Remember Google's barges -- the mysterious vessels made of dozens of shipping containers? The first to be brought to light, by CNET, initially bobbed alongside Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco
Bay. A second was then discovered in the harbor in Portland, Maine. The crafts captivated the tech world, spurring speculation about their purpose. Were they futuristic data centers? Floating retail outlets?
Alas, despite Google's revelation that the barges were set to become mobile showcases for new technology, the San Francisco vessel was, early this year, moved without fanfare 80
miles east to Stockton, Calif. The Portland craft was dismantled and its shipping containers sent to the scrap heap. The reason: the Coast Guard determined the barges presented fire and other safety hazards.
An anticlimactic end to something that garnered so
much interest, and to a project that was reportedly budgeted at tens of millions of dollars.
be honest: Did any smartwatch live up to the hype this year? After a few
intriguing early attempts in 2013, this year was supposed to be the one in which smartwatches took hold. Google got into it seriously with its Android Wear
software, designed specifically for wearable devices.
Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony, among others, released what
felt like a constant barrage of smartwatches in the hope of wowing consumers.
the same problems persisted: bulky watches, disappointing battery life and clunky
software. Nothing out there really
justifies a purchase.
It's telling that with all the moves Google made, CNET editor Scott Stein's favorite smartwatch remains the non-Google Pebble Steel, which debuted in January.
one of these companies will get it right in 2015. And there's always the Apple
Watch, which comes out next year.
be fair, Isis Mobile Wallet had its nationwide launch in
But it's a testament to the weak consumer awareness generated by the system that the other ISIS -- the Islamic State of Iraq
and Syria -- became the ISIS.
aside, the bigger threat may be Apple
Pay. Since Apple's own mobile-payment system launched in October, people have
been talking about using their smartphones to handle payment transactions -- something
few people did with Isis/Softcard.
year marked version 2.0 of Microsoft's campaign to sell its next-generation
Xbox One game console. One of the key features of the system, the motion-sensor
Kinect, was jettisoned to lower the price to $400. The Xbox One's price has more recently fallen even lower, to $350, with many retailers offering free games bundled with the system.
was once positioned as critical to the Xbox experience suddenly became expendable.
It's easy to see why consumers' response to the new Kinect (which can be purchased a la carte) has been, shall we
most of Microsoft's investment in Xbox One Kinect will likely be scrapped as
consumers opt for the cheaper Kinect-less version of the Xbox One.
The company used a
network of mini-antennas to grab over-the-air TV signals (without paying broadcasters any fees) and let customers stream them to Net-connected devices for a low monthly price. But it ran into a buzz saw known
as the Supreme Court, which deemed the service
decision was a win for the broadcasters, including CBS, the parent company of
CNET, and rang Aereo's death knell.
trouble is, car app Gett made similar allegations against Uber, saying Uber used a "denial of
service"-type attack to recruit drivers. In that instance, Uber said its
tactics were "likely too aggressive."
didn’t help its image when an executive in November said the company might
spend $1 million on a plan to discredit journalists writing stories Uber didn't
like. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said remarks by executive Emil Michael "showed
a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity and a departure from our values and
ideals." Still, Michael continues to be an Uber employee because Kalanick feels "folks who make mistakes can learn from them."
Lesson learned: don’t talk about a plan to
discredit journalists at a dinner-meeting with journalists.
and Intel's operating system, Tizen, was supposed to provide carriers with a
smartphone they could customize and call their own. It was supposed to be a
high-end operating system. And it was supposed to debut early this year.
of that happened.
only whiff we got of Tizen was in Samsung's smartwatches, which haven't exactly
been hot sellers. At Mobile World Congress in March, the Tizen Association
attempted to shift its strategy to capitalize on the notion that the software
could power smart TVs, among other devices.
disclosure reignited the ongoing debate about privacy and just what Facebook
does with your data.
was capped off by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's
non-apology apology. "So we clearly communicated really badly
about this, and that we really regret," Sandberg toldthe
Indian television station NDTV while in New Delhi.
