2014 Technology Review


12/31/2014 10:00 AM

Review Opinion

What's hot and what's not

2014 Misses

As another year draws to a close we take a look at some of the biggest technology innovations seen throughout 2014. First we'll see a couple of innovations that were expected but never made it to light this year, then we'll look at some of the bigger innovations seen this year.

Some of the most notable stories include the huge delay of Intel's 14nm Broadwell chips. The first chips, called "Core M," were targeted toward mobile devices. Thinner and more efficient than prior models, enabling 2-in-1 hybrid tablets as thin as 9mm. Intel has made mobile computing a high priority despite missing out on the smartphone market and arriving late to the popular tablet sector. Intel's new chips have suffered delays since the start of the year but has been able to ship limited quantities in time for the Christmas shopping season. Now that some of Intel's woes are behind them we expect to see a big push in the mobile markets during 2015.

The graphics card battle between AMD and Nvidia has raged on for what seems like eons, often likened for a game of one-upmanship. However this year AMD have been surprisingly quiet and never released a new line of graphics cards. We can only speculate as to why, some rumors suggest AMD might be looking at a push in the mobile markets to counter the foray by their traditional rival Nvidia. Although these two giants might have the desktop markets sewn up, if the rumors are true then AMD is going to find the saturated mobile market very different waters indeed.

2014 Hits

The fifth generation of Wi-Fi - 802.11ac, became the current generation of Wi-Fi in early 2014 when the standard became official. Utilising several advances in wireless technology and a mixture of beamforming, plus being able to pack more data into each stream. 802.11ac is capable of delivering significantly more than double the speeds of the previous generations 802.11n routers. Wireless technology has now become so fast that standard Gigabit Ethernet connections can't keep up, the new Wi-Fi technology has prompted an industry scramble to look for the next wired connection standard.

This year we saw a fully functional prototype for a hoverboard from Hendo, it's been attempted several times since the ideas inception way back in the 80's film Back to The Future but now you can finally live out your Marty McFly dreams. Ok so it won't be available in time for this years holidays but the successful Kickstarter campaign expects to ship devices in 2015. For now we have a sweet demo of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk taking it for a ride.

Another idea spawned by a film hit the shelves this year in the form of Samsung's Galaxy VR headset. After several failed attempts in previous years now affordable virtual reality has materialized. The software inside the Gear VR is actually powered by Oculus, who have been developing their own virtual reality headset - Oculus Rift. Samsung has leapfrogged the Rift by enabling the latest Galaxy Note 4 device to be used as the display. The consumer version of the Oculus Rift is still months away so if you want to experience compelling virtual reality over the holidays right now the Gear VR (plus a Galaxy Note 4)is your only option.

Solid State Drives (SSD) saw massive performance gains this year by stacking flash cells rather than laying them side by side, V-NAND techniques were also added greatly improving the longevity of the drives. If this still aren't enough to whet your appetite M.2 PCIe SSDs started hitting the shelves earlier this year, delivering read and write speeds upwards of 700MB/s and 500MB/s respectively. It will take a while for these advancements to filter through to mobile devices but an SSD would make a great gift this holiday if you have a friend or family member who loves to tweak more speed from their computer.

USB Type-C isn't readily available yet but we will definitely see compatible products in early 2015. Importantly USB Type-C is reversible, this means no more fumbling around to plug your USB cable in the right way. Type-C USB will also deliver USB 3.1's impressive 10Gbps speeds, up to 100 watts of power and also be able to deliver DisplayPort audio/video signals. USB Type-C has a similar form factor to the current Micro USB's so that places them in a perfect position to be used with both large and smaller hardware. It's a safe bet that we'll see USB Type-C go on to replace a myriad of conventional ports during 2015 and become the ubiquitous connection standard of the near future.

It wasn't long ago that display manufacturers were touting 4K as the next big thing, well the next-next big thing is here with 5K displays. Both Dell and Apple have already released the first 5K displays in the recent months. The 5120x2880 resolution screens pack the equivalent of 14.7 megapixels, which is almost twice as many as a 4K display and over seven times the resolution of a typical 1080p monitor. The asking prices are currently in the range of $2500 but you do get an iMac attached to the display in Apples case. Expect prices to remain extremely high for some time, although if you're looking to upgrade soon it may not be a bad time to consider a 4K display now that you can pick one up for less than $500.

2014 News

2014 will be marked as a defining year for Microsoft. In February Satya Nadella, a 22 year veteran server and enterprise guy at Microsoft replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO. Nadella quickly focused on cloud and mobile computing and transformed Microsoft's strategy in an attempt to rival its competitors. The first big release came in March when Office for iPad finally debuted, and throughout the year Microsoft has been much more proactive than previously. Windows and Windows Phone were made free of charge for devices with screens smaller than 9 inches, this is a sure sign that Micosoft was attempting to directly tackle Android. 2014 also saw Microsoft evolve from a software giant into a hardware giant. A $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's mobile business means Microsoft now controls over 90 percent of all Windows Phone devices. Additionally Microsoft finally appears to be embracing rival platforms, services and open source, starting with a Dropbox and Office partnership.

Security has had a rough time in 2014 with several high visibility companies suffering from vulnerabilities. In the beginning of the year a bug known as Backoff was used to steal data from register-side card readers, hitting Target, Home Depot and PF Chang's along with half dozen other major retailers. By the time it was under control the damage done was into the hundreds of millions. Researchers found three major holes in the basic protocols that keep the web secure, first Heartbleed, then Shellshock, then Poodle. Then recently in November we saw one of the nastiest corporate leaks in history with the hacking of Sony Pictures. Hopefully this will be a wake up call to many and prompt a serious discussion about improved security techniques for 2015.

Apple made it's biggest start up purchase ever earlier this year with the acquisition of Beats Electronics, the company founded by producer Dr. Dre. Apple put down $3 billion to land the deal, compared to never before spending more than $1 billion on acquiring another company. After the acquisition Apple quickly announced Beats Music, a streaming service to counter rivals. The deal signified Apple had finally realized iTunes was no longer enough and the age of the iPod was over. Streaming is here to stay, the popularity of Netflix, HULU, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon Streaming among many many more have shaped the streaming landscape during 2014 and we expect a continued upward trend during 2015 as the corporate fight against piracy intensifies.

51Degrees hope you've enjoyed the technologies of 2014 and are looking forward to 2015 where we will see what trends will shape the coming year at the Consumer Entertainment Show in early January. Then in March we'll be treated to Mobile World Congress (MWC) where we'll get to see the latest developments in the mobile industry. 51Degrees will be in attendance at MWC 2015 so if you're interested in the world's best optimisation tool for websites then contact us for a meeting or visit our stand and we'll be happy to discuss your needs.