Business tech 2010: The year in review

This year was always going to be interesting, as the tech and business worlds came to grips with the economic shocks of 2008 and 2009 and while we waited for the next moves from the big tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Microsoft’s release of Windows 7 late in 2009 and the release of the new Windows Phone operating system made us think 2010 would be the year of Windows, but if anything 2010 will be most remembered as the year of the iPad.

The iPad

At the end of 2010 it’s difficult to think that the iPad isn’t even 10 months old such has been the way Apple has redefined the tablet computer market. For a decade, the corporate market had been gagging for a decent tablet system but had been continually let down by poorly designed Windows based models. The iPad delivered what the market wanted and the second version, expected in March 2011, will probably cement Apple as the leader in this segment.

Cloud computing

The iPad’s success was partly due to the plethora of cloud based applications available for the device. Being able to store your data or run your software on a remote server that can be accessed from anywhere made portable devices like the iPad and smartphone killer business tools. While the underlying principles under cloud computing are nothing new in the IT world, cloud products really started to take off in the business and consumer world.


The fundamental flaws in the cloud and how the internet works were exposed by the visceral reaction to Wikileaks’ release of the US State Department Cables. Wikileaks release of the Climategate emails, then Collatoral murder and finally the State Department Cables forced us to look at security, the ease of setting up websites and how dependent we are on the arbitrary whims of the privately owned corporations who own great chunks of the internet.

Investment mania

As Helicopter Ben and his counterparts in Europe and China printed money to avoid deflation and to save big banks from failing, hot money started to slosh out of the bank vaults and into the venture capital market with a mini dotcom 2.0 boom beginning to appear. This was illustrated best by the group buying mania, best illustrated by Amazon’s $175 million investment in Living Social and Google’s rejected offer to buy Groupon for $6 billion.


An entertaining side issue was the Cook’s Source plagiarism scandal which showed how much content is being stolen on the net, the attitude of many who do copy and paste other people’s work and how the internet can quickly mobilise angry mobs.


Probably the biggest buzzword of 2010 was crowdsourcing, the technique of getting those internet mobs onto solving your business problems. While there’s still some confusion on the difference between outsourcing, crowdsourcing and running dodgy pitch competitions – which raise even more interesting questions about plagiarism, IP protection and business ethics – we’re seeing the hype die down and the real business models start to evolve.

The march of Facebook

With the passing of the 500 million user mark, Facebook showed it was a market force to be reckoned with. The launch of Facebook Places in August seeks to extend their network strengths into the local search business, making them an even greater threat to Google and smaller start-ups like Foursquare.

Politics meets technology

Something no one would have expected is how the National Broadband Network became the defining issue of the 2010 Federal Election. The fact it did probably speaks more for the policy vacuum on every other issue the two parties presented to the electorate. In many ways it’s a shame the discussion of how we should build such important infrastructure became bogged down in cheap partisan politics on both sides, and it illustrates the hollow “Restaurant At The End Of The Universe” mentality that is the feature of modern Australian politics.

As 2010 draws to a close, a reflection on the year would show it’s been the year of connectivity. Businesses, particularly those in the retail and media sectors are beginning to figure out what drives the online economy and how it can be profitable for them.

Next year will be the year we start to see more businesses experimenting with iPads, Groupon, Facebook and other devices or services that help them connect with their markets and communities. It’s going to be an exciting year and we’ll have a look at what’s in store for January’s first column.

Paul Wallbank is one of Australia’s leading experts on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn’t explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations find opportunities in the new economy.


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