Tech newsmakers of 2011

20 Dec 2011

The late Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple

Tragedy, challenge, legal issues and entertainment marked the past 12 months for our year’s top 5 newsmakers in tech.

1.   Steve Jobs

The death of visionary co-founder and former CEO of consumer electronics giant Apple, Steve Jobs, on 5 October in Palo Alto, California, marked the end of a large chapter for the company.

Jobs, who died of respiratory arrest caused by a pancreatic tumour at the age of 56, created and then re-ignited, re-shaped and re-invented the technology industry on so many levels, bringing consumers products that go beyond personal computers like the Mac and now embrace tablet computers like the iPad, a rich tapestry of software, smartphones like the iPhone, and media player devices.

Every time Apple unveils a new product, the entire computing industry skips in an endeavour to march in step.

Jobs was at the helm of this innovation, and in the weeks following his death, more than 1m people from around the world flocked to Apple’s Steve Jobs memorial page to leave messages.

Jobs’ biography, written by Walter Isaacson after 40 interviews with Jobs himself and more than 100 of Jobs’ friends, relatives, colleagues and business rivals, was released shortly after Jobs’ death. The book has become a best-seller, even selling out in China.


Carol Bartz

2.   Carol Bartz

Back in September of this year, Carol Bartz was fired from her role as CEO of Yahoo. Via phone call. 

Her dismissal came as part of a major reorganisation of the internet portal company.

Bartz’s tenure at Yahoo! has been if anything tough and she presided over difficult and alarming decisions for shareholders, such as search advertising deals with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The year has been marked by difficult relationships with Yahoo!’s trading partners in Asia.

Bartz came into the CEO role in 2009, to take over from co-founder Jerry Yang, who many believed bungled an opportunity to sell the company to Microsoft.


Stephen Elop

3.   Stephen Elop

Nokia’s CEO is another tech leader who has had a rocky 2011. 

In February, Elop wrote a memo to employees, saying Nokia’s platform was “burning” and they had fallen far behind the competition.

The memo, which was unveiled through numerous reports, detailed how Nokia was falling behind in all markets, contemplated how it got there and rallied for the company to become a competitive force in the future.

The same month, Nokia outlined its new strategic direction. This included taking on Windows Phone as its primary OS – and Elop denying he was a ‘Trojan Horse’ for Microsoft – a major organisational restructure and a focus on getting developing growth markets connected to the internet.

Then a group of nine young Nokia shareholders wrote an open letter to other shareholders and investors calling for a return to a strategy that ensured control of the software layer of Nokia’s products and the dismissal of Elop.

He hasn’t gone anywhere.


Winklevoss twins

4.   Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss

Twin brothers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss made headlines this past year for being embroiled in a lawsuit with Facebook.

In June, just a day after accepting a settlement, the brothers launched a new case against Facebook, this time asking the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts to determine whether Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg “intentionally or inadvertently suppressed evidence.”

The brothers and their partner, Divya Narendra, had accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea to create the social-networking giant while they were students at Harvard University. The twins were aiming to get access to instant messages Zuckerberg allegedly sent while at Harvard, and may have thrown a new light on their relationship, reports said.

The claim in the filing is Facebook should have disclosed those communications when they put together their original settlement.

A Facebook spokesman had said the company “considered this case closed for a long time.”


Rebecca Black

5.   Rebecca Black

A then-13-year-old girl from Anaheim Hills, California, sang a song and made a video about Friday, got it up on YouTube in early February, and public reaction followed en masse.

Friday came under harsh criticism globally, with The Independent in the UK calling it “the worst song ever” and the majority of feedback on Twitter being negative towards the video and the simplistic lyrics of the song.

Internet search giant Yahoo even asked, “Is YouTube sensation Rebecca Black’s Friday the worst song ever?” The negative feedback did not go unnoticed, and Black, in her first interview since the song was released, told The Daily Beast, “At times, it feels like I’m being cyber bullied.”

Black has since released another single this year, My Moment.