Another year went by quickly. It’s time to jot down my quick review of 2013.
Apple had a boring year? Everyone waited for most of 2013 with high expectations to see new gadgets from Apple, iWatch, Apple TV, etc. But Apple took their time to release “only” new iPhones and iPads in October, they continue to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary products. Whilst real gold lost appeal to bitcoin this year, Apple made the colour cool again with their new 5s with some Android makers copying quickly. The nay-saying analysts to iPhone 5C have trouble explaining the results of being third best selling smartphone just after 5S and S4 as a serious failure. iOS 7 “radical” changes to the UI were quickly adopted by 80% of users within months. Whilst market share continue to decline against Android, the usage
64-bit mobile computing. Apple, by adopting a 64-bit processor in iPhone 5S and iPad, is putting a lot of pressure to the Android world. Google, Samsung, Qualcomm and all other Android players were simply not ready for this one. They all knew eventually computing will all be 64-bit, but they just didn’t know they needed it so soon, don’t think they even planned it for 2014. But Apple, having done such transition with OS X before and they know it will take many years for software to catch up. Even Microsoft have first hand experience in such transition and as a closed system will have a better chance of getting it done quicker than Android. It is hard to predict what Apple will do with such technology, but I am guessing it might be something big like totally changing the system architecture of PC or migration to the next level of fully RAM based computing.
iBeacon, a Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) based device which broadcast out a simple information like a unique ID as a weak signal, enters the market as a strong competitor to Google-backed NFC technology. Both of them aims at the retail space but after nearly 5 years since the first NFC enabled Google Nexus phone, NFC is still struggling to gain wide adoption. For Apple, having released iBeacon as part of iOS 7 and kept it compatible with most recent iOS devices, have around 250 million devices ready for the new technology. We are launching our first hardware product, BeaconGo, in January 2014.
To my surprise, Blackberry is still around, I thought they would disappear before Nokia. Blackberry needs to understand that they just don’t have the muscle to even try to be the fourth mobile ecosystem, adopt Android or Windows Mobile now, or go fully open source and hope for the best. However, I think Nokia is now in good hands and will have a help to grow the new post-Ballmer Microsoft, one that will see Microsoft building more hardware, away from Bill Gates original plan to stay in software forever.
Bitcoin got a lot of attention this year. Price opened at 13 dollars and shot up to around 780dollars by year end. Don’t think anyone expected it as such and there are many different opinions. Is it a bubble? How big will the bubble get? Can it really become a real currency? I happen to be a believer in such technology. For those who don’t understand the technology behind it are underestimation how much innovation has gone into making bitcoin possible. They are viable replacement to both the infrastructure and trust aspects of the traditional banking system. Where you had network of bank branches, they are replaced with peer-to-peer technology to allow each computer to be part of the wider system. Where you previously trusted bankers to handle your money diligently, now you rely on cryptography and open ledger to trust upon. It is worth noting that true digital currencies like bitcoin and other alternative coins was not easily achievable prior to the smartphone era.
3D Printing, HBR and many other articles have been talking how 3D printing will change our future lifestyle. It is not hard to understand why as it is basically a machine that can produce simple objects when you need it. Currently, consumer 3D printers can handle various types of plastics, they have also introduced soluble materials to improve printability of some complex objects with open gaps. It works by the printer repeatedly construct the object layer by layer with melted plastic. As the technology matures, you can expect a much wider variety of printing materials like metal, ceramics or even glass with higher and higher resolution and speed. Currently, many machines are based on open source designs, with free software and object libraries freely available online to get started with. For less than $1000, you can already have a decent kit to start printing.
Drones, Robots and Automation. Google bought many robotics companies this year and have Andy Rubin, the founder of Android to start building real Androids. Amazon is testing using drones to deliver products and the US announced having 6 states to test commercial drones. All exciting stuff. But it doesn’t stop me getting a bit concerned about having machines to replace more and more real jobs in the near future when we are already facing over population problems. The Swiss is to hold a vote on universal basic income (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25415501), which is not the first time people have discussed such option. In France, they are introducing a temporary tax band of 75% for people earning over 1 million. The actual issue is pay inequality and further automation of real jobs will likely to widen the gap further.
4G (LTE) access in China. This is the last big carrier contract for Apple to sign, after nearly 5 years, iPhone is finally coming to the biggest carrier in China. I am impressed by this deal because China Mobile dared to hold out for so long to force Apple to include the Chinese invented TD-LTE variant in the new iPhone. I started using it a week ago and the speed is impressive, up to 40MB/s download speed, it is faster than my home optical fibre broadband which is only at 20MB/s. I hope this will push the fixed broadband providers to upgrade their speed to compete!