Top 13 tech events of 2013: PRISM fallout, Microsoft upheavals, 4G rollouts

Phew, what a year it's been. As usual the tech industry has given us more intrigue, innovation and indiscretions than you could shake a stick at, and all year long V3 has been on the frontline bringing you news, analysis and insight on these major events.

Now, as we approach the end of 2013 and prepare for whatever the future will hold in 2014, it's time to take stock and round up some of the biggest events of the year.

13. G-Cloud use rises but public sector IT continues to cause headaches
westminster575Finding fault with any government is often like shooting fish in a barrel, but this year saw HM's finest looking rather silly, IT-wise. £6,000 computers that take more than seven minutes to boot up are apparently the norm, as the government's chief operating officer demonstrated in a now-deleted YouTube video. While they may have been in the thick of it in terms of device management, the government did have a couple of successes, too.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) did a pretty stand-up job of migrating the first few hundred government websites onto one domain, With 1.2 billion hits in the first year coupled with a pretty adaptable design suitable for a variety of devices, we have to give GDS a slap on the back for the achievement.

Finally, the government's G-Cloud IT procurement service went from being a fringe operation to one that seems to be growing in popularity. Total spend on the service reached £63m, with small and medium-sized vendors earning more cash than established giants. Still, the biggest contracts seem to still be going the way of the likes of IBM and Microsoft, and a "cloud-first" attitude seems yet to have filtered all the way through the public sector.

12. Bring-your-own-device trend gathers momentum
Business man using smartphone as part of bring your own device trendOne of the biggest trends of 2013 was the increase of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies. Major firms such as BP and Shell, with 135,000 users, announced huge uptake of the trend throughout the year.

Vendors, meanwhile, were falling over themselves to tout their offerings as ideally suited to managing this, with even the traditionally consumer-orientated firms such as Apple and Samsung adding features to meet this demand. For Apple, this included per-app VPN support, while Samsung’s Knox platform aimed to bring security controls to its Android devices.

However, like any major trend, there are plenty of dissenting voices that argue the benefits are being overvalued or that firms will eventually insist on stricter controls, as the risks posed by BYOD become clearer. No doubt this is one that will remain high on the agenda in 2014.

11. Computing curriculum overhauls
tablets-in-schoolIn July, the government confirmed that children as young as five would have to learn about computer programming, algorithms and the internet in the most radical shake-up of UK computing education for decades.

It certainly created some strong headlines, but the changes had been a long time coming; for years it had been known that the outgoing ICT curriculum was out of date and boring for an increasingly digitally aware population. Essays and Microsoft Word are out, and in come proper, practical tasks as well as modern guidance on the use of the internet and social media.

All well and good, but concerns remain as to whether less able students will keep up, as well as whether this is all too much for a generation who may never venture further than Microsoft Word for the whole of their careers. Further to that, training up tens of thousands of teachers to teach what is, to some, an alien topic is not an easy task.

10.  Oracle and Salesforce make peace

Oracle OpenWorld 2012Back in the sweltering heat of June it appeared hell had frozen over as Oracle and Salesforce made sudden peace. The deal saw Salesforce migrate the core of its cloud computing platform to Oracle products, including Database and Java Middleware.

This was an abrupt change in strategy and public attitude towards one another. Previously, the two firms' CEOs, Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff, had been constantly engaging in a war of words, and publicity.
As if this wasn’t enough, Oracle also made deals with other rivals including NetSuite and Microsoft as the major cloud providers in the market started to grudgingly accept the need for co-operation.

Whether this lasts for the years ahead remains to be seen, but for now, it’s nice to see the big boys playing nicely for a change.

9. 3D printing comes of age
3D Systems Cube 3D PrinterPreviously, 3D printing was largely the preserve of manufacturing companies or only the most adventurous hobbyists who were prepared to invest thousands of pounds on hardware.
This changed in 2013, particularly with the UK launch of a £699 3D printer by electronics retailer Maplin, which soon found itself unable to keep up with demand for the unit from buyers.

Others soon followed, including Currys & PC World, which began selling the Cube, while Ultimaker launched the Ultimaker 2 and printer giant HP confirmed it is developing its own range of 3D printers.
Microsoft announced that a 3D print subsystem was part of its Windows 8.1 operating system update, and followed this up with the release of free 3D modelling software on the Windows Store.

All this interest belies the fact that 62 percent of respondents to a V3 poll earlier this year thought that 3D printing will turn out to be a gimmick like 3D TV.

8. Tech giants face tax avoidance criticism
HM Revenue and CustomsMay was a busy month for technology companies when it came to tax. Amazon was criticised for only paying £2.4m tax in the UK during 2012, despite making sales of £4.3bn and receiving £2.5m in government grants. So effectively Amazon cost the country £100,000 over 2012.

Google was also in the tax-dodging spotlight in May, as Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), called the web giant devious, calculated and unethical for misleading parliament over its tax affairs, adding that Google certainly does "do evil" when it comes to paying taxes. Google had previously stated that its UK sales were worth £3.2bn in 2012, from which it paid a less-than-whopping £3.4m in tax.
Across the pond, Apple received a telling off over its accounting practices in the same month, leading chief executive Tim Cook to visit Washington to testify about stashing more than $100bn overseas.

The tax situation is yet to be resolved – by October this year, new reports had emerged that Google paid a paltry £11.6m in tax in the UK on declared profits of £36.8m in 2012, despite claims it should have paid a further £150m. It looks like 2014 will bring a whole load of new complaints over these firms – and no doubt other tech vendors – for shirking their tax responsibilities.

7. Twitter goes public
twitter-ipo-nyseTwitter's stock market debut went about as well as anyone could have expected, peaking at a market value of $31bn on its opening day. We found out a lot about the micro-blogging platform through its filings with the US financial authorities, including its user base – 232 million – and their tweeting habits. Twitter users send on average 500 million tweets per day, which, at last count, added to a total of 300 billion.

How many of those tweets are of any substance remains to be seen, however, as only the most advanced social analytics software can tell if you're talking total nonsense or have something genuinely meaningful to say, but for now we'd recommend working on the assumption that it's mostly nonsense. There's only one thing we can guarantee: V3's Twitter account is 100 percent meaningful. Most of the time.

6. 4G auctions finally take place as operators rush to market
135043998At the start of 2013 there was only one telecoms provider offering 4G – EE – and the auctions still had not taken place. In 2013, all this changed.

The government was left with egg on its face after the auctions, with an estimate of £3.5bn proving too optimistic. Only £2.3bn was raised, as operators were cautious not to overspend as they had in 2000 for the 3G licences.

Vodafone, O2 and Three all started work on 4G after this, with the former two firms going live around September and Three starting a low-key rollout in December. So far interest in 4G has been moderate, with EE now boasting over one million customers and rivals Vodafone and O2 rushing to catch up with deployments.

Businesses are also starting to see the benefits, as the faster networks allow for improved access to the web, cloud applications and sending and receiving data. 2014 could well see uptake grow further as interest and understanding of 4G's benefits grows.

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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