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Best Technology Stories Of 2013

Dec 30 2013, 7:01am CST | by

Best Technology Stories Of 2013
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2013 was a great year for information technology generally. Several technology stalwarts went public, most prominent among them being Twitter. Though less glamorous in the mind of the average person, business-to-business technology companies like WorkDay and Tableau Software continued to shake up older adversaries, as well. There was plenty of great coverage of the information technology in 2013, as well. I have assembled my personal favorite pieces both in written form and in video. They are divided into executive profiles,company profiles, and general topics. As the year draws to a close, and the promise of a new one is before us, I hope you’ll enjoy these selections.

Executive Profiles:

Marissa Meyer has been in the spotlight for a number of years, first as the face of Google, and now as the CEO of Yahoo! Her performance in her role at the latter company has been better than many expected. In this Vanity Fair profile entitled “Yahoo’s Geek Goddess“, Bethany McLean digs deeper into what makes Meyer tick, and provides an interesting assessment into what has made her successful, and who she has had to step on as she has ascended the corporate ladder.

At the D11 conference this past May, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher interviewed Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. Musk provides his vision for the companies he leads, most prominently Tesla and SpaceX, and even pokes fun at his own ambition.

Like Musk, Max Levchin is part of what has been dubbed “the PayPal Mafia.” In this Charlie Rose interview, Levchin talks about the early years at PayPal, the ennui that set in after his first big paycheck, and the many interesting new technology investments he pursues currently.

Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt has become somewhat of a technology diplomat in recent years.  In this McKinsey Quarterly interview, he provides his thoughts on where India stands now and how it needs to improve to fully realize its potential. He makes the point many companies have been overly ambitious in developing a global footprint ,when what is needed most is domestic excellence.

Company Profiles:

This was a year of many interesting announcements for Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos. In early October, he personally purchased the Washington Post. He also alluded to the fact that Amazon Prime has reached over 20 million customers. Amazon.com’s cloud service offering continues to be a major source of growth for the company, as well. Last month, Bezos spoke to 60 Minutes about Amazon.com’s investment in drone technology which will be used for delivery.

eBay’s has not grown at nearly the same clip as Amazon.com, but it has developed a new plan to compete with the company.  In this New York Times Magazine article, Jeff Himmelman writes about the company’s approach to stealing market share from its bigger competitor in piece entitled, “EBay’s Strategy for Taking On Amazon.”

Google continues to be a major source of innovation. From the moonshot ideas emerging out of Google X, to the venture capital arm of the company, Google Ventures, to their announcement of its cloud services, the company is doing a lot right. Adam Fisher profiles Luc Vincent, who is responsible for all imagery in Google’s online maps. As the article notes, “He’s in charge of everything from choosing satellite pictures to deploying Google’s planes around the world to sending its camera-equipped cars down every road to even this, a float through the Grand Canyon.”

This Bloomberg BusinessWeek profile of Samsung entitled “How Samsung Became the World’s No. 1 Smartphone Maker” highlights how the company rose from obscurity to leader of cell phones. In an age when many people believed Apple could do no wrong with the iPhone, Sam Grobart’s story of Samsung’s rise to beat Apple at its own game is especially enlightening.

General Topics:

In this article in The Atlantic entitled “They’re Watching You at Work”, Don Peck writes about the innovation happening at the intersection between data analytics and human resources. Some of the early uses of technology to evaluate employees have already offered better insights than traditional interview processes in determining who will be the most productive employees and who will not. One of many interesting conclusions is how well one did in college, whether they went to college at all, and even past work experience have much less bearing on a person’s success than traditionally believed.

In 1999, Sugata Mitra set up a computer his first “hole in the wall” experiment in New Delhi, India. On their own, poor children taught themselves to use a computer. Mitra dubs his approach minimally invasive education. In this Wired article called “How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses”, Joshua Davis notes that a variety of studies are showing that the more one is in control of his or her learning, the more successful they will be.

This fascinating account in Fast Company entitled “Why is Facebook Blue? The Science Behind Colors in Marketing“, Leo Widrich highlights why companies choose the colors they do for their logos. Widrich defines the science behind colors in marketing, and shows how minor changes to the color of different buttons on a website can lead to significant changes in user behavior. -

This article in the Financial Times called “Supercomputers: Battle of the speed machines“ highlights the race to build the world’s fastest computer. Chris Nuttall posits that the US is falling behind China, as that country has approved a five year plan to get to exascale.  How will the US respond?

Peter High is the President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.

Source: Forbes

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