2020 was a leap year of technology

It’s that happy time of year to predict for next year and beyond, an exercise that seems more pointless than usual when it comes to technology.

Forecasts inevitably turn out to be inaccurate, and looking back at those made 12 months ago, we couldn’t be broader. No one predicted a pandemic that would spur us at warp speed toward a functioning culture and the broad digital transformation of our lives.

Then the fact that we already know the future is added to these extremely unreliable forecasts. Kind. Back in April, CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft had seen two years of digital transformation in two months. So, in technological continuity, we were in 2022 until last spring and we have certainly already reached 2025.

But if the future is already here, as William Gibson said, it is still not very evenly distributed. I can personally take you back a few years back with a time machine, if I tell you that our house in central London struggled with 3 megabits per second of broadband network like last month. It is now catapulted nowadays finally connected to fibers at a speed of almost gigabits.

There is certainty about what connecting can do now and in the future. Everything changes and the faster it happens, the faster it happens. So I confidently predict fiber-laying, raising 5G masts and constellations of satellites to be launched into orbit next year will bring the biggest changes, digitally franchise millions around the world and improve the digital world of those lucky enough to already have a fast broadband network.

More on that below in a review of #techFT on big topics in 2020 and a trial run in 2021. We’ll be back on January 4 with what’s really going on in technology. Stay safe until then.

Internet of Things (2020)

Prepared for a pandemic
Zoom is one of our best choices in the Word category for 2020 as the video conferencing company has joined Google by becoming a verb. Its market capitalization also increased in value when it became a big winner when it was hit by a wave from home. The value of founder Eric Yuan rose from $ 4 billion to $ 18 billion. The most popular phrase of the year ?: “You are speechless!”.

Big Tech is getting bigger
Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook added more than $ 12 billion to their combined market limits by November, as investors saw Big Tech better than anyone else knock the crisis out of the crown. The material risk of going into 2021 is a major target on their backs as politicians and regulators want to curb their powers on both sides of the Atlantic. China is also in the case of its giants – Alibaba was under antitrust investigation today. Silicon Valley may also lose some of its influence, as Oracle, HPE, and even Elon Musk have moved to Texas.

Streaming success. . . and failure
With everyone stuck on a sofa in self-isolation in 2020, Netflix expects 200 million subscribers to go globally by the end of this year, and its closest rival Disney expects its Plus service to triple to about 250 million users by 2024. If they have was the biggest winner in streaming wars this year, Quibi was the biggest loser – the mobile video service “fast snacks” said in October that it was shutting down after just six months and blamed people for the lack of mobility in the pandemic. Chinese chains were other big losers, and studios like Warner Bros. and Disney decided to broadcast key releases. The Christmas battle between Warner The Wonderful Woman 1984 and Disney Soul when released on Friday they will be fighting on HBO Max and Disney Plus, not at a local picture house.

Disney Plus has grown rapidly since its launch

Networks failed to lock against hackers
Hackers had more time in their hands in 2020 and exploited consumers by spending more time online without mercy, with scams and ransomware. State-sponsored hacking has also escalated, culminating this month in the supply chain of the Covid chain and Russia blamed for hacking SolarWinds that has infiltrated U.S. government networks.

An electrifying year for cars
Last Friday, Tesla became the largest stock ever to enter the S&P 500 index, reaching a year when it reached a stock market value of $ 600 billion, worth eight of the largest inherited manufacturers. Could Apple become its biggest rival, and plans for the electric “iCar” announced this week until 2024? Nikola, a group of electric trucks, found itself the target of a salesman who doubted its innovations. Uber dropped its plans to develop a self-driving car this month, but Zoox, which Amazon bought in June for $ 1.2 billion, has just unveiled its robotic taxi that has no steering wheel and can drive day and night with a single charge.

Technical IPOs triumph in trouble
Despite a year of uncertainty, 65 technology companies went public in 2020, creating an uncomfortable comparison to the dotcom boom. Cloud company Snowflake and food delivery service DoorDash did well, but Airbnb was the main star, while the holiday service rented out its supplies more than double the first day of trading this month.

