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What caught my eye in tech: December 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. Salesforce bought Slack, wtf?

Slack has had a turbulent ride in recent times. Rising from nowhere through word of mouth and being a genuinely brilliant product, recently it’s struggled to maintain market share and capitalise on its initial success. What was once the defacto enterprise messaging app has been continuing to lose ground to Teams and Meets. An acquisition or merger always seemed likely (and my bet was always with Zoom), but Salesforce? This one struggled to make sense at first.

Whilst there are many theories as to how Salesforce might employ Slack, I’m leaning on Microsoft’s Office 365 model as inspiration. Teams is the hub of Office 365, everything flows through it, so perhaps Slack becomes the hub of Salesforce’s suite of current and future products. Simple enough to say but how this looks, in reality, is a tad more difficult. However, with Slack’s CEO Stuart Butterfield joining as part of the deal, Salesforce is getting a seasoned product pro joining the ranks, someone who could genuinely have that answer. 

More on the acquisition via TechCrunch

2. Bitcoin is back, with a difference

Bitcoin euphoria is back again. After the highs of 2017 things went a bit quieter, but here we are in 2020 and one of the biggest stories of the year is Bitcoin smashing through all-time highs to end the year at around $29,000. Why should we care? Didn’t this bubble pop last time? Well yes, it did, and again what goes up fast etc. but there’s a big difference this time around. No longer is it just the ‘crypto bro’ going mad for coins but also institutional investors. Bitcoin is starting to be taken seriously and becoming mainstream. Companies, hedge funds and banks are all starting to buy.

The same arguments around its purpose still exist, as do the same risks, but with price predictions making its current value look cheap (as high as $500k), many big players aren’t looking to be left out if its value does indeed ‘reach the moon’!

More on Bitcoins new all-time highs via Yahoo! Finance

3. Alibaba goes under the government lens

The anti-big tech agenda is no longer exclusive to the western world as Alibaba is now under the lens of the Chinese government. With worries over the dominance and monopolies of the company, the government is firmly looking to address these in 2021. This coincidently follows Jack Ma’s pulled Ant IPO, but undoubtedly Tencent, and others will be next on the list. The era of free and ultra-high growth might be coming to an end but this could also simply be a reminder that no company, or person, is bigger than the Party.

More on Alibaba’s woes via the New York Times

4. Apple’s car plans hit the spotlight once more

To any Apple fanboy, this news isn’t really news, Apple has been flirting with the idea of producing cars for many years, but we now have a prospective launch date. According to a recent Reuters article, we can hope to see the ‘Apple Car’ in 2024. What exactly Apple will be launching and what exact problem it is aiming to solve is anyone’s guess. What we do know is Apple’s focus will be on software as the company aims to partner with another firm to produce the hardware. Whether that car is Apple-branded remains to be seen. Not all the hardware will be left to a partner, however, interestingly some of the rumours point to Apple having ‘next level’ battery tech that it would employ, along with providing its own lidar sensors.

More on Apple’s car plans via Reuters

5. Zoom hints at what’s next: Calendar and email services

What a year 2020 has been for Zoom. You know you’re doing well when your brand name becomes a verb! As the year drew to a close and with the pandemic showing signs of defeat through commencing of the vaccine rollout, Zoom laid out plans for its next step. It’s perfect timing as Zoom fatigue is a thing and you’d expect usage to dip in the ‘new normal’ world. Whilst their success has done wonders for the company, relying on just a video call service for a business could eventually see it end up like Slack. 

So what’s next? Potentially email and calendar services. Whilst not revolutionary, if done well, this move makes total sense. Most Zoom calls are scheduled via email and calendar through other services such as Outlook and Calendly, so bringing these all inhouse creates a stronger ecosystem with a natural use-case.

More on Zoom’s plans via The Verge

One more thing: Rise of the robots

Boston Dynamics continue to wow, amaze and scare us in their quest to advance the field of robotics. We’ve met Spot (the dog looking one) and Atlas (the human-looking one) many times before and with each outing, they become more incredibly lifelike. In the latest video to surface, a new robot on wheels joined them to bust out a few moves to ‘Do you love me?’ by The Contours. Is it amazing? Yes! Are the robots more lifelike? Certainly! Is it just as scary? You bet! Enjoy…

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