With 2012 only hours away from being history, I thought it appropriate to offer some reflections on the year past. It certainly had it’s moments. We saw Apple stock soar to $700, only to settle back down in the $530 range, still making it incredibly valuable, but off from it’s stratospheric high. HP continues to struggle in the morass of previous bad decisions and misfortune. RIM was battered and bruised as the world awaits it’s last gasp at relevance. Windows Phone remained largely irrelevant. And the Patent Wars. Oh, the Patent Wars.
We got to see various corporate giants slug it out globally over patents. While the focus remains on the “broken” US patent system, the reality is that these battles aren’t just in the US, they are everywhere. The entire world is probably well-advised to step back and look at how patents are reviewed and granted. The US may be the posterchild for a troublesome system, but given the level of litigation elsewhere, it appears they may not be alone.
A large list of great companies continued to thrash and flail as they tried to find a way to keep going. HP is now bogged down as a result of what appears to be a shoddy piece of work in the Autonomy deal. Nokia’s newest phones failed to gain Windows Phone any ground in the market. RIM was in a holding pattern, as it watched its marketshare evaporate to near-irrelevance. It is betting everything on Blackberry 10, and it isn’t looking like a great bet.
Continued, But Inevitable, Change In Personal Computing
The smartphone and tablet market continued to mature and solidify, and the real players in both are pretty clear. The tablet continued to chew up the low-end of the personal computing space, effectively ending the life of the netbook, and causing problems for cheap laptops and the nascent Ultrabook. The smartphone finally became the majority of the mobile installed base on pretty much every analyst metric in the US and in other regions, and continues to gain on feature phones globally. One thing is clear: we are basically in an Android and iOS world. The question now remains: which will be bigger. Android is up there, and it has a significant lead, but nothing is certain.
Microsoft’s release of Windows 8 hasn’t gained it a reprieve from the iPad, Nexus 7 and 10 and Kindle Fire. While it is early, the first quarter numbers for Windows 8 aren’t looking all that impressive. Sure, a lot of the Windows installed base moved to Windows 8, but it doesn’t appear that it has stemmed the rising tide that is engulfing the low-end of the personal computer market. This, coupled with continued lacklustre performance by Windows Phone, has got to wake up some people in Redmond, and get shareholders and the Microsoft board to at least consider new leadership (doesn’t it?).
Some Surprises From Cupertino
In a surprising turn of events, we got 2 upgraded iPad models this year, along with the iPad mini. The smaller iPad wasn’t the only “this would never happen with Steve” moment. Apple starting to pay dividends to shareholders. It released highly visible software that was clearly not ready for prime time (while replacing the incumbent), and then forced out a long-time Apple executive as a result. Tim Cook started to put his own stamp on Apple, shuffling executives in a signal that things will be different. Tim apologized for Maps, and suggested alternative apps for people to use.
In the “colour me not surprised” category
Apple didn’t release a new television. Android tablets made only modest gains on iPad. Dedicated eReader device sales continue to drop, even when eBook sales continue to climb. At least one social media company did something stupid (Instagram being a more prominent member of the Bonehead Decisions Club). The incumbent President won the U.S. election. The sky is still blue, the sun still rises in the east, and people still do stupid things to each other.
As For 2013?
About all I can confidently predict is that it will be another year of change. Otherwise, it’s purely a guess. We might get an Apple television. We will probably see a decline in the use of skeuomorphism in Apple software (yay! with some exceptions, seriously, textures don’t help as much as some people think). Android will continue to mature and improve. BB10 will have a lot of fanfare, and probably not much else. Microsoft will likely continue to wander about aimlessly, wondering how things could change so much, while denying much has changed at all. HP will hopefully be able to put the Autonomy mess behind them and get back to rebuilding their legacy, and perhaps return to some level of greatness.
All I do know is that I will put together an AppleTalk network, and bridge it to the rest of my network for my old Macintosh Plus and recently acquired Macintosh SE/30. I will get an ImageWriter to get some old-school printing going. I will release at least one new iOS app, and at least one new Mac app this year (hopefully in the next week or so). I will be involved in a new venture that has been incubating for the past couple of years, and for which seed funding should be raised in the first half of this year (if all goes well).