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What caught my eye in tech: February 2020

Every month in 2020, I’m going to be sharing the top 5 interesting things in tech that have caught my eye. Enjoy!

1. The Coronavirus Outbreak

In the media this month the Coronavirus has taken centre stage, one of the most serious epidemics of the century. Speaking with my colleagues based in China who are homebound, it’s unimaginable to think how difficult life must be with your home essentially becoming your prison, and even more so for those everywhere suffering from the loss of loved ones. My thoughts are with everyone affected across the world.

Technology is not the most important element of this story by any stretch, but through the media focus on the global impact, it has received notable attention. With China not only being a heavy producer of goods that impact supply chains across the world, it is also a large consumer of luxury products. Apple, as an example, is a company that is affected on both ends of the spectrum and has subsequently issued an earnings warning to shareholders. Others will no doubt follow suit.

Away from the mainstream, however, three things caught my eye. Firstly with so many people unable to go to work, many are at home and using the internet. This has generated a surge in traffic which has been problematic for some services. Secondly, opposite to this, interests have been raised around the potential of remote working. In China, the emergency adoption of such methods has allowed some companies to still function that previously hadn’t embraced remote working. Will we see a long-term behavioural change in working practices as a result? Thirdly, with fewer businesses operating at their capacity, if at all, electricity demand is lower thus resulting in less pollution across China. NO2 is down 36% YoY over the outbreak period.

2. UK opts to use Huwawei for its 5G infrastructure

5G is coming, but you knew that, right? Just like TV manufacturers pitching 8k as life-changing, the same can be said for the way mobile networks are touting it. In reality, it’s just an evolution. So if it’s not going to be a revolution for consumers, what’s the big change? Infrastructure. In steps Huwawei with arguably the best and cheapest gear so naturally, it’s first on every government’s list of vendors. That’s not ok with the USA however as it’s a Chinese company (the state has effective control) which they’re concerned opens the door to eavesdropping. The US government has drawn a line through using their equipment (and even barred Google from allowing Google apps on Huwawei phones) and has encouraged everyone to do the same. Interestingly the UK hasn’t followed suit and opened its doors but with some restrictions. Other countries are hinting the same at the same tact.

What makes this interesting is as to what would happen in the future. In this case, there are other, capable 5G equipment providers (Verizon uses Ericsson), but what if Huwawei was a cut above the rest. Would the USA opt for an inferior provider? In addition, how does the political landscape change if allied countries continue to not follow suit on this and future decisions?

More on the UK’s decision to go for Huwawei via the BBC

3. Spotify acquires The Ringer

The Ringer, a sports podcast network, has just been snapped up by Spotify. Why? Podcasts are seeing a gold-rush but there is no one platform that is owning the space – it’s there for the taking. Content exists on most major platforms which at the moment gives a lot of choice for consumers. This acquisition is worth noting for two reasons. Firstly it signifies a shift in Spotify’s content model in a move to own exclusive content and narrow consumers’ choice, and secondly, it alters Spotify’s business model away from low-margin music deals. More to come? Most likely.

More on the announcement via Business Wire

4. Photoshop turns 30

Photoshop Version 1.0.

Having spent quite a bit of time playing around with Photoshop in the earlier days of my career, Photoshop always brings to mind a few fond memories. With it turning 30 this month, a video surfaced of the very first version. Interestingly, some of the UI appears to have stood the test of time with the toolbar looking very familiar (I see you magic wand!). In today’s world where app interfaces seem to be ripped apart every few years, this gives the concept of incremental product design a whole new meaning.

Take a look via The Verge

5. CNN lite, my favourite version of

This isn’t necessarily anything new but I was totally unaware of CNN’s ‘lite’ site experience, which I came across on a recent trip to the USA. As a text-only version, it couldn’t be more basic but it gets the job done perfectly. No ads, blazingly fast and a focus on words without distraction. Whilst this experience isn’t going to be for everyone, a quick search on Twitter shows a fair few who would prefer something like this (I’m one!). Having read a recent article by Jared Spool on ‘experience rot‘, this is a nice example of the effects of overdesigning, overdeveloping and the product focus lost through it.

Take a look and see what you think and then compare the same article on CNN’s main site. Which do you prefer?

One more thing: Another MacOSX feature I had no idea about!

It is amazing that after over a decade of being a Mac user, I’m still finding out about new features. The latest in the long list of ‘I was today years old when I found out about…’ is that holding down spacebar when taking a screenshot allows you to move where your catchment area is positioned. Thank you Jonnie Hallman!

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