Here are some of the major tech trends that were a success in 2013. And those that failed. Karthik Subramanian has the details
1. RIP Privacy
The worst fears of most people about the Web were proved right in 2013. Whistleblower Edward Snowden's expose of the extent of the U.S. Government's surveillance of literally every important Web service there can be has blown the lid off whatever mirage of privacy companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo have offered to its users. Starting with the revelations around June until now, almost all technology majors have had a difficult time with their users, what with the latter beginning to watch what they do online. The year 2013 will always be remembered as the year that finally awakened all Internet users to just how fickle privacy safeguards are. Which is why it is our number one trend for the year.
2. The rise of instant messaging
Remember the good old days when you used to log into your email service — Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail — to see if a friend had sent you an email? Do you actually remember? Because the likes of WhatsApp and Viber have completely taken over the needs of instant messaging and communications. On their official blog, in an entry dated December 19, WhatsApp declared that it had 400 million monthly active users. (That's right, “active users” as against just “registered users” that a lot of companies flaunt when it comes to numbers.)
Not only are the likes of WhatsApp, Viber, BBM and iMessage completely replacing the mobile service provider's SMS service, they are also addressing bigger needs.
Over the years, emails have become tedious because of the huge number of spams, email newsletters and marketing plugs. Instant messaging, on the other hand, allows for hassle-free communication and users seem to be increasingly relying on it.
3. Android and Windows phones popular in India
The gains for the Android operating system were expected in the mobile OS (operating system) ecosystem which provided pretty much all the comforts of Apple's iOS at a fraction of the price. Quite naturally, the most searched mobile device, according to the Web analytics provided by Google Trends for 2013, was the Samsung Galaxy S4, the flagship phone from the South Korean manufacturer running the latest Android. Windows mobile phones (Lumia 520 heads the list) are also very popular in India because of the pricing and exciting colours they come in. Globally, though, the most searched phone on Google Search was Apple's iPhone 5S, which is still an incremental upgrade of its previous version the iPhone 5. Despite the drama, the truth is that there were not many exciting phones in 2013.
4. The soft entry of wearables
This year, saw some wearable technologies — Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Pebbles Watch and a few others — making a mark but they did not grab the attention of enthusiasts as many expected it would. Google Glass is out on trial runs around the world and though there is some enthusiasm, there are matching concerns on what the device would mean when considering people’s privacy. Already there are some establishments in the U.S. — mostly bars and places where the public gather — where 'Google Glass' has been banned. Samsung Galaxy Gear that had a wearable watch also did not really have people queuing up to buy it. Though a few other wearable technologies — mostly health monitors and pedometers of the likes of Jawbone Up and Fitbit Flex — are popular in India, the technology seems to be in a very nascent stage.
5. Some ultra flops
There were a few technologies and gadgets that bombed big time in 2013. Facebook launched its new “Home” for Android, which was basically a skin that would turn your Android mobile device into a Facebook-centric phone. It was probably one of the biggest non-starters from Mark Zuckerberg and Co., and an audience already smarting under the privacy attacks, completely ignored the option. Another big flop (if we may just go ahead and call it) was Microsoft's Windows 8. The new tiles user interface was supposed to be a bold new restart of the company's operating system, a complete overhaul of its looks. Sadly, most people did not like the redesign and opted to stay on with Windows 7 OS. Microsoft has attempted some damage control by bringing back the 'Start' button with Windows 8.1 but a lot more remains to be done. The other big flop was the new line-up from Blackberry — devices running the new Blackberry OS 10. The company priced it high in India, as well as globally, and by the end of the year were down in the dumps. There is also the news that the Canadian company is up for sale globally. Then again it has recently announced that it is trying to stage a recovery. It simply was not Blackberry's year in 2013.
Keywords: technology in 2013, technology trends in 2013, Edward Snowden, web privacy, smartphone instant messaging, whatsapp, viber, Android phones, Windows phones, Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Blackberry OS 10