Welcome back. If you haven’t seen part one, it might be a good idea to check out some of the most groundbreaking tech from 2005 to 2009 before you continue.
For those of you that have read the first part, let’s keep the party going. Just like last time, if there’s tech that doesn’t deserve to be included or – more likely – tech that I should have included; let me know in the comments below.
On to the list!
Tablets have been around for a while, but not in the sense of a consumer-friendly computing device. Most, like the Newton MessagePad 100 – Apple’s first foray into the tablet market in 1993 – were glorified single-purpose machines for taking notes, counting inventory, or accepting customer signatures. The first consumer tablet PCs (as we currently know them) started coming to market in 2002 and 2003, but consumers were ultimately disinterested in the niche computers until Apple released the first iPad in 2010.
Co-founder Steve Jobs had envisioned this device over twenty years prior to its release, but the technology still hadn’t caught up with his internal vision for what the end product would look like. Jobs was quoted saying the following in 1983:
“Apple’s strategy is really simple. What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes … and we really want to do it with a radio link in it so you don’t have to hook up to anything and you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers.”
Sounds an awful lot like the iPad, right?
While, on the surface this might not look to be all that disruptive in a technological sense, it actually set forth a chain of events in Silicon Valley that could shape the future of the tech landscape; for better or worse.
Instagram revolutionized mobile photography by not only becoming the second largest image host in the world (second to only Facebook), but by providing a suite of editing tools and filters which allowed normal camera phone photographers to produce and share remarkably good photos without any need for expensive equipment.
We’re not talking professional photographers here, but with the rise of social networking, mobile photography, and an always-connected mentality that thrives around near-instant sharing of information, Instagram found a sweet spot. By allowing users to not only take and share their photos with one another over a mobile network, but also helping to ensure they were worth looking at, Instagram hit a nerve, and cashed in big time.
The most disruptive aspect to Instagram doesn’t revolve around the technology. Instead, it’s the implications of its sale to Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion, which made it the first mobile app to hit the billion dollar milestone. This set forth a chain of events that saw other apps, such as WhatsApp ($19 billion), Waze ($1 billion), and Snapchat (turned down a $3 billion dollar offer), continue to reach stratospheric valuations. To put this into perspective, mass adoption of smartphones had happened less than a decade prior, and now we’re seeing apps routinely selling north of $1 billion dollars.
The impact of these valuations is far-reaching and inpacts all corners of Silicon Valley, and the tech world in general. Apps and mobile technology are selling for what many are calling “bubble-level” figures, which could have huge impact on the future of this market segment, for better or worse.
First LTE Network (Rogers)
Long-Term Evolution – or LTE – is a standard that delivers broadband internet speeds to mobile devices. The technology was first proposed by NTT DoCoMo of Japan in 2004, but Rogers launched the first 4G LTE network in 2011. The network launched on July 7, 2011 and allowed residents of Canada to utilize these speeds on a small number of mobile devices offered by HTC and Samsung.
Over time, additional partners jumped on board, such as Verizon, Sprint and Metro PCS and the technology started to spread to other countries, such as the United States, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Sweden and others.
First Android Tablet
While they were behind Apple in terms of time to market on a tablet device, Google struck a chord with the release of their first Android tablet (the Xoom) running Honeycomb (its tablet-specific OS) in 2011. The year prior saw the release of the Galaxy Tab, but the Android version was simply a ported version of the OS used for mobile phones. 2011 was the year that tablets started to use Android 3.0 – known as Honeycomb – as the first Android tablet-specific OS.
Although late to the party, Google proceeded to dominate the tablet market by making the OS available to any tablet manufacturer. This is in stark contrast to Apple’s approach, who keeps iOS under tight wraps and for use only on the iPad. The strategy paid off and Android is now the dominate OS (in terms of marketshare) on tablets as well as smartphones.
While not disruptive in the sense of entirely shifting a market like some other technologies mentioned, Windows 8 was a huge release for Microsoft, and arguably a release that kept them from fading into obscurity.
After falling behind competitors like Apple and Google due to their focus on desktop computing while ignoring the consumer shift to mobile devices, Microsoft went back to the drawing board with Windows 8. The newest release featured a tiled “Metro” interface that became a design trend on mobile and even desktop devices. In addition, the newest version of Windows featured touch support which allowed the OS to play well with tablets and touch-capable devices.
Short Form Video
The first of the short-form video competitors was Vine, a company started in 2012 and acquired by Twitter before ever launching to the public. Vine allowed users to upload short (6 second) videos to their mobile platform for easy sharing with friends across social media channels. The service was officially launched January 24, 2013 as a free download for iOS devices.
Instagram, now owned by Facebook, launched its own short-form video feature after as a competitor to Twitter’s. Instagram allowed users to record videos lasting up to 15 seconds, and share them on their own network, or other social media channels.
Both are immensely popular with the younger demographic. In fact, over 90 percent of Instagram’s 150 million users are under the age of 35.
Google Glass was the first real wearable technology that drew any sort of interest from a consumer market (read our review of the Google Glass). While it was released a year earlier to a test market of “Google Explorers”, the device was made public to consumers on May 15, 2004. The device featured a modified version of Android, and rather impressive tech specs including a gyrometer, accelerometer, proximity sensor and the ability to shoot high definition video.
Glass flopped hard with the consumer market, which may make it a surprise inclusion into this list. While Google could never reach the consumer market with its now-defunct product offering, the impact of Glass on the wearables market was immense, and this failed wearables experiment will continue to drive innovation into a burgeoning tech segment.
It’s far too early to tell, but I’m crossing my fingers that it isn’t Meerkat. I’m really not interested in watching you eat lunch.
What do you think is the most disruptive piece of consumer technology over the past decade? If it’s not on the list, tell me what I missed in the comments below!
Photo credit: Concrete Block Breaking Through via Shutterstock, iPad 3G and iPad Wi-Fi by Yutaka Tsutano, Rogers Samsung Galaxy SII by gazo7, Xoom vs iPad by Christopher Fields, Windows 8.1.2 by Vernon Chan, Vine VS Instagram by Matt Nazario-Miller, Google Glass by Karlis Dambrans all via Flickr