It is nearly the end of 2014 already, which gives us the perfect excuse to look back at the biggest stories of the year. Jade Burke reports on the tech execs that got a soaking, big mergers and more…
This month marked the end of trading for distributor KMS components. The firm was a supplier of several tech brands, including AMD, Asus, Microsoft, MSI, Samsung, Toshiba and more. The casualty led to a loss of 34 jobs and debts with suppliers. Deloitte directors, Richard Michael Hawes and Matthew David Smith, were appointed to handle the situation.
After kids started to make in-app purchases (IAPs) spending their parents’ money on virtual iOS game goods, Apple has agreed to fork out $32.5 million (£19.9m) in compensation to 37,000 of its customers. Children were able to purchase a variety of apps without their parents’ consent, leaving many with a hefty bill.
Meanwhile CES, the consumer technology trade show, took place. Valve’s Steam Machine gaming PCs made an entrance, while Sony announced plans to launch a cloud-based gaming service, which will allow users to stream a variety of PlayStation games on their TVs.
Steve Ballmer announced his retirement in August 2013, so we were all waiting with baited breath to see who his successor at Microsoft would be. This month Satya Nadella revealed that he would be the company’s new CEO. He was also previously the executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group. Ballmer first took on his role as CEO at Microsoft in January 2000, taking over the position from Bill Gates. Gates also took on a new position as technology advisor within Microsoft, so the co-founder still remained a part of the company.
Ebuyer also expressed its interest in opening physical stores along the High Street, this month. The etailer told PCR it was open to a move on the High Street, after firmly establishing itself as one of the biggest PC and tech etailers on the market.
After gracing computers since its release in 2001, the technology sector frantically tried to prepare for the impending Windows XP switch-off this month. The operating system was 12 years old and the firm decided it was time to stop providing free security updates for XP. Microsoft dropped support for the OS on April 8th, however, businesses were told that they would be able to migrate easily after support for the OS ended. The firm also warned that those who remain on the old OS could face greater security risks due to its outdated software. Microsoft also struck a deal with the UK Government to provide security patches for XP until April 8th 2015 for public sector workers.
In other news, Intel acquired wearable tech brand Basis Science for an undisclosed amount. Industry analysts suggested that the deal was worth a whopping $100 million (£60m).
Vodafone revealed plans to invest £100 million into the High Street by opening up 150 new UK stores. Customers were able to check out the new stores at Notting Hill, Fulham, Walthamstow, Wembley, Ilford, Perry Barr and Bicester first.
The CEO of Mozilla also stepped down this month, following controversy that he made a donation to an anti-gay bill. Brendan Eich reportedly made a donation to the Californian gay marriage ban Proposition 8 back in 2008, which caused uproar within the tech industry.
In other news, Sony debuted the Xperia Z2, a smartphone that packs a huge 20.7-megapixel camera with support for 4K video recording. As well as this, the device can be submerged in freshwater for up to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Microsoft finalised its acquisition of Nokia this month, taking on Nokia’s devices and services division. The acquisition cost Microsoft £4.6 billion.
Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse confirmed plans to merge in a deal worth £3.8 million this month. The newly formed group, which was dubbed Dixons Carphone, will focus on connected devices and services.
Audio devices continued to remain a popular product choice among customers and now they have another vendor to select their latest products from as audio specialist Wavemaster landed in the UK. Distributor M2M signed a deal with the firm to get products such as the Mobi-2 available within the UK for purchase.
In other news, Apple acquired headphones firm Beats Electronics for $3 billion (£1.8bn). The new deal marked Apple’s largest acquisition to date, which also saw the company absorb Beats’ music streaming service. Rapper and producer Dr Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine, who co-founded Beats, also joined Apple as part of the huge deal.
Maplin, the electronics retailer, was sold this month to Rutland Partners in a deal worth £85 million. Montagu, who has owned Maplin since 2004, hired PwC to lead the sale after the company was approached from interested parties. Rutland Partners’ managing partner Nick Morrill told PCR that, following the acquisition, he was aiming to grow Maplin’s online offering. When asked about the competition Dixons Carphone might bring, Morrill said: “The product specification, the target market and the price point agenda is completely different.”
Amazon also revealed its Fire smartphone. The new device features two new technologies developed by Amazon – Dynamic Perspective and Firefly. Plus, other features flaunted include a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, which can capture video in1080p, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 4.7-inch HD display.
Following the acquisition of Nokia, Microsoft announced plans to axe up to 18,000 jobs globally. The shake-up was part of a restructuring plan, which aimed to simplify the organisation. An email was sent out from Satya Nadella himself to employees, who were informed that the fate of their jobs might be at risk. This cut was one of the biggest in the firm’s history, with the 18,000 representing around one sixth of Microsoft’s 127,000 global workforce. In other news, Acer reshuffled its team, making several senior staff changes.
Luca Rossi was appointed president for Acer Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). In addition, George Huang, one of the co-founders of Acer and board members was appointed as the new Acer chairman.
Further to this, Samsung expanded its smartphone portfolio with the addition of the Galaxy S5 Mini, the compact version of Samsung’s flagship smartphone.
This month marked a craze within the tech world and across Facebook, as tech professionals poured buckets of ice-cold water over their heads. Satya Nadella, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates all took to social media to post videos of themselves getting a soaking, which was part of a campaign to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
After acquiring Beats Electronics earlier this year, Apple revealed that it was going to lay off almost 29 per cent of the current 700 Beats staff members.
In other news, Sony decided to abandon the worldwide e-reader market for the foreseeable future. Sony’s PRS-T3 will be its last, marking the end of the company’s trade in the e-reader sector.
Meanwhile, Dixons Carphone launched its very first stores. Seven stores-within-a-store were unveiled this month, with the company announcing further plans to open another 30 by the end of the year.
This month marked a sad day for some within the tech industry, as Phones 4U announced its leave from the market. The company said it was ‘forced’ into administration after Vodafone withdrew from its stores and EE turned its back on the retailer after the company decided not to renew its contracts with Phones 4U.
The anticipated arrival of Windows 9 was expected this month, however, Microsoft skipped this stage and unveiled Windows 10, complete with a returning Start menu. The firm said it would launch in mid to late 2015.
In other news, Apple also unveiled its new line of products, including a much larger smartphone and smartwatch. The iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch were revealed at a press event in Cupertino, plus, the firm also debuted Apple Pay – a contactless form of payment using NFC (near field communication) technology. Apple also unveiled the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and a new iMac.
Competition heated up between graphics card manufacturers Nvidia and AMD this month, after Nvidia unveiled its new Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and 980 graphics cards. Gaming system builders also experienced major stock shortages of the product. However, after claims were made which suggested that Nvidia will own Christmas, AMD ran price promotions with its Radeon R9 290X, starting at $369.
Following the success of PCR’s Top 50 Women in Tech feature, PCR hosted its very first Woman of the Year event. Around 100 execs from the likes of BullGuard, CompTIA, Intel, Novatech and Tesco arrived on the day, however, Sarah Shields from Dell received the debut award at Home House, London. Over 1,000 votes were made for the 50 women up for the award.
HP also split itself into two separate companies this month. The company separated its personal computer and printer business from its corporate hardware and other services.