AS 2015 draws to a close, we've taken a look back over the year's highlights and lowlights. We've rounded up what we were most excited about this year in the technology world, and also what we were most fed up about.
There were countless events and new products and launches over the past 12 months, so we've each narrowed it down to just one high and one low. Feel free to let us know yours below.
Editor Madeline Bennett
For me, the highlight of 2015 has to be the sharpened focus on women in technology. This has been a perennial issue affecting the IT industry since I became a technology journalist 15 years ago, with the proportion of females working in technology firms and as technologists hovering around the 20 percent mark. But I can see a small glimmer of light at the end of this long and winding tunnel. The Ellen Pao Silicon Valley case at the start of the year helped to propel gender in technology into the spotlight; major players like Intel and Facebook are now releasing diversity reports highlighting their (as yet small) gains in redressing the balance away from a white, male workforce; Salesforce dedicated an entire day of its Dreamforce event in September to women; and governments and schools are working with the IT sector to try to attract girls and young women into the technology roles.
I can't see a dramatic shift occurring over the next five years in the 20/80 female/male makeup of the tech sector, as there are still hundreds of thousands of companies out there that don't acknowledge this as an issue or see value in a more balanced workforce. But the big-name vendors that are being open about their efforts should keep the numbers moving in the right direction, so we can at least aim for a quarter rather than a fifth by 2020.
On a less positive note, it's frustrating that some large companies are still unclear of the need to do some form of software compatibility testing for major platform updates. I'm talking about you, Microsoft and Apple.
Apple launched its latest OS X software in late September and it quickly became apparent that it caused all kinds of problems for the thousands of Mac users who rely on Microsoft Office. The Outlook client in Office for Mac 2011 and 2016 constantly crashed when syncing with the Exchange server, while Office 2011 users were unable to take advantage of the Split View multi-tasking feature on their Mac.
Apple said it was a Microsoft problem; and Microsoft said it was working with Apple on a fix. But one update and several weeks later, people were still reporting problems.
As one disgruntled user remarked: "[Apple] should have put a big red banner on their upgrade site that states 'Will make Outlook and other Windows programs unusable.'"
It's unreasonable, of course, to expect Apple, Microsoft, Google and other operating system vendors to test every possible app for compatibility with their latest versions. But surely they should have a check-list of core and most-used third-party apps that it would be worth working with the provider during the beta phrase to iron out any problems. And for the app providers themselves, there's little excuse for not keeping track of major platform updates like a new Mac version and ensuring compatibility.
News editor Carly Page
Hold onto your hats, readers. For me, the highlight of 2015 came from BlackBerry and, no, I can't quite believe I'm saying this myself.
This year has been full of me-too smartphones. As somebody who reviews these devices for a living, there have been few that I've been truly excited about getting my hands on, and that's as sad for me as it is for those out there looking to buy a new mobile device.
Except the BlackBerry Priv, however. I know, I know, I've long criticised BlackBerry for its sub-par devices and lack of focus, but the Android-powered BlackBerry Priv is one of the few that managed to intrigue me in 2015. I mean, a physical keyboard? Really? I thought physical keys had died an embarrassing, public death along with the BlackBerry Passport, but after a few hours with the BlackBerry Priv I found myself getting sucked in by the tactile buttons, and even won over by the smartphone as a whole with its privacy-focused software, quirky design and stellar battery life.
Unfortunately for HTC, the lowlight of the year goes to the One A9 smartphone. The handset is the epitome of me-too smartphones, and HTC had no qualms about the fact that the device mimics the iPhone 6S in almost every way. What's more, despite its promise of an affordable price, the HTC One A9 cost £499 in the UK, despite selling for just $399 in the US.
Senior reporter Lee Bell
The highlight of 2015 for me was when Intel announced an initiative with the Oregon Health and Science University at the firm's annual IDF conference in September.
In a bid to cure cancer using the cloud and data analytics, Intel's Collaborative Cancer Cloud is an open source 'precision medicine' analytics platform-as-a-service. If all goes to plan, it will allow hospitals and researchers to share patient genomic, imaging and clinical data to advance research and make discoveries that could save lives.
The goal of the initiative is to generate large data sets of diagnosis based on human genomes that will benefit research and inform the specific treatment of individual patients. In my opinion, it's one of the most exciting projects to come from the chip company for a while. And better yet, the first technology releases as part of Intel's latest healthcare initiative will be made available to the developer community in the first quarter of next year. It is said that this will eventually benefit research in other diseases that have a genetic component, including Alzheimer's, diabetes and autism.
However, 2015 hasn't all been about the highs in the chip industry. Qualcomm, for instance, has had a pretty tough year. The chip firm reported poor financial results, was forced to make job cuts, faced a slowdown in demand, saw a decline in interest from investors and struggled with the loss of a key customer.
A particular lowlight for me, though, was the damage to sales when the Snapdragon 810 overheated and affected the performance of many of the Android phones it powered.
The overheating problems were never really resolved, sparking outrage and distrust among Android users, and Qualcomm to this day still denies that the problem even existed, leaving owners of some smartphones, such as the Sony Xperia Z3+ and the HTC One M9, with abysmal battery life, poor performance and a long and desperate wait until their next smartphone upgrade.
Nevertheless, Qualcomm hopes that this will be forgotten with the launch of its brand new Snapdragon 820 processor, the successor to the too-hot-to-handle 810, that promises some welcome improvements, one of which many are hoping is a decrease in temperature.
