It can be hard to keep up with tech news. There’s always a new startup launching, someone suing someone else for something ridiculous and some new phone with a screen the size of a coffee table for you to lust after. With that in mind, here’s a look at ten stories that made a real impact this month, by way of recap.
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BlackBerry 10: Launched at last, by BlackBerry, not RIM
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The wait for a totally new BlackBerry operating system hasn’t been as long as the need for a totally new BlackBerry operating system, but those faithful to the Church of RIM have had to hang on to devices that fell further and further behind the pack. That is until yesterday, when with much fanfare, CEO Thorsten Heins took to stage, promptly renamed the company to what it probably should have been called for years, and then began to roll out the goods.
Although there was little too surprising about the OS itself (almost everything had been leaked in advance), the two devices – the touchscreen Z10 and hardware keyboard-equipped Q10 – were fresh enough to earn a few lustful glances. We’ll bring you our thoughts about exactly how good the devices are soon. In the meantime, you may or may not be able to preorder one, depending on where you’re based.
Kim Dotcom’s mega Mega launch
Say what you like about the service itself (and Kim had been saying a lot about it via Twitter in the months leading up to launch), but the launch of cloud storage and file sharing service Mega was a bombastic tour de force at the Dotcom Mansion in New Zealand, complete with a fake police raid to set the scene on the anniversary of the Megaupload shutdown.
Despite launching on a Sunday, Dotcom said that it reached 100,000 users in one hour before being temporarily taken down completely by the demand. Within a day Mega claimed one million users. How viable Mega remains in the long run remains to be seen, but it’s impossible to dispute that Kim Dotcom gives good launch.
Twitter couldn’t buy Instagram, so it went ahead and bought an ‘Instagram for video’ instead. The result is Vine, an iOS app that lets users create six-second animated-GIF-style looping videos. It’s a compelling experience, even if it’s one that risks falling into the short-term novelty hole.
For now though, we’re having great fun following our friends’ looping adventures. Everyone we’ve seen has kept it clean, but a filthy minority of porn-mongers brought extra attention to the service.
The problems with porn on Vine (especially when it briefly appeared as an Editor’s Pick within the app) were enough for Apple dump it from a prime place in the App Store, but as a social mobile app launch, Vine seems (anecdotally at least) to be stickier than Facebook’s Poke, launched last month.
Every sane tech writer’s nightmare, CES kicked off the year as it usually does by plunging the consumer electronics industry into the middle of the desert to compete with each other for the attention of gadget blogs, each of whom have sent an army of bloggers the size of a small country’s population.
Facebook Graph Search
‘Semantic social search’ is a phrase that sounded sexy a few years ago but no-one ever really made it stick. Facebook might well have achieved it with the launch of Graph Search this month.
Yawnsome rumors resurfaced that a ‘Facebook Phone’ was imminent as the big reveal event approached. Instead Mark Zuckerberg stood up to introduce the best reason ever to go back and remove all your ‘ironic’ jokey Likes, lest you show up in a search for ‘People near me who like Justin Beiber’ or ‘Friends who like getting drunk with teenage donkey sanctuary owners’.
If you believed all the stories this month, Apple was interested in buying social navigation app Waze, then it wasn’t, then it had been in the past, then it never was. Or something. Has anyone got a version of Waze that helps navigate tech industry acquisition rumors?
Mr Schmidt goes to Pyongyang
Eric Schmidt’s personal trip to North Korea raised eyebrows more than once amongst the Washington DC elite, but hey, when a man’s got to go to a secretive, oppressive regime to tell them how good the Internet, he’s got to go.
Upon his return, he noted on Google+ that connectivity in North Korea isn’t sufficient to help the country stay in communication with the rest of the world. In fact, its strict policies on who can access the Internet had caused it to lag behind everyone else.
Schmidt’s mission was an honourable one that makes us think he should run for President of the Internetz, but telling authoritarian regimes to open up does kind of fly in the face of the whole idea behind authoritarian regimes.
Google and the FTC shake hands on the antitrust probe
Is Google the big bad beast of search? According to its settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission, not really but it could do better. The settlement announced at the start of the month means that companies whose review data appears in Google’s specialized search sections like local, travel and shopping, will be able to remove it, and there will be more customer control over use of Ad Words data.
Additionally, the FTC ordered Google to stop excluding competitors from licensing Motorola’s standards essential patents.
Why was Google blocking Windows Phone users from accessing Google Maps in IE?
Panic broke out this month amongst Windows Phone users when it emerged that they couldn’t get to Google Maps in Internet Explorer, instead being redirected to the Google homepage. Google initially claimed that it had never actually worked and that was for technical reasons related to IE, while sources close to Microsoft indicated to us that the situation was far more Google’s fault.
Within 24 hours, the whole mess was seemingly resolved when Google explained that it had pulled Maps access due to poor performance within IE on Windows Phone. “Recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect.” Phew. Still, given Google’s limited support for Microsoft’s mobile OS when it comes to native apps, you can’t blame users for feeling a little unsettled.
Facebook Messenger: The real ‘Facebook phone’
Facebook really doesn’t need its own phone, especially not after this month when it brought VoIP to its Messenger app on iOS in the United States. It’s early days for the rollout, but eventually Facebook will have a voice calling network with 1.06 billion users around the world. Powerful stuff.
Bonus: This month in feelgood: No, Google did not run over a donkey in Botswana
Image Credits: Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; frontiersofinteraction/Flickr Creative Commons by Stefano Borghi; WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images; Yuri Long/Flickr; Christopher Bulle / Flickr; AFP/Getty Images