This year gave us plenty of headlines for the tech industry, both positive and negative. From the introduction of new devices like the iPhone 6 to enormous data breaches at major companies, 2014 showed how technological developments are impacting all corners of the world. As we reflect on the year gone by, we've chosen what we think are 10 of the most interesting technology stories of 2014.
Unprecedented Data Breaches and Cybercrime
This was the year that hacking graduated from nuisance to an act of war. In addition to significant data breaches at companies like Dairy Queen, JP Morgan, and Apple, several government agencies were also the victims of serious cyberattacks, including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Postal Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
More worrisome, however, is the fact that several of the attacks seem to be coming from state actors. The NOAA hack is thought to be the work of the Chinese government, while the Russian government is suspected of being behind a breach of White House computer systems. The recent attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which proved to be the costliest data breach in history, is believed to have been perpetrated by the North Korean government. However, some security experts disagree and are pinning the blame on Sony insiders.
Cloud Computing Goes Mainstream
Tech companies moved into the cloud in a big way this year. Several companies debuted new cloud services, including Salesforce, which introduced a centralized file sharing service; Microsoft and Accenture teaming up on Microsoft Azure, a hybrid cloud platform; and Dell debuting its new cloud service marketplace.
It also fueled a ton of M&A (merger and acquisition) activity, with major tech firms all lining up to get their hands on hot cloud technology. EMC bought three enterprise hybrid cloud startups -- in addition to Cisco’s stake in VCE -- in October, while Google, Adobe and IBM all made cloud-based acquisitions of their own.
IBM was also a major player in big data in 2014, leading the charge to see data analytics brought to more applications. It launched a predictive polling service in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University, and made a big push to expand its Watson artificial intelligence client base with several new global clients.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health funded a major new effort to make its biomedical data sets available to researchers all over the world; Pandora offered musicians access to data on their fan bases; Cisco offered to help local governments make their cities smarter; and the LAPD increased its use of big data analytics to more efficiently deploy its officers.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT), the term applied to the effort to connect everyday objects to the Internet, also got lots of love in 2014, with several new consortiums formed to help speed its development. Cisco said it would invest $150 million in its IoT efforts; Intel introduced its new IoT Platform; and New York startup LittleBit launched a module to allow DIYers to connect their own devices to the Internet. Microsoft joined the AllSeen Alliance while Samsung, Intel and Dell created the Open Interconnect Consortium to develop IoT interconnection protocols.
Lots of companies brought wearable devices to the market this year. Although the big headline might have been Apple’s introduction of its Apple Watch at its keynote address in September (but not expected to go on sale until early 2015), several other players made waves with their own products, including new fitness trackers from Fitbit and Microsoft, and a high-fashion wrist accessory from Intel.
Phones seemed to have increased in size this year. The iPhone 6 Plus is the largest handset Apple has ever produced by a long shot, coming in with a 5.5-inch screen, surpassing even the 4.7-inch screen of the iPhone 6. Samsung brought its own behemoth to market with the Galaxy Note Edge, a 5.6-inch monster of a phone. Sony and Motorola both introduced models of that passed the 5-inch mark.
Not everything was positive for Apple this year, though, as the company had its own share of problems. Larger may not have been better for the company’s handsets. The larger size of the iPhone 6 Plus seemed to contribute to it warping and bending under even the slightest pressure -- leading to plenty of 'Bendgate' headlines shortly after the 6 Plus came to market.
A hack of Apple's iCloud ended with the release of dozens of nude photos of celebrities, damaging Apple’s reputation for security in a high-profile case. Meanwhile, the long-awaited up date to its desktop OS, Yosemite, got off to an inauspicious start with several connectivity bugs plaguing the new system.
Gagging on Lollipop
But Apple was far from the only company suffering from buggy OS updates. Android users had their own share of problems as the Android update known as Lollipop led to major problems for users of many Android devices, including RAM management and app compatibility issues. Many of our readers complained that the update made their devices almost unusable, with apps crashing and bugs making multitasking impossible.
Meanwhile, if there was any lingering doubt about the importance of technology companies in the business world, Alibaba’s IPO on the New York Stock Exchange put them to rest. The Chinese e-commerce company enjoyed the largest public offering in history, raising $25 billion in September.
Ice Bucket Challenge
Bucking a trend of stories outlining the many ways social media can be used for evil, the popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge proved that, occasionally, it can also help support important causes. The meme, which involved people taking videos of themselves pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads to raise money and awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, exploded on social media over the summer. The popular meme helped raise $97 million dollars for the ALS Association, and helped pour cold water on the idea that social media is a complete waste of time.
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