Start to finish, 2018 was a memorable year in tech. From record-breaking highs to rock-bottom lows, through scandal and controversy, the biggest brands in the industry made an immeasurable impact on its future. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Tesla each contributed in both positive and negative ways.
We’ll touch on all the most relevant news from the past year, providing a comprehensive picture of the current state of tech.
Apple is synonymous with innovation, responsible for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad to name only several of the brand’s enormously influential products. Their impact on the world of technology is impossible to overstate, and Steve Jobs’ ingenuity and creativity laid the foundation on which other important companies have grown.
After Jobs’ passing, his brand sustained its success, and in 2018 it broke records by elapsing $1 trillion in market value. Despite this impressive achievement, the innovation expected of Apple was conspicuously absent, and the year saw few contributions from a company known for its commitment to the cutting edge.
Apple’s entry into the smart speaker space — the HomePod — was comparatively weak beside the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and their new tablets and software updates were mediocre as well. Among these smaller issues, the AirPower charger announced in 2017 still hasn’t shipped, and the reason is vague.
Though some may believe the brand is beginning to slip, 2018 was more of a transitional year for Apple. Updates like iOS12, macOS Mojave and watchOS 5 are laying the groundwork for more significant upgrades in the future, and customers should expect more ambitious software and hardware in 2019.
When having any discussion involving the internet, it’s difficult not to mention Google, at least in passing. They have such a close association with search engines that Merriam-Webster has acknowledged “Google” as a verb, and a majority of internet users trust the company with their web browsing.
Since 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of Google, many of its loyalists were expecting something impressive. They were hopeful, as it was also the 10th anniversary of Android and the 10th anniversary of chrome. It was reasonable to assume a project was in the works that would make waves.
Fans of the company were surprised when the New York Times released information regarding payouts to executives guilty of sexual misconduct, and a 20,000-employee protest didn’t help. Though the Pixel and Google Home Hub were quality products, it was little consolation given everything that came to light.
Google is starting to shift its trajectory, killing Google+ and refining the way it presents news among other smaller improvements. Despite eroding trust from both the general public and employees, it’s fair to remain optimistic in 2019 as the company amends its faults and adjusts to represent its core values better.
Mark Zuckerberg is a household name, and his accomplishments made him a highly respected figure in the tech community. He transformed the social media landscape with Facebook, changing the way internet users interact with each other, and his contributions paved the way for many other popular platforms.
While his initial success was notable, Mark Zuckerberg’s carelessness would serve to undermine his company. In early 2018, the Cambridge Analytica data scandal made an immense impact on the brand’s reputation when a political consulting firm illicitly acquired the personal information of tens of millions of users.
As Zuckerberg and Facebook made a slow recovery from the scandal, the announcement of their smart speaker product, Portal, showed an almost comical lack of awareness of their brand’s public perception. With its wide-angle camera and an always-active microphone, Portal was an ill-timed release dead on arrival.
That said, Facebook has made a committed effort to curb hate speech on its platforms, and its enhanced dashboards deserve recognition. Though things look grim for the social media giant, its employees are capable, even if its leadership isn’t. Ultimately, shifting preferences among users will determine the brand’s future.
The incredible ambition of Elon Musk has elevated his brand to incredible heights. His SpaceX program promises to take humans to Mars in the next several decades, and his other projects have shown profound dedication to pushing the envelope beyond what most entrepreneurs are even willing to consider.
Still, some investors are hesitant to support Musk in his endeavors. His negligence during an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast — in which he casually smoked cannabis — compromised his credibility in the eyes of those who saw him as a consummate businessman. The year as a whole was stressful for Musk.
Tesla took a $2 billion loss in 2017, beginning 2018 on a sour note. Musk was unable to fulfill production demands on his Model 3, and the death of a Tesla owner served as another setback to an already strict schedule. It took substantial restructuring, but Musk managed his mid-year goal just a few hours after the deadline.
At the closing of 2018, Tesla turned its first profit in two years, and the biggest quarterly profit in its history. For now, Elon Musk has pulled his company out of its downward spiral, but 2019 will bring its own set of challenges. Whether the enhanced Model 3 will prove profitable enough is subject to speculation.
What’s Next in Tech
2018 was a punishing year for Apple, Google, Facebook, and Tesla. Each company wrestled with its own problems and complications, and though some products stood out, most were relatively lackluster. There was little in the way of innovation or exploration, and more controversy than creativity.
Looking ahead, 2019 is full of opportunity. How the biggest names in tech capitalize on that opportunity is something to look forward to.