vs. Samsung. It started back in April, with Apple suing Samsung for alleged patent- and copyright violations in the Galaxy line-up of smartphones and tablet PCs. Samsung then counter-sued the Cupertino company in South Korea, Japan and Germany, alleging ten patent infringements. Skip eight months and Apple had managed to stop the sales of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and Germany.
To give an idea of the power of patents, it is said that Microsoft is now earning more money out of Google's Android than their own Windows Phone, thanks to cross-licensing agreements with the likes of HTC ($5 from every HTC device sold) and now also Samsung.
BlackBerry Blackout: Service unavailable
Who will forget the few eventful days in October when darkness spread across the country. Meetings were cancelled, email went unopened, Facebook was not updated, and people had to resort to, shock-horror, texting instead of BBMing. Thanks to a core switch failure in some critical infrastructure, RIM's popular BlackBerry Internet Service went all belly up. The service outages, which lasted for three days from the 10th October, before being fully restored, affected Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, before spreading to Canada and North America. For many, it was RIM's lack of communication about the crisis that frustrated, with not a word forthcoming until the second day. But, life goes on, and many BlackBerry users who promised to switch brands are still lovingly doing the "BlackBerry Prayer".
Death of an icon: Steve Jobs dies
It was the singular news that shook the technology world, industry leaders, presidents and fans alike, as this year saw the world bidding farewell to Steve Jobs. Jobs passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 56. Universally hailed as being a visionary, Jobs was responsible for revolutionising technology with a number of innovations, including the Apple Mac, MacBook, iPod, iPhone and iPad. In a big way, he changed the way we relate to technology.
Many justifiably questioned Apple's future after the death of its leader. However, Jobs had taken this into account; after resigning as CEO prior to his death, he asked the Apple Board to appoint Tim Cook in his place. Additionally, he apparently planned at least four years' worth of product ideas for Apple for the time ahead. Rest in peace Steve.
This article first appeared in TechSmart 99, December 2011.
Read the rest: Top 5 of 2011
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Top 5 Entry Level Smartphones of 2011
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Top 5 Tablets of 2011