Opinion

John C. Abell

Five 2011 tech earthquakes

Dec 30, 2011 13:38 UTC

By John C Abell
The opinions expressed are his own.

Pick a year: It’s easy to look back and convince yourself That Was The Year That Was in tech, partly because the pace of change is so rapid and partly because we so readily embrace and then quickly depend on things that are completely different. Consider this: When the class of 2012 was applying to college, there was no iPhone. Until those students were just about at the end of their  junior years, there was no iPad. Both of these nascent devices now define the mobile Internet, which is where all the action is.

But 2011 had some pretty remarkable advances that seem to be the start of inexorable things to come, as well as some surprising and sad examples of demise, whose impact will surely be felt for years to come, in ways that are currently near-impossible to predict.

Some may argue that 2011 was the year of the tablet (redux), because of the spritely launch of Amazon’s Fire and Barnes & Noble’s reboot of the Nook color. I say, it was bound to happen, and that the only really interesting thing is that content companies are giving Apple a bit of competition, and not the hardware bigwigs.

The cloud was big in 2011, but in a way it just seemed to finally achieve escape velocity after Apple created iCloud within its rigorously controlled ecosystem.

Here are five tech events from 2011 that may not seem entirely obvious but which I think will resonate for years.

White House’s #40dollars campaign is a hit

Dec 22, 2011 17:10 UTC

This is politics in 2011: Newt Gingrich is campaigning for Iowa caucus votes in bookstores that aren’t even in the first-to-vote state, Mitt Romney is burnishing his national lead over everyone but Gingrich with a self-deprecating “Top 10 List” on Late Night with David Letterman — and the White House is burning up Twitter in a showdown with House Republicans.

Read elsewhere for the ins and outs of the brinkmanship on the legislation whose primary purpose is to extend a so-called “payroll tax holiday” past Dec. 31.  Inaction will result in the end of a sweet tax break for workers that’s not quite as sweet for the federal coffers. Depending on which side of the debate you are on, you can find plenty of spin to try to seize the high ground. The Obama administration has been fond of saying that the end of the holiday will cost 160 million U.S. taxpayers an average of $1,000 in 2012 — by pure coincidence, a presidential election year.

But the president’s communications team has become even fonder of crafting its message for the social media generation by breaking up that $1,000 into a more bite-sized $40 pieces, per bi-weekly paycheck. Through that massaging of the message, they have created a Twitter trending topic called #40dollars. It’s not surprising that Obama’s team has been particularly adroit at the whole internet thing. Their man was a candidate who famously sought a meeting with Mark Andreessen — the two had never met — to talk about how social media might be leveraged in the 2008 election he won against considerable odds.

SOPA: So much to hate, so little time to stop it

Dec 15, 2011 17:42 UTC

(Updated 12/16/11 4 pm ET)

It may seem that Congress is getting exactly nothing done these days, with the game of chicken over the payroll tax and the possibility for what seems like the 537th time this year that the U.S. government may run out of money.

So you may be excused for not noticing that a full serious assault on the Internet is being considered by the House, and that it might actually see the light of day through the flotsam and jetsom of bigger business.

SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act — is the latest ill-considered attempt by some in Congress to solve a legitimate problem by creating an even bigger, totally unnecessary problem.

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