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Technology 2012: The year’s winners and losers

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2012 has been an amazing year in technology.

We’ve seen the clash of titans in mobile as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have released new phones, tablets, and mobile operating systems. We’ve seen a single network connect over a billion people worldwide. We’ve seen the once-great mobile company of the far European north forced to hawk its headquarters to raise cash. And we’ve seen social media move from cutting-edge to mainstream as the Obama campaign celebrated four more years.

In every year, we see winners and losers: companies, devices, or operating systems. Here’s our look at some of the biggest successes and failures of 2012.

The winners

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Android

What more can you say about Android? With 75 percent market share in the third quarter of 2012, the free mobile operating system from Google looks poised to take over the world.

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Samsung 

Not many companies sell 55 million smartphones in a quarter. Samsung did, and it will probably do it again.

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Galaxy S III

Samsung is hot in large part due to its top smartphone, the Galaxy S III. With over 18 million units shipped in the third quarter, and 30 million shipped in five months, it’s easy to see why.

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iPhone 5

Sure, it was Time’s gadget of the year. But more importantly, iPhone 5 catapulted Apple back into the smartphone leadership position, at least in the U.S.

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iPad Mini

We called it immediately: light, portable, awesome, and expensive. And it even looked better up close and person in our review.

But we had no clue it would become one of Apple’s best-selling iPads. And now that it’s probably going Retina in April/May, it’s just getting better.

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YouTube

YouTube continues to be the online leader, by far, in online video with 800 million visitors and billion-view channels created by individuals and brands.

Despite getting the boot from iOS6, YouTube just continues to grow, with 25 times the video streams of its nearest competitor.

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Twitter

2012 is the year that Twitter went mainstream, reaching 500 million users mid-summer and just recently announcing 200 million monthly active users.

And despite major new API restrictions that soured its relationship with developers, a very public spat with Instagram, and an evolving shift from social utility to media company, the company continues to grow and solidify its space in fast-breaking news.

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Instagram

With a sale initially priced at almost $1.3 billion and an exploding user count, not even a tone-deaf terms-of-service change that spurred a class action lawsuit and a possible exodus of some users can keep Instagram off our winner list.

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Google

Android is hot — 75 percent market-share hot. Search is still a massive strength for the iconic company that runs an ad 30 billion times each and every day.

And so Google makes over $100 million a day – and hits our list of hot companies in 2012.

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ARM

With the vast majority of the chips in smartphones running ARM processors, ARM has people wondering whether the mobile juggernaut will challenge Intel for CPU dominance.

That’s still a stretch, but not nearly what it was just a few years ago.

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Reddit

With 3.8 billion page views and 46 million unique visitors in October — double the previous year’s numbers — Reddit is continuing its torrid growth.

And it doesn’t hurt when the POTUS himself chooses your site to do an informal meet-the-people session — which required 60 dedicated servers.

Next page: The losers

The losers

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RIM, BlackBerry

It’s been a disastrous year for a company that was once a smartphone king. The forecast was cloudy at the beginning of the year, and it took losing less than investors expected to end the year on a high note, of sorts.

But revenue is down almost 50 percent, and my bet is that the story will be similar in one more year.

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HP

HP had almost as bad a year as RIM. Competing for the worst board in America is not a great way to start. Nor is bleeding employees or taking massive $8.8 billion accounting charge over a failed acquisition.

But perhaps even worse is your CEO telling investors that a company turn-around will take another five years, which basically means: Go away if you want any return on your money.

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Sony (PS3, PS Vita)

Gaming revenues are falling, good news is lower losses than expected, stock is down 80 percent in the last five years. …

And while PS3 sales were decent over the Black Friday weekend, the console is in third place for the living room battle.

Sony is losing the TV and phone and gaming battles to Korean companies, Microsoft — and Apple.

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Google Nexus Q

It could stream games — sort of — and not much else, leading us to call it a “big ball of boring.”

A rare fail for Google.

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3DTV

The latest 3DTV story on VentureBeat is from January 2012, and that about sums it up.

Cool, sure, but an almost complete lack of live content recorded in 3D make 3DTVs still more of a gimmick than a must-have technical toy.

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NFC (on this continent, anyways)

This story could be so much different if the iPhone 5 had included a near-field communications chip. But it didn’t, and while Google Wallet and some smart funky socks do, and even while 100 million NFC chips have shipped so far, the technology has hardly impacted the U.S. yet.

Perhaps that will change in 2013 with combo radios from Broadcomm that bundle Bluetooth, NFC, and cellular communications.

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Groupon

How good does that $5 billion acquisition offer from Google look now? And how happy are Google execs that the deal did not actually move forward?

Impossibly good, and very happy.

The one-year IPO anniversary was more funeral than party, and increased earnings are still not coming with actual, factual, bankable profit.

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Intel

CEO Paul Otellini is retiring next year with his biggest legacy: a massive miss on the mobile market.

And while Intel still makes boatloads of money, the desktop industry is not growing, and its mobile efforts have so far not led to any significant success.

Things are so bad that some analysts speculated that Intel would start building ARM chips – the ultimate humiliation.

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Zynga

Weak earnings, executive turnover, copyright infringement claims, and allegations of insider trading.

Add to it all a minidivorce from Facebook and it has not been a year for Marc Pincus to write home about as the once-mighty social games king has floundered in 2012.

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Nokia

This one is just too easy: Nokia slipped to 4 percent market share in smartphones in the third quarter, and just this month agreed to sell its edifice complex headquarters in Espoo for $222 million.

Sadly, Windows 8 is no savior, at least with the way Microsoft has been playing this “partner.”

Next page: Win some, lose some

Win some, lose some

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Apple

Massive earnings. Huge sales. Incredible stock capitalization. Amazing products. And shrinking market share in the all-important mobile markets.

2013 will be a pivotal year for Apple: Will it continue to grow, or start to slide toward ’90s level market-share numbers?

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Yahoo

Things may be going in the right direction with new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

But in spite of some new hires, new perks, and new attitude, it’s too early to tell if the Marissa factor is going to lead the purple ones back to the web’s promised land.

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Facebook

The IPO was horrible for investors but great for Facebook’s coffers.

User numbers are way up as the company hit the big B in 2012, and while mobile continues to be a concern, Zuck and crew seem to be addressing it.

 

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Amazon

Amazon continues to prove that it has the answers for online retailing and cloud services and even streaming media services to a very popular Android-ish tablet.

But it still needs to prove that it can do so profitably.

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Microsoft

Still a massive leader in desktop operating systems and office productivity software, Microsoft started the year in nowheresville in mobile: phones and tablets.

The company is no longer at square one, but it’s entirely unclear if Microsoft is ever going to be a leader again in a new industry segment.

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