Le Google promised to revolutionize television with the release of Google TV HDTVs and Logitech’s Revue set-top box in late 2010. Already foiled by blockage from major networks, no Android Market support until just recently — and the expensive price of the HDTVs and Revue — saw Google TV fall off the radar. Google TV wasn’t supposed to be another failed WebTV, but with only one major update and inexpensive solutions such as the Boxee Box or Roku boxes competing for hard-earned dollars, Google TV was left to die.
3D reached far and wide in our gadget lives this year, from TVs to the 3DS. It was everywhere. One place it didn’t quite make a splash was on smartphones. Both HTC and LG jumped into the fire with glasses-free 3D smartphones in the form the HTC EVO 3D and LG Thrill 4G; phones with dual cameras on the rear for 3D image capture. It feels good to not have to wear glasses, but at the same time, the viewing angles are terrible with 3D turned up. Add that you need a 3D TV or 3D display to show off all those fancy three-dee videos and photos in all their glory and the whole premise seems unattractive.
2011 was supposed to be the year where Android, BlackBerry and webOS put a dent in the iPad’s runaway success. It wasn’t. 2011 instead brought the disappointing Motorola Xoom, HP’s botching the TouchPad and then open-sourcing webOS, the PlayBook bleeding RIM out, and Samsung’s patent lawsuits with Apple over the Galaxy Tab 10.1. 2011 was very much the year of the iPad 2. The iPad 2 is still the world’s most popular tablet, even making its way into President Obama’s office. There’s always next year. Maybe those Windows 8 tablets won’t be so bad.
Windows Phone 7
Microsoft had an entire year to prove Windows Phone 7 kind of blew it. Despite a “soft launch” in late 2010 that left much to be desired, the latest WP 7.5 “Mango” update was supposed to put the Redmond boys back in the running against Android and iOS. The reality was anything but. With under a handful (I can count them on one hand) of smartphones on each major U.S. carrier, WP7 remains behind as the fifth most used mobile OS, behind Android, iOS, Symbian, BlackBerry and even Samsung’s Bada OS. It holds less than 1.5 percent of the market according to Gartner. If WP7 did one thing right in 2011, it was to get Microsoft to adapt its MetroUI for the Xbox 360 and Windows 8. Next year could be different for WP7, but this year, the effort just wasn’t there.
It was all going so well for Netflix until Starz pulled all its content, and the price hikes for its DVD+streaming service were announced. Let’s also not forget that Netflix had the crazy idea of spinning off its DVD rental service into Qwikster, but then decided not to do it a month later after a bonanza of public backlash. Yep, Netflix lost 810,000 customers in the process, which for the company is relatively minor when compared to its 21.4 million paid subscriptions and 13.9 million DVD subscribers, but boy was it a disaster that the company would rather have avoided.
Remember Louiseboat Lulzsec? Yeah, we hardly remember them either, but them and Anonymous stirred up quite a bit of trouble after the PlayStation Network fiasco earlier this year. From there on, it was just hack attack after hack attack, with banks and gaming websites like those belonging to Square Enix and Steam coming under fire. Luckily, I wasn’t affected by any of the hacks other than having to change my PSN account password, but those hackers sure wreaked a lot of havoc for a lot of people. It was a wakeup call for every industry to get serious about online security.
Death of Adobe Flash (Mobile)
Bested by faster and more intuitive Web technologies like HTML5, Flash on mobile was a major bullet point that non-iOS tablets and smartphones had over the iPhone and iOS. Unfortunately, poor battery life and the increasing popularity of HTML5 finally put the final nails into mobile Flash’s coffin. Flash still lives on the desktop, but for mobile, it finally admitted to defeat.
Where to begin on this one? Guy named Trevor Eckhart discovers his smartphone is logging his every keystroke and discovers software called Carrier IQ on it. Phone makers and carriers scramble to cover their asses on whether they’re secretly spying on us. Investigation is still ongoing, but it looks like Carrier IQ, makers of diagnostic software, isn’t guilty. The carriers knowingly installed undetectable software on devices without customer knowledge. Was it a big invasion of privacy? You betcha. Will this entire thing blow over? We’ve mostly moved on, but it no doubt caused great concern for the tetchiest geek to even grandma. Are the carriers secretly Big Brother?
iPhone 5 Hype
For over a year, Apple rumors popped up like popcorn kernels in a microwave; they never ended. All “evidence” from leaked case designs, camera modules and supply checks led the entire industry to believe that Apple would release a redesigned iPhone 5 with a larger 4-inch display, beefier front and back cameras and a tapered “teardrop” chassis. The rumors were completely wrong. Instead, Apple launched the iPhone 4S, a faster phone with a beefier camera, but with the same iPhone 4 design. The iPhone 4S is the fastest selling iPhone ever, but it’s no iPhone 5. We hyped ourselves for an entire year, and we fell for it.
In terms of sales and user-created hacks (many of which we’ve featured), Kinect is a huge success, but in terms of supporting “core gaming,” it fell short. Kinect Sports, Kinectimals and Kinect Adventures were great introductory games for Kinect, but why is it a year later, we only have mostly kiddy and casual games? This year, we got Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, and more Kinectimals and sports. For “hardcore games” we only got some spotty head-tracking in Forza 4 and laggy voice commands in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. Where are the games made for the Xbox 360′s hardcore gamers? 2011 should have been different, but here I am still perfecting my tennis swing in yet another sports game.