A look back at the big wins and fails in technology in 2020

We streamed, we Zoomed, we ordered groceries and houseplants on-line, we created digital villages whereas navigating laptop computer shortages to work and be taught from residence. In some ways, 2020′s pandemic-induced isolation threw our dependence on expertise into overdrive, snipping away at our real-life connections whereas bringing digital relationships to the fore.However for each life-changing Zoom, there was at the very least one soon-forgotten Quibi. Here is a have a look at the 12 months’s tech wins and fails.


Digital Actuality

Because the world adjusted to a brand new stuck-at-home actuality, the pandemic might have been digital actuality’s probability to supply an escape. With using particular headsets and accouterments like gloves, the expertise lets individuals work together with a 360-degree view of a three-dimensional surroundings, seemingly a great match for individuals caught indoors.

However individuals as a substitute turned to easier-to-use software program and video games they already had. Few rushed to spend tons of of {dollars} on a clunky new headset or be taught the ropes of digital actuality assembly software program. And no VR video games broke into the mainstream. So digital actuality, on the verge of success for many years, missed its second — once more.

Social media warning labels

It was the 12 months of warning labels on Fb, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok. Forward of the U.S. presidential election, the social media platforms promised to clamp down on voting misinformation, together with baseless costs of fraud and candidates’ untimely declarations of victory. Their most seen technique towards this effort was the bevy of warning labels utilized to tweets, posts, photographs and movies of doubtful benefit.

“Some or the entire content material shared on this Tweet is disputed and could be deceptive about an election or different civic course of,” learn one typical label utilized to a tweet by President Donald Trump.

However many consultants stated that whereas the labels made it seem that the businesses had been taking motion, “on the finish of the day it proved to be fairly ineffective,” as Jennifer Grygiel a professor at Syracuse College and social media knowledgeable, put it.


Lower than a 12 months in the past, Quibi launched a splashy Tremendous Bowl advert that posed the query “What’s a Quibi?” Individuals should still be scratching their heads.

Quibi, a portmanteau for “fast bites,” was a short-form video streaming app began by Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, former CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The startup had set its expectations excessive, elevating $1.75 billion from buyers together with main Hollywood gamers Disney, NBCUniversal and Viacom.

However the paid service struggled to achieve viewers, even because the coronavirus pandemic saved many individuals at residence. Maybe the aspirational startup by no means stood an opportunity towards such formidable rivals because the Chinese language-owned video-sharing app TikTok, and YouTube, each of that are free. Quibi introduced it was shutting down in October, simply six months after its launch.

Uber and Lyft

Contemporary off their preliminary public choices the 12 months earlier than and nonetheless struggling to indicate they are often worthwhile, the ride-hailing companies had been clobbered by the pandemic in 2020, as individuals stopped taking vehicles and huddled down at residence.

In Could, Uber laid off 3,700 individuals, or about 14% of its workforce. Lyft additionally introduced job cuts.

However there are some indicators of hope. After considerably lowering prices by restructuring within the second quarter, Lyft stated final month it expects to have its first worthwhile quarter on the finish of 2021. And the businesses scored a serious victory in California, the place voters handed Proposition 22, granting them and others an exception to a legislation that sought to categorise their drivers as workers, an expense that analysts thought would have pummeled their enterprise within the nation’s most populous state.

U.S. TikTok ban

Whereas India outlawed the favored video-sharing app, within the U.S. TikTok seems near driving out Donald Trump’s time period with out the president succeeding in his efforts to ban it.

Earlier this month, a federal decide blocked a possible ban. It was the most recent authorized defeat for the administration in its efforts to wrest the app from its Chinese language house owners. In October, one other federal decide postponed a shutdown scheduled for November.

In the meantime, a authorities deadline for TikTok’s father or mother, ByteDance to finish a deal that may have Oracle and Walmart put money into TikTok has additionally handed, with the standing of the deal unclear.

Whereas President-elect Joe Biden has stated TikTok is a priority, it isn’t clear if his administration will stick with it the Trump administration’s makes an attempt at a ban.


Nintendo Change

In a 12 months heralding splashy new consoles from Xbox and PlayStation, the Nintendo Change was the console that would. Launched in 2017, the Change grew to become a fast-seller, adopted by the sport console’s handheld model, the Change Lite, launched in September 2019.

