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The Top 5 Technology Stories of 2011 and the Lessons Learned

January 12 2012

It was an unbelievable year for technology in 2011. There were many big stories in 2011, from the passing of Steve Jobs to the IPO of Groupon. Below, I have listed my top 5 technology stories that impacted the industry and the lessons we can learn from each.

5. Resurgence of Tech IPOs:

It was also a huge year for tech IPOs (Initial Public Offering). We saw LinkedIn, Zynga, Zillow, Groupon, and many others go public. The results, however, were mixed.

Companies like LinkedIn and Zillow who went public earlier in the year saw their stock take off and the investors of these companies performed quite well. Even moving into 2012 these stocks are still trading well above their IPO prices.

Other companies have experienced problems. For example, Groupon started strong gaining over 30% more on its first day of trading, since then it has fallen yet managed to remain above it's IPO price. Zynga has struggled since it went public in December to get back to its IPO price of $10 and Pandora, the online music station, has taken a huge hit this year.

What's crazy is that 2012 could be an even bigger year for tech IPOs if Facebook and Twitter decide to go public. There is no doubt that 2011 was a big year for tech IPO stocks.

What we can learn from this story is that the general public takes more care in buying technology public stock these days. Individuals want to see more value for their investment and make money where they are able to.

4. Google:

Google also made an impression in 2011. First, CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down and Co-Founder Larry Page took over. Then in the Spring, Google launched its own social network called Google+. It registered 40 million users the first week, but appeared to fizzle by late Summer. Then, in the fall Google+ launched Business Pages which created another wave of users.

While Google+ has struggled to make inroads against Facebook, Google can promise to keep surprising us because of how much they are doing right. I can see them eventually taking away market share from the social networking powerhouse.

Perhaps Google's biggest move was the purchase of Motorola Mobility. Mobility is the hardware unit of Motorola, which was split into two companies this year. With the hardware came a bunch of valuable patents and they now have a well-known phone maker under their flag to go with their Android operating system. This combination could be huge for Google in 2012.

What we can learn from this story is not to count Google out of anything when they set their minds to something, they usually get it right. I am looking forward to see what Google accomplishes in 2012.

3. Yahoo:

Yahoo has had a very interesting year. First, it fired CEO Carol Bartz over the phone in a much publicized manner then she fired back in the media with her version which turned the incident into an international soap opera! Founder Jerry Yang tried to gain control back of the company, but the Board of Directors told him that they didnt have any confidence in him as a CEO. The buyout rumors shortly followed and it looked as though Yahoo became a target for takeover. AOL, Microsoft and Alibaba, among others, all became potential suitors.

The major question was, "Is Yahoo a media company or a technology company?" This identity crisis has further hurt them because there are supporters on both sides of the discussion.

As of today, the Yahoo question is far from settled. They've just hired a new CEO and they need to determine if they are a technology company or a media company and focus in the right direction. This could make it a huge story in 2012 as well.

What we can learn from this story is that even the large technology companies have problems. Yahoo is a profitable company, which is great, and with improved leadership and guidance every organization can be more innovative. We can learn from Yahoo that leadership and guidance is questioned then other concerns may follow, we wish the best for Yahoo in 2012.

2. Research in Motion:

RIM's stock plummeted in 2011 – down a whopping 75% for the year. A few unfortunate events may have made an impact on RIM's stock:

  • Playbook tablet was released, an answer to the Apple iPad with much fanfare. The Playbook didn't seem to reach the expectations RIM would have hoped for.
  • A three day network outage in the summer enraged users.
  • RIM pushed back the Blackberry 10 operating system to the fourth quarter of 2012 and released no great phones in 2011.
  • Two RIM executives were released from the company after being escorted from a flight beause of their actions while intoxicated on the plane. This caused quite a media stir and an embarrassing debacle for the company.

What we can learn from with RIM is that we can never be satisfied with past success. You could only be as great as your next product. You must maintain innovation and hunger to remain on top. Blackberry seems to be in a pause during this competitive challenge, I hope they don't learn this lesson the hard way.

1. Steve Jobs:

The number one story of 2011 is the passing of Steve Jobs. Has there ever been one person in technology that accomplished so much? As a Co-Founder of Apple in the 1970s, he launched the personal computer revolution. The Macintosh in 1984 was another revolutionary product. When he was fired in the 1980s from Apple, he started one company, NeXt Computers, and bought a little-known company called Pixar.

The early 1990s was a successful time for Jobs, but it didn't take him back to the superstar status he enjoyed in the 1980s. Then Apple came calling – again. He agreed to come on board as a temporary CEO and sold NeXt Computers to them for a huge profit. That little picture company, Pixar, that he bought from filmaker George Lucas changed the way that animated films were made. Disney loved it so much they bought it for him and made Jobs the single largest individual shareholder of Disney stock. But Jobs' first love was the company that he started in the garage of his Silicon Valley home, Apple. He was happy to be back to try and revive the company. He enjoyed his second run at Apple so much that he stayed – and changed the world again!

He launched the iPod, which changed the way we listen to music. Then he launched iTunes, which changed the way that we bought music (and settled the dispute between recording artists and how to make money from downloads). He also launched the Macbook series, including the ultra-thin Macbook Air. After all this he wasn't done.

His best work was the iPhone. This device brought telecommunications, music, and the internet together into one device. It was the device that truly changed the world. Once it was released in 2007, it changed the mobile phone market forever. It was his foresight that enabled other companies to follow his lead with other great phones. But he still wasn't done.

In 2010, Apple launched the iPad. Tablets were nothing new, but they never really took off in the mass market. Jobs saw a way to design and market them differently, and it changed the world. Other companies followed his lead and designed their own tablets. Schools began to buy them and use them for education. What's crazy is that Jobs saw this coming years before. The original patent design filing was in 2004 for the iPad. And yet Jobs still wasn't finished.

Rumors are swirling about Apple TV, especially after Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he "cracked the code" regarding smart technology and television. It is believed that Apple TV will revolutionize how we watch television and yes, change the world yet again. It is expected to be released in 2013.

Steve Jobs was a true visionary. He saw things that only very few people could see. He was cut from the same mold as pioneers such as Walt Disney and Henry Ford. He made the world a better place by creating products that made our quality of life easier and better. He will be missed. That is why he is the number one technology story of 2011.

What we can learn from Steve Jobs is that everyone hits obstacles and that rejection can lead to success. Steve Jobs was fired by Apple. For most people, that would be as good as it gets. Even if Jobs never did anything else in his life, he would always be remembered as the Co-Founder of Apple and inventor of the Macintosh. He learned a lot from rejection and saved his best work for his second go-round at Apple. We all can be knocked down, but its just a matter of what we do once we get back up.

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