Seamus takes a look back at some of the big news moments of 2013, from the bubble of Bitcoin to the rubble of the NBN.
Amongst the many largely evolutionary product upgrades of 2013 we saw some real 'line in the sand' moments in the future history of technology. Here's my pick of the biggest moments to remember.
Snowden puts privacy centre stage
For years we've encouraged average users to pay at least passing attention to personal privacy online. Go beyond basic passwords, check your social privacy settings, know what permissions you're giving away. For the most part it fell on deaf ears amongst mainstream users as people paid little mind to public Facebook posts, appalling password practices and generally leaving the curtains wide open on their debaucherous digital lives.
Along came Edward Snowden to show us just how far our governments have been going to watch us online. As the depth and breadth of government intrusion into the digital realm came to light, we (as a global community, not particularly within the Australian media landscape) finally began a conversation about privacy, encryption, online security and surveillance practices.
Not that we've noticed any real change in mainstream security practices. But the conversation truly began in 2013 and we'll be a better digital world for it in the future.
It was the year of BB10. The year of long awaited new handsets. The year of the celebrity Creative Director. The year of the last chance. But all we got was a somehow still undercooked OS that offered not even remotely enough to convince any user of Android or iOS to change teams.
Blackberry continued to shed its own long-time users and by the end of 2013 was still selling less phones per quarter than a major Apple or Samsung launch sells in a weekend. Just to make it worse, almost three quarters of the phones Blackberry sold in Q4 are on BB7. No one wants what Blackberry thinks they want.
The company has now openly stepped away from trying to court consumer smartphone shoppers. Where that leads is a very different story to the one that made Blackberry a household name.
If I had bought $100 worth of Bitcoin back in... let's skip that part. Speculation on what Bitcoin is worth 'now' versus 'then' is what's gone wrong with Bitcoin. Speculation is what prevents it from being a currency. Sure, a few places here and then will accept and trade in it, but that's just a way of getting real money in and out of the system. If I did own Bitcoins (and I don't) I wouldn't spend my rapidly inflationary BTC this week if next week it could double in value. Or halve.
Bitcoin remains a true bubble in that it is absolutely only worth what people are willing to pay for it. I also wonder what happens when the Bitcoin doomsday clock counts down to its maximum 21 million coins. What happens to the system when there are no new coins to be won through mining operations? That's still a long way off, but it feels like Bitcoin has done an excellent job of proving the concept of a true crypto currency even if it might not be the one to dominate that future.
The National Broadband Network started the election year as a troubled, expensive project that was falling behind schedule with many chinks in its commercial armour. At its best the concept is important — equitable, powerful, next generation broadband for the whole country — but it was sold to the public poorly and attacked with such political focus that the simple, long-term ideals were never part of the debate.
By year's end we've seen the Coalition government reduce the original concept to little more than a set of upgrades to the existing copper network, with limited potential to deliver anything that would seem 'next generation' compared to ADSL2+. No sign of better upstream speeds and the NBN interim satellite services are also already saturated with no short-term remedy in sight.
The Coalition NBN is NBN in name only. Whether we even recall this was a discussion of consequence 20 years from now will be interesting to reflect on when we live in that future world where Gigabit speeds will be either commonplace or desperately desired.
This is my Big Prediction for the decade ahead: 2013 was peak console and before the era of the PS4 and Xbox One is out something else will have stolen their living room limelight.
The new consoles have launched incredibly well. Surprisingly well given the limited launch line ups. But new toys at Christmas are hard to resist. But it's a marathon and not a sprint, as the cliche goes, so 2014 will be the year we get a sense of what's going to be special about the new hardware and what it delivers for the living room experience.
But with new streaming services, new Steam Machines, new super secret Apple projects, even whatever comes after the disappointing Ouya Android console, there is a lot of new competition for that shelf space under the TV coming very soon.
The console was rampant through the first era of high-definition television but there's no so many places to get our gaming experiences and so many ways to enjoy content on our TVs I wonder if the consoles we have been given will be enough to dominate living rooms. Based on the past cycle we can't expect anything else from Sony and Microsoft between here and 2020. Unless they move early to fend off one of these new competitors?