2014 technology news roundup

2014 technology news

With the end of 2014 upon us, we take a look at news that made the headlines and captured the tech community’s attention this year.

System updates

In October 2014 Apple users could update to the 11th major release of OS X called OS X Yosemite. The user interface was revamped with a flatter visual appearance, blurred translucency effects and new icons. It has greater integration with other Apple services and platforms like iOS and iCloud. Spotlight became more prominent, with better wi-fi stability and improved notifications.

Another Apple update came in the form of iOS 8, released in September 2014. Some of the new features included better photo-editing options, ability to send video and audio messages, predictive typing (called QuickType), family sharing of purchased apps and photo streams, a multitasking screen and addition of the Health- and HomeKit applications.

Android Lollipop was also released this year – version 5.0 of this operating system. Those who updated to this new version saw a better notifications system in a card format and a do-not-disturb feature for apps, a battery-saver option, grid-based layout and responsive animations.

Acquisitions

Facebook has been very busy spending money on various acquisitions this year. In 2014 the company acquired WhatsApp (mobile instant messaging), Oculus VR (virtual reality technology), Little Eye Labs (performance analysis and tracking for Android), WaveGroup Sound (sound studio) and ProtoGeo Oy (fitness tracking), to name but a few.

Apple wasn’t far behind Facebook: their most notable acquisition this year was Beats Electronics, which was bought for a total of $3 million. Microsoft’s most well-known acquisition this year was computer software company Mojang, the brains behind the popular Minecraft game. Microsoft has also completed its assimilation of the Nokia Devices and Services department into their company, and the Microsoft logo replaced Nokia on the Lumia 535 for the first time.

New releases

Apple caused a worldwide frenzy with release of their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones. Not only are these two larger than their predecessors, with 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch screens respectively, but they sparked some controversy online – Bendgate. Some purchasers of the new iPhones reported that the phones had bent while being carried around in their pockets. However, according to some this was blown out of proportion, with the amount of users with valid complaints being very small. The new iPhones improve on the iPhone 5S, with a better camera and increased battery life.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 was unveiled in February 2014 at the Mobile World Congress. There were mixed reviews, with many saying that there was not much difference between the S5 and the S4. The company was also criticized for not improving on build quality by using a higher-quality plastic or even metal. Its interface is cleaner but sported too many updates that were deemed unnecessary. The updated camera seemed to get the most praise.

The Apple iPad Air 2 was announced in October 2014 – apparently the thinnest tablet ever, at 6.1 mm. (In comparison, the iPad Air is 7.5 mm thick.) The iPad Air 2 has a 9.7 inch display, which is the same as its predecessor. It was released alongside the iPad Mini 3. Some reviewers have called the iPad Air 2 the best tablet ever made.

Heartbleed and Shellshock bugs

Heartbleed bug

This news item is one of the less positive ones of the year. The Heartbleed bug caused panic on the World Wide Web in April 2014, as it pointed to vulnerability in OpenSSL. About 17% (half a million) of the Internet’s secure web servers certified by trusted authorities were deemed vulnerable to attack. The bug allowed theft of servers’ private keys, session cookies and passwords. Major websites like Tumblr, SoundCloud, Reddit, Yahoo! and Pinterest were hit – but were easily fixed with a simple password change on the part of users.

In September 2014 another bug, nicknamed Shellshock, was discovered. This affected Linux/Unix systems. Within hours of it being found it was used by hackers to carry out denial-of-service attacks and vulnerability scans. Millions of attacks and probes were carried out, and it was deemed worse in nature than the Heartbleed bug.

Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird

Remember this addictive mobile game? It was released in 2013 but gained most of its popularity at the beginning of 2014. The game was created in just a few days by developer Dong Nguyen, but soon its popularity became too much for him. Dong didn’t want to be responsible for creating something so addictive, and announced on Twitter that it was going to be taken off the market in February 2014. It has since spawned many copycats, and a newer version was released on Amazon’s Appstore for the Amazon Fire TV platform.

Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri, Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant. Cortana was first demonstrated in April 2014 at the Microsoft BUILD Conference. The name comes from an artificial intelligence character found in the Halo video game series.

This digital assistant is part of Microsoft’s plan to revamp future operating systems for Windows Phone, Windows and Xbox One. It is currently only available to users of the Windows Phone 8.1 in the United States, United Kingdom and China. Users from India, Canada and Australia can opt-in to use the Beta version. Cortana is likely to be made available globally early in 2015.

Cortana’s voice adapts according to the region it is in, and it takes on the local culture (sports teams, TV series, businesses, stock exchange, etc.) and language idiosyncrasies of wherever it is being used. It also correctly predicted the winners of the first 14 matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup knockout stages, beating even the famous psychic octopus, Paul.

Net neutrality

Net neutrality has become a buzzword that many of us know but few of us understand. In essence there is the danger of ISPs becoming severely regulated and restricted by big corporations and governments in order to get more money. This in turn will damage the neutrality that the Internet has always had. It’s a complicated subject, so read more in-depth on it in this Maxxor article from earlier in the year.

Games galore

250px-Grand_Theft_Auto_V

Every year you can expect a plethora of new video games to hit the market. This year some of the most anticipated and highly acclaimed included:

• Grand Theft Auto V
• inFAMOUS Second Son
• Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Assassin’s Creed: Unity & Assassin’s Creed: Rogue
• Battlefield 4
• The Lego Movie Game
• Call of Duty: Ghosts & Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
• Titanfall
• The Last of Us
• Alien: Isolation
• Halo 5: Guardians
• Destiny
• Little Big Planet 3
• Watch Dogs

What to expect in 2015

From January 6 to January 9 of 2015, tech junkies can look forward to the massive CES (International Consumer Electronics Show). This conference is always big news and usually sets the pace for what is going to happen later in the year.

The IDC (International Data Corporation) has already published their tech prediction report. Phablets will grow faster than tablets and smartphones combined, and wearables will not reach the heights that have previously been anticipated. Microsoft, Google, Amazon and IBM are identified as the companies who will lead in 2015.

4K televisions will become much more affordable to the average person and thus we will see a rise in their usage. Bendable phones and televisions are the future. Products that people are looking forward to include Steam Machine (a line of pre-built gaming computers by Steam), the LG Flex 2 and the Sony Xperia Z4. China will dominate the global marketplace, taking up 40% of the worldwide smartphone sales in 2015.