Reporter and retired hand model Dave Neal
It is that time of the year when this aged, grumpy man gets asked to write about the technology peaks and troughs of the year behind him.
It should be easy. Peaks-wise the industry is always doing good things, like defending personal privacy and not, despite appearances, wilfully handing it over, and supporting minorities in the workplace, at least at those echelons below board level.
My highlight does not come from Silicon Valley but from much closer to home. It is the Raspberry Pi Zero, a computer that was given away free with a magazine.
I was lucky enough to buy a copy of MagPi direct from a newsagents, and it gave me a real thrill to do so. In my youth you might have got a flexidisc record on the cover of a magazine, or a keyring. With this mag, and just £6, I got a computer and 1p change.
The thing is a wonderful little device. It is so small and sleek that i have misplaced it twice. It slunk between a couple of books on the shelf and avoided my attention. Since then it has been firmly and proudly on display.
You can't have a peak without a trough, though, and it was around the same time that something hit my heart like a lump of lead. This was a hollow nod (if you ask me) in the direction of charity from a man who talks a good talk, but walks with a different kind of swagger.
My lowlight, and shame on me, is Mark Zuckerberg giving a ton of money to charity. I can't accept this apparently benevolent act because I cannot abide the man or his social network. I showed this last year when I awarded the outfit the same inglorious ranking in our end of year annual.
Nothing that the chap and his clan do ever finds favour with me, and I have seen the same feelings mirrored elsewhere. See India, where there is controversy over the neutrality of Zuckerberg's benevolence, and the UK, where the company probably pays less tax than the person who cleans the office.
If Santa is reading, please do not put Mark Zuckerberg under my Christmas tree.
Reporter, technology commentator and chief whipping boy Chris Merriman
There's only one place to start as my high and low of 2015, and that's Windows 10. Microsoft has made an inspired move in bringing its latest version to the masses for free and, despite my seemingly never-ending moaning, I think it's rather good. I certainly wouldn't swap back now, although I'm still not making use of the Windows Universal Apps. What I love most about Windows 10 is that it's a polished Windows 7.
But the problem comes with what 'free' actually means. In reality we've been bombarded ever since with problems of privacy and things being downloaded without permission, or at least without us having a crystal clear understanding of what we are getting into. Adverts (or rather 'Recommended Apps') have started to appear too. The moment when a Microsoft dude talked about transparency and in the same breath about how if we wanted more information we should all be reading Terry Myerson's blog, could very easily have led to me leaving the room being held upside-down by a minder.
It's all part of the other big issue of the year for me, and that's the sea change in the way that the internet is funded. The web has come of age now where so many organisations want $5 here or £1 there for services that it's just becoming unaffordable.
Adverts, as we know are a security risk, and one of my high points was the move away from the use of Adobe Flash, so we're having to find other ways to finance things. Whether it's more outlandish business models like the Amazon Underground, or the increased use of open source with companies like IBM and, yes, even Microsoft donating entire languages to the community to encourage development, it shows that there are alternatives out there. Open source is incredibly exciting, and the use of the Linux Foundation as a 'Switzerland' for cross-organisation projects just cements for me that it's the way to go.
The US started its year with a momentous decision to protect net neutrality and for me that's not just a high point, but an example to the world. I hope the EU gets behind it, because I don't think our government alone understands what is at stake.
Finally, with my Google columnist hat on, the release of Marshmallow for Android has to be one of the biggest disappointments for me. After a very tame Google I/O presentation, Marshmallow, which had been trailed as Android M for months, arrived and immediately did very little. As it has a mere 0.5 percent of the market, and with the company already burbling on about Android N while giving no real explanation as to why this rollout is taking so long, Google is going to need to rethink its strategy if it wants to get a handle on its fragmentation issues, because this is making them worse.
Reviews writer James Archer
There's been no shortage of excellent high-end gear in 2015. From the eye-catching curved screen of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge to the ludicrously powerful iPhone 6S, the business-ready Microsoft Surface Pro 4 to the wealth of Intel Skylake-refreshed Dell and Lenovo laptops, anyone lucky enough to peruse the premium market has been utterly spoilt for choice.
Smartwatches also made it big for the first time. Credit is due to the Apple Watch for its strong debut showing, but let's not forget that Huawei, Motorola and Samsung have also continued to develop the concept with successful results. The shift from big, square monstrosities to more compact form factors remains exciting especially since, as anyone who's seen the photos in my reviews will know, I have the spindly wrists of a female catwalk model on hunger strike. Making smartwatches look more like regular watches, with the downsizing that entails, is therefore fine by me.
On the flipside, 2015 also saw some truly awful entry-level hardware that, despite sub-£100 prices, just wasn't worth it. I'd rather dig out and use my prehistoric HTC Wildfire than suffer the Acer Go's dim display, and the Intel Compute Stick proved that the dream of plug-and-play PCs is yet to be adequately realised. There was an outright dearth of quality low-cost tablets; sub-par slates like the Huawei MediaPad T1 10 and the Amazon Fire tablet failed to impress.
I know 'cheap devices aren't as good as expensive devices' isn't much of an insight, but fortunately you didn't need to be stinking rich to avoid stinking kit in 2015. The likes of the Motorola Moto G, OnePlus X, HP Pavilion x2 and even the XYZprinting da Vinci Jr 3D printer demonstrated how good capability can still be affordable, even in a world of curved edge displays.
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