Tuesday, Dec 26, 2023

5 lows from the world of tech in 2023

These controversies dominated the tech world in 2023, be it the firing and rehiring of OpenAI’s Sam Altman to the downfall of X (formerly Twitter).

5 lows from tech worldFive lows from tech world (Express Photo)

There were highs, lows, and, well, a lot of drama in the tech world in 2023. Although companies like Apple and Microsoft have seen sky-high valuations, big tech was in the spotlight for a lot of wrong reasons. While regulatory clamped down on big tech companies over the abuse of market dominance continued, some used mass layoffs after being pressured by investors to scale down.

Below are five lows from the tech sector in 2023:

December layoffs Economic uncertainty and over hiring during the pandemic boom, are among the most commonly cited reasons companies laid off their employees. (Image Source: FreePik)

Spate of tech layoffs: It seemed as if years of easy money and rock-bottom rates would never end, but there was a reversal in fortunes, and reality hit hard. The tech layoffs that accelerated through the second half of 2022 continued in 2023, with almost 240,000 jobs eliminated through the year as companies as large as Google, Amazon and Microsoft as well as smaller startups eliminated thousands of jobs. Many of them were forced to downsize staff, citing significant investments made in certain divisions with no clear path to recoup those long-term bets. Others were shown the door after companies were pressured to become as lean as possible following investor cutbacks. Even though layoffs continued in Silicon Valley, tech companies didn’t lose the opportunity to scoop up talent, especially in chip development, machine learning and AI. In fact, a data scientist is the most in-demand job on the market right now. More so, searches for generative AI jobs on job-hunting platforms like Indeed have increased by 4000%.

Also read: Why Amazon will lay off 9,000 more employees

Sam Altman on AGI OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit on Nov. 16, 2023, in San Francisco. (File Image: AP)

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s exit and return: There was a moment of disbelief when Sam Altman, the chief executive officer of OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, was abruptly fired by the board of directors of Silicon Valley’s hottest startup. The announcement of Altman’s departure was so hush-hush that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said his company, OpenAI’s biggest investor, had not been contacted before the big reveal. The next few days before Altman was reinstated as CEO had more twists than any prime-time TV soap opera. At one point, Altman even joined Microsoft to lead the company’s new advanced artificial intelligence division, though that didn’t last long either. But once Altman was brought back to OpenAI, most of the old board members who had fired him were out. The firing and rehiring of Altman, perhaps the most important person in tech at the moment, showcases the power dynamics and how egos are at play. His ouster from OpenAI and support for his restoration gave the Silicon Valley wunderkind, who is in his 30s, a new level of fame, instantly making him a household name. Even though Altman has been presented as the future of tech, at least in his public persona, his company has surely started the debate on how artificial intelligence could rule our lives – negatively and positively.

X Twitter ‘X’ logo is seen on the top of the headquarters of the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, in downtown San Francisco, California, U.S., July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The downfall of X (formerly Twitter): Over the past year, since billionaire Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion, the social media platform has experienced a significant decline. Despite adopting a new marketing name, “X,” and appointing a new CEO, Twitter has faced challenges such as frequent outages, significant staff layoffs, a proliferation of fake news, confusing subscription services and substantial losses in advertising revenue, even as it reinstated accounts belonging to Alex Jones and Donald Trump. Meanwhile, competitors have rolled out rival platforms (or Twitter clones) such as Threads and Bluesky in the hope of capturing users still actively seeking to “microblog” on pertinent issues. The truth is, Musk’s plan to bring Twitter back to its old glory hasn’t panned out; rather, it has gone downhill. Under Linda Yaccarino, the former advertising chief for NBCUniversal, Twitter has only become more chaotic. Drastic policy changes, the way Twitter handled disinformation about the violence in Israel-Palestine, and the platform’s business model are all contributing to the demise of this once-popular social network.

Also read: Apple iPhone 15 Pro review: A reinterpretation of a masterpiece

Festive offer 5G speed test iQOO Z7 supports both Jio and Airtel 5G networks (Image credit: Vivek Umashankar / Indian Express)

Slow growth of 5G: Years after glitzy campaigns with promises to revolutionise the telecom industry, 5G has been a major flop. As the year closed, experts and trade insiders started to open up about how 5G has not had as big an impact as many telecom operators and gear makers were hoping for. In fact, the “real” impact of 5G compared to its predecessors has been far less. 5G, from the very beginning, was hyped to bring in high-speed download speeds and lag-free gaming, but 4G was good enough for most people. However, in reality, most of the current use cases of 5G are less relevant to consumers and more aimed at the enterprise. You might already own a 5G phone, but nobody knows how it’s better than your previous phone. Does it significantly change the experience? Probably not. Video calls are still the same, and so are watching YouTube videos. The problem is how telecom companies promised use cases of 5G, such as cloud-streaming gaming, self-driving cars, and AR/MR headsets way before their mass adoption. And yet, all the marketing campaigns to promote 5G and its rollout have so far proven lukewarm. The low uptake of 5G and lack of monetization opportunities led to a blip in the 5G hype, and eventually a massive disappointment.

The Apple watch ultra 2 The Apple Watch Ultra 2 can pinpoint where your phone is now and this works without access to the web. (Nandagopal Rajan/ Express photo)

Apple-Masimo patent case: A patent infringement case has led to Apple pulling out two of the newest Apple Watch models, the Series 9 and Ultra 2, from retail shelves in the US. Its online store paused sales on December 21, and the watches were removed from Apple’s physical stores on December 24. The unprecedented move by Apple follows a ruling by the International Trade Commission in October that found several Apple Watches infringe on patents held by Masimo, a medical technology company in Irvine, California. This means Apple can no longer import and sell its newest Apple Watch models in the US — at least temporarily. Apple has won many legal battles with smaller companies in the past, but this time around, Cupertino actually lost a patent case over the technology its smartwatches use to detect people’s pulse rate. To avoid a complete ban, Apple can cut a deal with Masimo to license its technology, or it could appeal to the Biden administration to reverse the ruling. Still, one wonders how a company as big and powerful as Apple reached this point. This case could have both financial and reputational blows to Apple, which has tried to stay away from controversies. In court, Masimo detailed how Apple poached its top executives, stole trade secrets, and infringed on Masimo’s patents before later releasing a watch with a pulse oximeter. Poaching of talent in big tech is a known secret (also a dark reality), but the Masimo-Apple patent case also reignites the debate on how smaller companies are at the forefront of innovating new technologies, sometimes being bought by bigger rivals or not ending up getting acknowledgement for inventing game-changing technologies.

First published on: 25-12-2023 at 14:00 IST
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