Life and death of technology


Everything has a life cycle.

Bacteria, insects, humans, civilizations, galaxies – all are born, live and eventually pass into eternity. So it goes with technologies. Some, like wheels and levers, simply evolve in an awe-inspiring cycle of several millennia. Others, like jet packs, never seem to find the popularity we expect. And many, like 8-track cassettes, glow (or less) for an instant and disappear into the dark.

I like to write a column on this topic every year to remind us how fleeting spotlights can be. Obsolescence is built into all of our technologies, just as limited existence is the essential nature of people.

For example, classic Blackberry devices will finally die this year. Remember the “Crackberry?” – a device so addicting and ubiquitous that President Obama refused to part with his Blackberry despite the security risk. Blackberry had 80 million users in 2012. Not really.

If you still have a Blackberry phone and it is not using Android software, the company will stop supporting your product today. CNN reports that “BlackBerry (BB) has mainly been outside the phone business since 2016, but over the years it has continued to license its mark to phone makers.” An Android 5G Blackberry device from OnwardMotion is listed as ‘arriving in 2021’, so we’ll see if it ever arrives. The original is deceased.

When Google / Alphabet promoted their “Moonshot” factory, one of the most publicized efforts was called Loon. Project Loon involved floating giant balloons above the earth to transmit the internet to areas where connectivity was most difficult to achieve. Loon was launched in 2012, launched its first public tests in 2013 and in 2020 began its commercial deployment in Africa through Telkom Kenya. Alphabet closed Loon’s doors last year, unable to find a sustainable and profitable business model. Alphabet also shut down its business called Makani, which supplied wind power from giant kites. It’s a bad year for business models that rely on floating objects in the air.

In 2012, Indian executives launched Hike as an Indian response to Facebook’s WhatsApp, and Hike was valued at $ 1.4 billion in 2016 with nearly 70 million users. Unfortunately, where Chinese technologists are successfully exploiting WeChat as a local alternative to WhatsApp, Hike has vanished from circulation without a formal explanation. WhatsApp has now solidified its near monopoly in India.

Apple killed its original Homepod this year, unable to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Nest, although you can still buy a Homepod mini. LG stopped manufacturing cell phones this year. Microsoft killed Windows 10X and Minecraft Earth. Microsoft also killed Skype for business last year. I remember a Microsoft partner saying that when Microsoft wants to enter a new market, it picks an ally, gets rid of all the other blips on its radar screen until it’s just the ally left, then also kill this blip. Skype can be a good example of this strategy as it has been set aside to make room for Microsoft Teams, which will soon dominate the (if not already dominant) corporate remote video calling world.

Overall, this is not a meaningful list considering the upheavals around the world over the past two years. Aside from Blackberry, which continues to limp as a brand despite the death of its original proprietary operating system, no breakthrough technology has slipped from that deadly reel in 2021. So where do we go from here? ‘here ?

The metaverse was introduced into our lives last year. Will we see the first commercial previews in 2022? Mark Zuckerberg telegraphed his planned business direction when Facebook bought Oculus Rift, a producer of immersive three-dimensional world-building technology. Zuckerberg was clearly hoping to lead his herd into a more addicting, all-encompassing space as soon as possible. But now, with Facebook’s flagship products serving an aging and shrinking population, regulators / Congress are poised to crack down on any attempts to buy off sexy social media rivals that attract younger audiences, and with a track record. dismal of the company in developing its own social media successor. products, opening the Metaverse is becoming an emergency for Facebook. I think we will see portals to this new world in the coming year.

The Washington Post suggests that Apple and Google could offer their own metaverse access portals this year. It will be interesting if these companies try to isolate their own technology in separate sandboxes, or if they make an interoperability game that will allow small businesses to create content that can be played on all devices. The Post speculates that a workplace metaverse may soon emerge: “For the rest of us, our first steps into the metaverse will likely be for our work. The pandemic is pushing businesses towards virtual reality for onboarding, training and meetings. As mainstream tech catches up, the metaverse will seep out of the workplace and into our daily lives, but don’t get too excited. There is probably a long way to go between here and there.

Apple AirTags have been around for some time, but their applications are multiplying. Some of these applications are problematic. For example, car theft and stalking have been made much easier with a tiny, efficient tracking device. The New York Times reports, “In recent months, people have posted on TikTok, Reddit and Twitter to find AirTags on their cars and in their personal effects. There are growing concerns that the devices may foster a new form of stalking, which privacy groups said could occur when Apple introduced the devices in April. The tags are put in handbags and bags, stuck on cars and placed in pockets of third-party clothing. Apple tried to resolve these issues by notifying iPhone owners of an unknown tracking device nearby. So, for better or for worse, 2022 could be the year of the Tile and AirTags.

Better drones, household robots, and a new generation of virtual reality glasses could all impact our tech lives in the coming year. Robot technology keeps improving, but until they develop a light touch with opposable thumbs, I don’t expect home use to explode. It might also be the year of the Smart Mirror which can uplift your beauty and fashion game while you check the results. The Capstone smart mirror will also look up directions as you get dressed for your date, let you know how late you are, and get you in shape with your favorite music.

Apparently, every year is the year of crypto and blockchain if you listen to the masters of the hype – and those with a financial interest in bringing more money to the tech. They started running very expensive sports ads to attract more gullible investors to this largely unregulated market. NFTs may become more than just speculative investments (like almost all crypto trends), but I won’t be holding my breath to make this happen.

Copyright © 2022 Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 4


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