Last column, I started a look back at 2011 in tech news — particularly as it pertains to AV. We made it from January to June last time, so we’ll pick up here with July 2011. Without further ado, here is the second half of the AVDawn Year in Review — a timeline of some of the top tech stories that hit us in 2011.
July brought us a poignant moment — the final launch of Atlantis, officially ending the Space Shuttle era — but the biggest news for AV peeps was a double whammy of media news. For the audio folks, July brought Spotify to American shores at long last. This music streaming service was founded in Sweden in 2008 and has been Europe’s most-loved online music service, with over 10 million users, 2.5 million of whom were paid subscribers. Americans familiar with the Spotify service have long been Sad Pandas since the service was blocked in the U.S. July 2011 changed that and streaming music fans rejoiced. For video people, July was the start of one of the year’s biggest marketing blunders when Netflix announced it was separating its streaming service from its DVD rental service. First the news was leaked early, then major advertising missteps including radical price hikes and a short-lived proposed game rental service to be called Qwikster. From July’s first announcements to the September backpedal on the whole Qwikster thing, Netflix stock dropped more than 50 percent and subscribers keep fleeing the once-mighty service like rats from a sinking ship. And it all started in July, 2011.
Through the dog days of summer — August 2011 — most tech news was slow. True, Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple, but he remained chairman of the board and really, very little changed in the day-to-day of the company when COO Tim Cook stepped in as CEO again, just as he had during a previous illness. No, the biggest news of August 2011 as far as AV is concerned were three consecutive tragedies — a lighting rig collapse at a Flaming Lips concert in Tulsa, Oklahoma on August 7; the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair on August 14; and the stage collapse at the Pukkelpop Music Festival in Belgium on August 18. These three collapses killed a dozen people and injured over a hundred. More importantly, it highlighted the need for rental and staging companies, as well as all who work in rigging and stagecraft, to be aware of current safety regulations and laws at all levels (federal to municipal) and to utilize best practices in their work. I wrote about this back in the fall, but it bears repeating at the start of the new year — we can’t control the weather or the actions of others, but by exercising due diligence and adhering to all laws and best practices, we can mitigate the risk of damage to property and possibly loss of life. Harsh lessons learned in August 2011.
September brought to market one of the hottest tech prezzies of the holiday season — the Kindle Fire from Amazon. This 7” tablet merged the size and massive content libraries of the popular Kindle e-readers with an Android-based operating system and enhanced functionality of traditional tablets — all wrapped up with an inexpensive $199 price tag. I subsequently got my hot little hands on one of these beauties under the Christmas tree, courtesy of MrAVDawn. It’s not a tablet for power users, but so far I *LOVE* it. I see the Kindle Fire as the vanguard of a coming wave of Android-based competitors that will significantly cut into iPad’s dominance of the tablet market, and it all started in September of 2011.
October introduced a lot of exciting new tech to market, including the iPhone 4s, the world’s first consumer light field camera by Lytro, and the first look at the new Android 4.0 OS, better known as Ice Cream Sandwich. All of this was overshadowed when, on Oct. 5th, Steve Jobs succumbed to cancer at age 56. Whether you are an iPerson or not, no one can dispute the incredible impact Jobs had on the world of technology over a career spanning most of four decades. Jobs was at the forefront of the development and growth of personal computing and the development and growth of gizmos that have changed the tenor of our daily lives. He didn’t do it alone and he wasn’t always the nicest guy while doing it, but no one can doubt he changed our world.
A slew of tablets hit the market in November, including the Nook Tablet, which followed the Kindle Fire’s lead in breaking out of the e-reader world to the tablet world. The biggest news of November, however, was the first widespread and organized opposition to the proposed SOPA act. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a piece of bipartisan legislation introduced to Congress at the end of October that is ostensibly geared towards ending piracy (as the name suggests) and is heavily supported by many of the big content producers, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industries Association of America, most of the major unions and production companies in the recording, broadcast, cable and media industries, as well as a variety of other companies. However, in its pursuit of a noble goal — the end of online piracy and theft of intellectual property — SOPA’s provisions show a startling lack of understanding of how the Internet works. Its broad language and ignorance of the technology and protocols behind the online world present a real threat to free speech, privacy, e-commerce and Internet security. As it is currently written, it will hinder open-source development, criminalize innocent people and companies who have DNS or IP in common with pirates, and will NOT EVEN STOP THE PIRACY it is designed to prevent since it is nothing for a pirate to take down a blocked site and put it back up under a different name or server in just hours. November saw the launch of organized protest to this ridiculous bill — spearheaded by a coalition that includes Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Mozilla, Zynga and AOL — as well as the start of a mass grassroots protest on traditional online sites and the social media world. The SOPA opposition movement has a long fight ahead of it, but it all began in November of 2011.
And, at last, we reach December. This month saw a lot of continued progress on tech highlights from other months — SOPA protests, the voiding of the Galaxy sales injunction in Australia and so on. In my view, however, the biggest news of December is the holiday shopping results. A late holiday surge of shoppers assured that this year’s shopping season will top last year’s results. Despite the bad economy, retailers estimate holiday sales growth of more than 3.5 percent over last year, with consumer electronics, Apps and digital content downloads comprising a large percentage of those numbers. Of course, the holiday shopping boom wasn’t great for all in the consumer electronics industry. Big box retailer Best Buy got a major black-eye after several glitches with its online shopping portal and an unexpected surge in demand that resulted in the retail giant coming out on Dec. 23 with news that it would not be able to fulfill all online orders in time for Christmas.
So there you have it – AVDawn’s 2011 Year in Review. It’s been an eventful one for the techie and geeky among us. This review covered the big stories with national impact. But 2011 also saw growth and innovation in our own industry. It brought us the start of AVNation’s weekly podcast, AVWeek. It also saw the birth of WAVE — Women in AV — and our first WAVE webinar and WAVE tweet-up. We accomplished so much in 2011, I can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring! If we all work together, we can make it a fantastic year… erm, especially if the Mayans are right. Why not go out on top, right?
Dawn Meade, CTS — also known as AVDawn — is an industry veteran with experience in integration, AV sales, and social media. You can find AVDawn on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/avdawn and on her AV tech blog (http://www.avdawn.com).