With Thanksgiving upon us, at least in the U.S., it’s a good time to look back upon the year of nearly 11 months and see some random participants in tech who have done well in 2014.
Apple: Every year seems to be a good year for Apple, but 2013 was an exceptionally good one. At a time when most competitors were struggling, Apple took off with the release of iPhone 6, updated products for Macs with strong sales in a market PC where most were dying, and popular operating system releases of iOS 8 and Yosemite. There’s lots of interest in the Apple Watch, even though it won’t be on the market until next year. And Apple Pay, which might have been considered a late response to Google Wallet, instead came out as the finance industries solution to credit card thefts–and could leave Apple with dominance of a new business line.
Microsoft: Historically, a good year for Apple has been a bad one for Microsoft and vice versa. This year, however, brought gain to both. The biggest change for Microsoft was the retirement of CEO Steve Ballmer and his replacement with Satya Nadella, who had been head of the cloud and enterprise group. Nadella moved aggressively (so aggressively that some of the change was under way while while Ballmer was still in charge) to shift Microsoft’s concentration on Windows, Window, Windows to clouds, Office for iPhone and Android, and realization that its successful future demands on lots of viable devices. And while Microsoft posted declines in operating systems and Office sales in the September quarter, commercial cloud services were up 128% and sales of devices, including phones, Xboxes, and the struggling Surface, also shows a decent gain.
Internet: This one takes a little struggle to understand. Internet regulation has been an ongoing fight between those who want to continue treating the network as similar to cable TV (cable and phone network operators) and those who want to go to a more telephone-like regulatory regime (an odd combination of of content deliverers such as Netflix and Google, academics, and liberal pro-regulators). The fight was going nowhere until just after the election, President Obama issued a statement calling for regulating the internet by reclassifying it as Title II, like phone companies. Republicans in Congress did what they did with all Obama proposals–opposed. But more interestingly, Federal Communications Chair Thomas Wheeler, came out against the Obama plan and said the commission will seek a middle ground, likely to leave the internet as Title I but with requirements that services such as Netflix (an example that gets cited a lot) are carried without interference. If Wheeler pulls this off, there’s a reasonable chance for helpful regulation that protects the internet.
Lenovo: While Apple and Microsoft get the attention, Lenovo has seen a lot of growth in a year that has seen most of its competitors suffer. It has passed Hewlett-Packard in PCs. Its purchase of Motorola from Google should make it the #3 global producer of phones. And the acquisition of Intel-based servers from IBM equips it to increase its competition with HP and Dell in dominating the corporate market. Not bad for a company that a decade ago was an obscure producer of PCs for the Chinese market.
Me: An odd claim for me. Those who have been following me know I had surgery for a brain tumor in March and spent the next several months with neither my body nor brain performing very well. But in the last couple of months, I was fortunate to make a remarkable recovery and am now getting back into work. It wasn’t a great year by any normal interpretation, but I’ve learned a lot about life–and death. My glioblastoma will eventually come back; I just hope it takes its time and lets me go on observing and writing about the tech industry and enjoying life with my family (including my third grandson born in October.)
A cheerful Thanksgiving to all of you.