by Kirk Douglas
With the year coming to a grinding halt in merely a couple of days, I figured it might be interesting to take a look back on some of the biggest happenings across our current technology and mobile landscape.
In no particular order, here’s a look back at 2015’s stand-out products, roadmap revelations and public quandaries that just can’t be ignored from a few of the biggest companies on the planet.
Ever stubborn and late to yet another party, Nintendo finally announced that in partnership with mobile app developer, DeNa, they will finally be bringing a few faces new and old to the ‘other’ handheld market; by other, I mean smartphones.
Nintendo revealed plans to release 5 mobile titles with the help of DeNa throughout calendar year 2016 and by the end of 2017. The company later specified their first title, called “Miitomo,” is a social networking app of sorts that will allow users to chat and customize their “Mii,” among other features. The App is set for release by end of March 2016 and will be a free download. App releases following Miitomo will likely be paid or rely on in-app purchases.
In other Nintendo related news for 2015, the company publicly confirmed the existence of their next console, code named “Nintendo NX.” The confirmation came in an Associated Press interview with the legendary game maker and designer Shigeru Miyamoto (Manager, Nintendo EAD). Miyamoto stated vaguely that “Nintendo as a whole has groups working on ideas for new hardware systems” and that “…While we’re busy working on software for the Wii U, we have production lines that are working on ideas for what the next system might be.”
Though we can only speculate on what the next system might be like, there has been a lot of talk centered around the possibility of Nintendo’s next console going entirely disc-less, becoming increasingly reliant on the cloud and the possibility of it being a much more versatile console equipped for both home and on-the-go use. For firm details, only time will tell.
As for existing offerings, the company saw great success with a few solid releases this year including Splatoon! And the critically acclaimed Mario Maker. Though console sales have not made a dent among competitors, in Nintendo’s typical fashion of providing unique experiences, the Wii U has seemed to stabilize a bit, finally breaking the 10 million consoles-sold mark. Recent reports point to the Japanese Splatoon bundle seeing immense holiday success to the tune of selling out completely. Last month, Nintendo surprised everyone in a special Nintendo Direct, where they announced a Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD remake for the Wii U, launching March 4, 2016.
2015 was a pretty good year for the company, arguably the best in a decade or more as against the odds and with new leadership in tow, the company managed to complete a turnabout from the poorly received Windows 8 to the admirable Windows 10. Microsoft first publicly acknowledged the success by confirming to the press that more than 14 million PC’s had upgraded to the new software within the first 24-hour period of sales late this summer.
Along with the hype of a solid software release, the company released long awaited updates for its Office for Mac suite, solidified new pricing around Office 365 online and announced that Windows 10 would come to phones giving them near-full PC capabilities when plugged directly into a display via a small adapter box. Among these changes, the company also issued software updates to its Xbox One console and dropped the price to better compete with PS4.
With the help of exclusivity on the new Rise of the Tomb Raider and the release of Halo 5, the company seemed to turn around in more ways than one as sales and public perception of the company and respective console/offerings seem to have greatly improved.
Let us not forget this was also in part due to a really cool on-stage demo of Microsoft’s future HoloLens product back in April. The company again surprised audiences later in the year with the SurfaceBook, its first effort in building a complete laptop solution. Though that product in particular hasn’t turned out to be so hot (see reviews online) it’s creation has certainly helped illustrate that the company is now leveraging a new group of highly intelligent and innovative thinking people who might turn the company around for good.
Where to begin here, these guys were busy. The year started with a Apple Watch, a refresh across almost all laptop variants and an introduction to the all-new MacBook in unique colors, featuring only a single USB-C port. A fall release of two improved phone models in the iPhone 6s and 6S plus came to fruition and an entirely new bar was set with the humongous and hugely powerful iPad Pro, complete with the Apple Pencil as the company’s first new input device in some time.
Aside from grabbing up the majority stake of profits in the smartphone industry throughout the year, Apple also managed to rake in some great holiday numbers around their recently released Apple TV (4th generation) which brought with it the long-awaited inclusion of an App Store and a more fluid on-screen navigation experience Including Siri. Affordable 4K desktop options were also announced by the company late this year and with so much success already, it is hard to guess where they might go from here.