In March, it grew to become arduous to discover a Change as individuals searched for methods to be entertained at residence. Boosting Change’s recognition to an entire new degree was the discharge of the island-simulation sport “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” which debuted March 20 and has now bought a cumulative 26 million models globally, based on Nintendo.ß

In accordance with the NPD Group, throughout the first 11 months of 2020, the Nintendo Change bought 6.92 million models within the U.S. It has been the best-selling console in models bought for a report 24 consecutive months.


Whereas all video-conferencing software program from Microsoft Groups to WebEx thrived throughout the abrupt shift to distant working and education by tens of thousands and thousands of individuals throughout the pandemic, just one model has grow to be the brand new phrase for “video-conference.”

Zoom Video Communications was a comparatively unheralded firm earlier than the pandemic hit, however its video-conference software program’s ease of use led to its huge adoption throughout the pandemic. There have been some rising pains, together with lax safety early on that led to “Zoom bombing” breaches. The corporate has since revamped its safety and stays one of the widespread platforms for internet hosting distant conferences and lessons.

Ransomware purveyors

The ransomware scourge — wherein criminals maintain information hostage by scrambling it till victims pay up — reached epic proportions in 2020, dovetailing terribly with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Germany, a affected person, who was turned away from the emergency room of a hospital as a result of its IT system was paralyzed by a cyberattack, died on the way in which to a different hospital.

Within the U.S., the variety of assaults on well being care services this 12 months was almost double the 50 that occurred in 2019. Assaults on state and native governments had been up about 50% to greater than 150. Even grammar faculties have been hit, leading to shutdowns in distant studying for college students from Baltimore to Las Vegas.

Cybersecurity agency Emsisoft estimates the price of U.S. ransomware assaults within the U.S. alone this 12 months totaled greater than $9 billion between ransoms paid and downtime/restoration.

PC makers

After starting the 12 months grappling with delays of their provide chains, the private laptop business discovered itself scrambling to maintain up with a surge in demand for machines that out of the blue grew to become indispensable amid a pandemic that saved thousands and thousands of employees and college students at residence.

Worsened by the pandemic, the availability chain delays stymied manufacturing as abroad factories had been compelled to close down throughout the early levels of the well being disaster. These closures contributed to a steep decline in gross sales throughout the first three months of the 12 months, however the PC market recovered by the top of Q2. It has been growth occasions for the PC ever since.

The July-September interval was notably strong, with PC shipments within the U.S. surging 11% from the identical time in 2019 — the business’s greatest quarterly gross sales enhance in a decade, based on the analysis agency Gartner.


The most important of the bunch, Amazon, is among the few corporations that has thrived each second all through the coronavirus outbreak. Individuals have turned to it early on to order groceries, provides and different gadgets on-line, serving to the corporate herald report income and earnings between April and June — regardless of its having to spend $4 billion on cleansing provides and to pay employees additional time and bonuses.

Nevertheless it’s not simply Amazon. The pandemic is accelerating the transfer to on-line purchasing, a development consultants count on to say even after vaccines enable the world to renew regular lives. And thanks partly to customers consciously supporting small companies, Adobe Analytics says on-line gross sales at smaller U.S. retailers had been up 349% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. On the greater than 1 million companies that use Shopify to construct their web sites, gross sales rose 75% from a 12 months in the past to $2.4 billion on Black Friday, based on Shopify.


Large Tech

No doubt, Fb, Amazon, Apple and Google did effectively financially in 2020. Every firm’s inventory value and earnings are up significantly for the reason that begin of the 12 months. They’ve gained customers, rolled out new merchandise and options and have saved on hiring whilst different corporations and industries confronted vital cuts.

However not all is effectively on the earth of Large Tech, and people large earnings are a part of the issue. Regulators have been respiratory down the necks of Large Tech’s richest foursome all year long and that is not prone to ease up in 2021. Google faces an antitrust lawsuit from the Division of Justice; and Fb has been hit with a go well with from the Federal Commerce Fee, together with almost each U.S. state that seeks to have it cut up off from WhatsApp and Instagram.

Extra authorized instances might observe. Congressional investigators spent months digging into the actions of Apple and Amazon along with Fb and Google, and known as the CEOs of all 4 corporations to testify.

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