The most important Apple stories of the year don't exist in a vacuum and neither do we. What happens in technology in general matters to Apple and matters to us. Through that lens, 2014 was both terrific and terrible. We saw new technologies enable us to interact and move in ways never before possible, and we saw those same technologies abused and degraded in ways we would have hoped impossible. In retrospect, 2014 felt like another transition year, but we've crossed the horizon: We can start to see the designs of the future, and more importantly, the future we want to see.
Inclusivity and diversity
Having more diversity in tech means having tech that appeals to a more diverse range of people. Being inclusive in tech means making tech inclusive to more people. We haven't done a great job of it in the past, and progress is slow, but in 2014 it finally started getting the attention it deserved. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and many other companies released their diversity reports, and yes, they were disheartening. But now that they're public, we can measure them against each and every year that follows — and hopefully see good upticks in all areas.
It wasn't about "ethics in game journalism." Game, tech, automotive, entertainment, political journalism — there are conversations to be had about all of those areas. But GamerGate wasn't that conversation. Instead, it collected a mob of disenfranchised people who self-identified as gamers, made them believe that female reporters and developers were threatening that identity, then set them loose. It was the worst of the internet, and the worst of us all.
Computer systems can be hacked. Insecure systems can be breached and secure systems can be socially engineered. In 2014, we were reminded of that like never before: hundreds of very private images of celebrities were stolen from iCloud and plastered all over 4Chan and Reddit; credit card information was taken from retailers including Target and Home Depot; and again when Sony movies, emails, and personal data were ripped from the company's servers and dumped onto Pastebin. It was the year that cyber attacks became real for many of us — that we saw the damage they could do to our privacy, our finances, and our culture.
Though it came at an incredible cost on the heels of the previous year's NSA and surveillance revelations, 2014's hacks pushed privacy and security to the forefront of the public debate. Though the acts committed were crimes, we began to realize we needed to take responsibility for our own safety as well: We demanded stronger privacy laws — ones that couldn't easily be broken in the name of national security — and harder systems. For their part, Apple and Google both announced encryption strong enough to thwart even law enforcement. Governmental agencies may not be thrilled that companies are taking such measures, but the will of the people is clear: We don't want our basic civil liberties compromised.
For years, the popular narrative from the press was that Apple had better interface and interactivity and Android had better functionality. Now Google has moved into material design: a language that spans the company's full range of screens and frameworks to help ensure rock-solid frameworks. Whether it stops cell phone manufacturers from asphalting over Google's good works remains to be seen, but it's so good to see that demand may finally force the issue.
Satya Nadella boarded the Microsoft CEO job while it was in flight and in turbulence. Prior to his tenure a massive reorganization had been announced and a massive purchase in the form of Nokia's Lumia smartphone line. During his tenure to date, Office hit the iPad, Windows 10 was announced, .NET was open-sourced, and Minecraft was acquired. He did get into trouble over his comments on the male/female pay gap, but has since worked to make that right. Now that his rookie year is over, however, we're interested to see where Nadella takes Microsoft in 2015.
The idea of net neutrality is simple: All data must be treated equally. No letting big companies pay for preferential treatment over small businesses. No fast lanes on the information super-highway. This year, the debate reached new heights across the world, with the President of the United States calling for a free and open Internet even as the Chancellor of Germany advocated the need for priority passage to ensure quality of service. The Net Neutrality battle will rage on into 2015, and it's a battle we need to fight — lest the information super-highway become an information toll road.
John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, lounges in magenta and drops f-bombs like he's got his own HBO special. Yet beneath his bombastic facade is a strategy to disrupt the U.S. telecommunications industry by aligning his company with the needs of their customers. And yes, in telco, that thinking is disruptive. His tightrope walk on net neutrality shows just how far that really goes, but his Uncarrier initiatives have inarguably put a previously trailing company in a leadership position.
We live in an age where we can "call an Uber" to take us anywhere the service is available. Where drones may soon be delivering our packages. Where, if you live in the right zip code, Amazon can get you toothpaste in an hour. Where Google's self-driving cars are become less a joke and more a thing. And where the next generation would rather share rides than own them. The way we and our things get around has changed significantly in 2014, and that rolling ball is showing no signs of stopping in the future.
It's tempting to call the current phase of super-personal computing "wearables" because watches and bands are becoming so prevalent. Yet the trend we saw in 2014 went beyond strapping another computer to our wrists: We have incredibly powerful, easily upgradeable and updatable computers in our pockets and in the cloud already, and we've spent a lot time setting them up and filling them with what matters to us. Now we want to access all of that information and content wherever is most convenient to us. That could be on our wrist, but it could also be on our TV or in our car.