Their success however, hasn’t come without a cost. The company has been criticized widely for its less successful Apple Music rollout and some recent design choices (see the smart battery case here) but all in all, 2015 was good to Apple. It will surely be interesting to see what lies ahead for the company.
Sony has arguably hit a few serious bumps in the road over the last couple of years but 2015 wasn’t all bad.
The beginning of the year saw the company breaking down into 3 parts – Sony Pictures Entertainment, the PlayStation division and an Image Sensor business; a major cause for concern in a world that seems to know Sony as a household brand maker of many things.
Early 2015, the company revised its forecast for major losses as the change in focus seemed to magnify those posted in their flailing smartphone business. After a string of bad film releases and losses in their mobile division, Q2 saw the company enjoy a small uptick in sales growth due to the PS4 and their highly profitable smartphone component (camera sensor) business.
The PlayStation division has long carried the company (at least in recent years) and thankfully the PS4 has been an overwhelming success, no exception to that trend.
According to vgchartz.com as of December 12th this year, 7 out of 10 current globally top-selling games are on the PlayStation 4 platform with only two on the next nearest competitor, Xbox One. This is a great sign for the company and the future of the PlayStation brand.
Releases like Star Wars Battlefront, Bloodborne and Destiny seem to have kept gamers happy and solidified Sony further in their space. There’s been a healthy lineup of releases, updates and add-ons in 2015 and an exciting roster for next year to boot as Sony readies exclusives like Uncharted 4, Street Fighter V, Gran Turismo Sport and The Last Guardian, among others.
Additionally, next year should see the long awaited arrival of PlayStation VR, a PlayStation add-on that will aim to harness the hype around Virtual Reality and potentially open up new gaming markets.
2015 hasn’t been the best in their history, but when we look back on it next year, it could mark a major turn-around for Sony, a company who’s seen some distress in recent times.
Earlier this year, the company changed its long time logo, one etched for nearly two decades in the brains of anyone who’s ever spent serious time on the internet searching. The change was criticized at first but quickly forgotten as Google often seems to maintain a sense of playful innocence (if you don’t believe me just look at the crooked “e” in their new logo).
More important progress shown by the company this year included solidifying its Material Design language, bolstered by their recent Android release titled Marshmallow (6.X). In addition, the company illustrated unique partnering efforts in their collaboration with Huawei on the Nexus 6P, a flagship handset widely regarded as the single best Android phone to date. Their efforts in the device are also notable in that Huawei is a Chinese multinational looking to break into the US market; and what better way to test the waters than in a partnership with Google?
Updated versions of the Chromecast and the addition of Chromecast Audio also made their way to Google’s online storefront promising better streaming experiences via faster wifi and wireless control of audio to your favorite bookshelf speakers. Though not breakout products, these additions were welcome and affordable ones, helping Google further establish a stake in the living rooms of consumers.
Chromebooks continued their onslaught of traditional classroom PC’s and tablets, taking a majority stake in new device purchases among schools across the country due to their inexpensive cost and simple provisioning process.
There is however, a flip side to all of Google’s 2015 successes. Privacy on both Android and more recently student privacy concerns on educational Chromebooks, continues to raise concerns for privacy advocates and parents alike.
Late this year, Google also released its first attempt at tablet hardware, the “Pixel C.” While often described as beautiful and with a clever (but confusing) optional connected keyboard, was heavily critiqued for highlighting Android’s weaknesses in the tablet sector. The device has been regarded by many reviewers and tech pundits as a let-down as they point out issues with an unresponsive screen and lackluster software optimization. Many claim these issues made using the device for productivity a bust.
There are a lot of companies I have left out of this short list. A few large companies everyone knows and a few newcomers that deserve our attention just as much . But these are just 5 of the big movers and shakers to keep an eye on moving forward. Overall, 2015 was a year that didn’t necessarily make or break any one of these large companies. But to understand the future, we must sometimes look to the past. Who knows, we may find ourselves looking back at this list in a year laughing at how things have changed or in awe of the difference between ‘then and now’. Adiós 2015.