Bar chart of the first day of trading (%) showing the dazzling debuts of 2020 defeated only by dotcom era IPOs

TikTok takes over Huawei
Telecommunications networks and semiconductors are more serious areas of concern as the U.S. balances over trade and national security concerns in its dealings with China, but Huawei and SMIC have been overshadowed by the dance video app TikTok, and the White House wanted to sell or shut it down. This September story about banning the use of American app stores was our most read technology in 2020.

Three large FT technical blades
Wirecard has been a corporate scam for decades. The company’s management lied about its business and about 1.9 billion euros of missing money. Its collapse leaves embarrassing questions for regulators, auditors and others who were supposed to protect investors ’money. We also unveiled SoftBank as a “Nasdaq whale” whose trading boosted a set of large technology stocks. Our reporters spoke to top investors confused by the unconventional strategy of founder Masayoshi Son. Tim Bradshaw and Patrick McGee have revealed Apple’s exclusive that is lurking in sight: its efforts to develop an alternative to Google search.

Year of AI vaccines and discoveries
Science has reshaped all technological advances in 2020, creating, producing and distributing safe vaccines in record time, but technology is intertwined with progress. British AI company DeepMind has announced that it could predict the structure of the protein, a breakthrough that could dramatically accelerate the discovery of new drugs. GPT-3, a new model of language generation, also caused a sensation in the world of AI with its resemblance to human intelligence.

Internet of Things (2021)

There comes a singularity of connection
Thanks to the British government, OneWeb this month continued to launch satellites that are part of its plan to launch 650 into orbit and create a global broadband network by 2022. SpaceX is with its satellite in the “Better than Nothing Beta” in the US service, whose global coverage promised in 2021. Fiber optic and 5G coverage is expanding rapidly, and AST SpaceMobile, working with Vodafone, promises connectivity from space for 1.6 billion people in equatorial regions in 2023. This could revolutionize business, education and trade in emerging markets. Oh, and Nokia is installing a 4G network on the moon.

Video conferencing as a platform
Advances in our remote video services will surpass more sound and whistles and emojis in 2021. Zoom already sees itself as a platform and reports that it wants to add calendar and email services. Microsoft has just added the “Together Way” option to Skype, breaking the view of the network so that everyone can feel they are in the same room, cafe or other place.

Streaming will be the battlefield for games
Although video services have been in focus this year, winners and losers in gaming streaming wars may start coming out in 2021. Facebook Gaming promises a more sophisticated platform to compete with Google’s Stadium and Microsoft’s xCloud. In addition, Apple plans to upgrade the Apple TV in 2021 with a stronger focus on gaming, an updated remote control and a new processor, reports Bloomberg.

The last physical retail booth
Stores and malls may need to speed up their retrieval once we are all able to roam freely again. Once the real-world mini-boom for shopping disappears, analysts expect a faster resumption of the transition to the Internet. UBS has increased its estimate of the Internet share of U.S. retail from 20.5 percent by 2024 to 31 percent, up from just 14 percent in 2019.

An agreement yet to be made
Nvidia’s $ 40 billion purchase of Arma shook the semiconductor industry this year as the neutrality of its key chip design supplier was compromised. But that may not happen. US approval is likely to follow, but the United Kingdom, the EU and China could face insurmountable objections and Nvidia’s rivals will find it difficult to lobby for them.

IPOs coming
There will be fewer major technology IPOs in 2021, but those that will debut are not without interest. Leading the way will be Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, and next in line will be the Roblox gaming platform, Lima scooter service and Robinhood trading app. The Stripe payment service is a joker in the package.

Best of 2020 Technical Tools

Gamers got the best devices of 2020, with not one but two next generations of consoles released in the form of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X and Oculus that made great progress in VR headsets with Quest 2. Significant smartphone releases were the iPhone 12, Microsoft’s expensive dual-screen Surface Duo and Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 flip screen. Apple launched new standards for battery life and performance with its MacBooks on the M1 and produced some amazing in-ear headphones in AirPods Max. Finally, Samsung bravely tried to invent a TV for the age of Sero-powered smartphones.