Caption byRoger Cheng
/ Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
debatable what GamerGate really stands for. Opinions range from an effort to expose bias in gaming
journalism to a pushback against critics who question the portrayal of women in
video games. But what's clear-cut is the vile, ugly harassment that’s become a
hallmark of the movement.
media critic Anita Sarkeesian (pictured above) pulled out of a speaking
engagement at Utah State University because an anonymous email threatened "the
deadliest school shooting in American history" if she didn't cancel her
speech. Independent game developer Brianna Wu was driven from her home after
receiving threats and having her address posted online. Zoe Quinn, the
developer at the center of GamerGate, also had her information leaked and was
forced to leave her home.
if you were one of the unfortunate people who used a third-party backup service
photos and videos -- chances are your messages were exposed to the public.
Snapchat was less than sympathetic, saying those users had no one to blame but
themselves for relying on sketchy services.
was another banner year for Apple, which continued to see its iPhone dominate
the smartphone business even as rival Samsung stumbled. But the company wasn't
without its own embarrassments.
Speaking of security issues, the
most high-profile snafu was the theft of nude photos of celebrities, including actress Jennifer
Lawrence and model Kate Upton, which were said to have been taken from the celebrities' private iCloud
accounts. Apple denied that poor security architecture led to the image leak but conceded it could have done more to warn customers of the
danger of hackers. It bolstered iCloud's security alerts toward that end.
there was the iOS 8.0.1 upgrade for the iPhone and iPad. Originally intended to
fix errors in iOS 8, it presented its own, much larger problems, including kicking the iPhone off
cellular networks and disabling the TouchID fingerprint sensor. To its credit, Apple had a
relatively quick fix out with iOS 8.0.2. Then iOS 8.1 came out and brought back the beloved "Camera Roll" folder in the Photos app.
On the plus side, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a
strong stand on diversity, revealing in public for the first time that he’s
gay. “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help
someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to
anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then
it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy."
the most part, new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has had a strong early run. The
company seems to be moving briskly toward his new strategy of software and
services, and even the Surface tablet is starting to pick up steam.
Nadella walked into a minefield when he suggested that women in
technology shouldn't ask for raises, but should instead trust in the system (which
today underpays women relative to their male peers) to take care of them. "It's not
really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system
will actually give you the right raises as you go along," he said.
The worst part: He said it at the Grace Hopper
Celebration of Women in Computing.
Nadella soon backtracked on the remarks, saying
he was inarticulate about his comments. A day later, he said he was flat-out wrong.
That didn't stop the criticism, and he spent a good
chunk of October defending himself and his views on women and technology. The
takeaway for women working at Microsoft: ask for a raise. The boss is
the Fire Phone? It's OK if you don't. You’re
first smartphone debuted with a fair bit of buzz. It had a supportive carrier
partner in AT&T, which promised a big marketing push. It also had two
features that helped the Fire Phone stand out: four front-facing cameras to help
display 3D images and a Firefly object recognition app to scan bar codes and
other data from real-world items, making it easier for you to buy them from
as Facebook discovered a year ago with its own failed phone, slapping a
well-known brand on a device doesn't guarantee success. The Fire Phone runs an
altered version of Android that doesn't support key Google apps like Google
Maps or Gmail. AT&T's marketing push faded quickly, and the phone fell to 99 cents (with a contract) after two
standout features? Customers didn't seem to care.
has acknowledged it missed the mark with pricing. Where Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets won a
following with their low price, consumers were less than wowed by the Fire
Phone's $200 price tag with contract. Maybe Amazon will have better luck with
the next version.
Correction, 1:20 p.m. PT:This story misstated the number
of cameras the Fire Phone uses to display 3D images. Amazon's Fire Phone has four motion-tracking cameras to support Dynamic Perspective, as well as an additional front-facing camera and rear-facing camera for photos.
are flameouts and then there’s former RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal.
little-known startup made headlines in the worst possible way when Chahal was
arrested and convicted of battery and domestic violence after hitting his
girlfriend 117 times in a 30-minute attack. He initially tweeted that he was
innocent and blamed the media for its one-sided coverage, before deleting those
was clear he had to go, but Chahal didn't go
quietly. In his letter to the board, he said he was
"deeply disappointed" by the decision of the directors, and claimed
he was wrongfully terminated.
New RadiumOne CEO Bill Lonergan acknowledged the drama but said it was over by June. He added that the company didn't lose any major customers, and the second quarter was the best quarter in the company's history.
Caption byRoger Cheng
/ Photo by Getty Images for Fox, Charley Gallay