We streamed, we zoomed, we ordered groceries and houseplants online, we created virtual villages while navigating the shortages of laptops for working and learning at home. .
When it comes to technology, 2020 has been a year like no other – and as the world has been forced to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, some tech companies have won big while others have lost.
As the world adjusted to a new reality stuck at home, the pandemic could have been an opportunity for virtual reality to offer an escape. Through the use of helmets and special accessories like gloves, the technology allows people to interact with a 360-degree view of a three-dimensional environment, which seems to work well for people trapped inside. .
But people turned to easier-to-use software and games that they already had. Not many people have rushed to spend hundreds of dollars on a clunky new headset or tried to learn the ropes of virtual reality meeting software. And no VR game has broken into the mainstream. Virtual reality, on the verge of success for decades, has therefore missed its moment, once again.
Social media election labels
It was the year of the labels on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok. Ahead of the US presidential vote on November 3, companies vowed to crack down on election misinformation, including baseless accusations of fraud and candidates’ premature declarations of victory. And the most visible part of that was the multitude of tags applied to tweets, posts, photos, and videos.
“Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and could be misleading about an election or other civic process,” reads a typical label applied to a tweet from President Donald Trump.
But many experts have said that while the labels gave the impression that companies were taking action, “in the end, it turned out to be pretty ineffective,” as Jennifer Grygiel, a professor at Syracuse University and social media specialist.
Less than a year ago, Quibi launched a popping Super Bowl commercial that asked the question “What is a Quibi?” People can still scratch their heads.
Quibi, short for “quick bites”, raised $ 1.75 billion from investors, including major Hollywood players Disney, NBCUniversal and Viacom.
But the service has struggled to reach viewers as short videos abound on the internet and the coronavirus pandemic has kept many people at home. It announced it was shutting down in October, just months after it launched in April.
Uber and Lyft
Fresh out of their initial public offerings the year before and still struggling to show they can be profitable, ridesharing services were crushed by the pandemic in 2020, as people stopped taking cars and shifted their focus. are huddled in their homes.
In May, Uber laid off 3,700 people, or about 14% of its workforce. Lyft also announced job cuts.
But there are some signs of hope. After drastically cutting costs through a restructuring in the second quarter, Lyft said last month that it plans to have its profitable first quarter at the end of 2021.
And the companies won a major victory in California, where voters passed Proposition 22, giving another one an exception to a law that sought to classify their drivers as employees, an expense which analysts say reportedly devastated their business in the country’s most populous state. .
TikTok ban in the United States
While India has banned the popular video-sharing app, in the United States, TikTok appears poised to dismiss Donald Trump’s tenure without the president succeeding in his efforts to ban it.
Earlier this month, a federal judge blocked a possible ban. It was the administration’s latest legal defeat in its effort to wrest the app from its Chinese owners. In October, another federal judge postponed a shutdown scheduled for November.
Meanwhile, the government deadline for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to strike a deal that would require Oracle and Walmart to invest in TikTok, has also passed, as the status of the deal is unclear.
While President-elect Joe Biden has said TikTok is a concern, it’s unclear what his administration will continue with the Trump administration’s ban attempts.
Even in a year of heralding booming new consoles from Xbox and PlayStation, the Nintendo Switch was the console that could. Launched in 2017, the Switch has grown into a quick seller. This was helped by the launch of the Managed Switch Lite in September 2019.
In March, it became difficult to find a Switch as people searched for ways to entertain themselves in their homes. The release of the island simulation game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, which debuted on March 20 and has now sold a total of 26 million units worldwide, has increased its popularity, according to Nintendo .
According to the NPD Group, in the first 11 months of 2020, Nintendo Switch sold 6.92 million units in the United States. It is the best-selling console in units sold for 24 consecutive months – a record.
All video conferencing software – from Microsoft Teams to WebEx – has thrived during tens of millions of people abruptly transitioning to remote work and schooling during a pandemic. But only one has become a verb.
Zoom Video Communications was a relatively unannounced company before the pandemic, but its ease of use has allowed wide adoption during the pandemic.
There were growth concerns, including lax security that led to “zoom bombing” violations early on. The company has revamped its security and remains one of the popular platforms for hosting remote meetings and courses.
The ransomware scourge – in which criminals hold data hostage by scrambling it until victims pay – has reached epic dimensions in 2020, dovetailing terribly with the scourge of COVID-19. In Germany, a patient diverted from the emergency room of a hospital whose computer system was paralyzed by an attack died on the way to another hospital.
In the United States, the number of attacks on healthcare facilities was on track to almost double from 50 in 2019. Attacks on state and local governments have increased by about 50 percent to more than 150. Even high schools have been hit – shutting down distance learning for students from Baltimore to Las Vegas.
Cybersecurity firm Emsisoft estimates the cost of U.S. ransomware attacks in the United States alone this year at over $ 9 billion between ransoms paid and downtime / recovery.
After starting the year with exasperating delays in their supply chains, the personal computing industry has had to scramble to keep up with the growing demand for machines that have become indispensable during a pandemic that has held back millions of workers and students at home.
The outbreak initially stalled production because computer makers were unable to get the parts they needed from factories overseas that closed at the start of the health crisis.
These closings contributed to a sharp drop in sales in the first three months of the year. But there have been boom periods since.
The July to September period was particularly robust, with US computer shipments increasing 11% from the same period in 2019 – the industry’s biggest quarterly sales increase in a decade, according to the research firm Gartner.
The largest of the group, Amazon, is one of the few companies to have thrived during the coronavirus outbreak. People turned to him to order groceries, supplies and other items online, helping the company to generate record revenues and profits between April and June. This happened even though he had to spend $ 4 billion on cleaning supplies and pay workers overtime and bonuses.
But it’s not just Amazon. The pandemic is accelerating the shift to online shopping, a trend experts expect to say even after vaccines get the world back to normal life.
And thanks in part to shoppers who consciously support small businesses, Adobe Analytics says online sales for small U.S. retailers increased 349% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Of the more than one million businesses that use Shopify to build their websites, sales are up 75% from a year ago to $ 2.4 billion on Black Friday, according to Shopify.
Jury is out
Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google have done well financially, with each company’s share price and earnings increasing significantly since the start of the year. They gained users, rolled out new products and features, and continued to hire even as other businesses and industries faced big cuts.
But all is not well in the world of Big Tech. Regulators are breathing the necks of every business and it is unlikely to calm down in 2021. Google is facing an anti-trust lawsuit from the Department of Justice. And Facebook has been hit by a member of the Federal Trade Commission as well as nearly every state in the United States looking to separate from WhatsApp and Instagram.
Other cases could follow. Congressional investigators spent months digging deeper into shares of Apple and Amazon in addition to Facebook and Google and called on the CEOs of the four companies to testify.