We’re counting down to the last moments of the 2010s. We’ve just made it through a decade that completely revolutionized the way we think about tech.
You could say that about every decade, but this one feels particularly futuristic! Top companies have completely changed the face of tech, transforming our lives.
Here are some of the biggest Product moments of the decade, and a quick look at what’s coming for us in the future…
What Happened to Product in the 2010s
We thought about PCs differently
The first on the list takes us all the way back to the beginning. In 2010, Steve Jobs announced the iPad, launching us into a whole new era of personal computing.
Until then, laptops and desktop computers had been the mainstay for getting work done. At that point – not owning some kind of computer seemed impossible. Sure you could send emails on your Blackberry in a pinch, and smartphones were coming a long way in terms of processing power. But to do serious work, you needed a PC.
In the 2010s, the lines between keyboard-centric computers and touchscreen tablets/app-based devices started to blur. Tablets began to take on more and more tasks usually done on traditional computers, and computers have started to adopt the same characteristics as our tablets.
Just look at the iPad Pro as the perfect examples of the fine the line between computer and tablet. Devices like the Google Pixelbook come with a 360 hinge so users can switch effortlessly between laptop and tablet.
While for most of us, a good ol’ laptop/desktop is the mainstay for daily work, more and more people turned to tablets this decade. Will we see a day when we escape our desks for good?
We all went wireless
Everyone made fun of Apple’s Airpods when the design was first released. Something just looked a little…funny about them.
But now, can you imagine being physically tethered to your phone? In fact, many smartphones have gotten rid of the traditional headphone jack altogether.
While you can get an adaptor enabling you to connect your wired earphones through the charging port, that seems far too fiddly for today’s wireless world.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold, for example, comes with Galaxy Buds for ‘a totally cordless sound experience’ which also recharges wirelessly.
While products like Apple AirPods and the upcoming Google Pixel Buds untether our music-listening, the wireless revolution also gave us Google Cast, a popular way of streaming content from your PC/Phone to the TV without all those fiddly HDMI cables. We also got wireless phone chargers, keyboards, mice, and game controllers.
There’s something about cables that just looks so 90s now.
We started talking to tech
Now, we all know that VUIs (Voice User Interfaces) still have a ways to go in terms of development, but it’s hard to believe that it was only 9 short years ago that Apple gave us Siri. Before that, VUIs lived solely in the realm of science fiction.
Siri received mixed reviews when she first landed in the iPhone 4S in 2011. There was a lot of praise for the ingenuity of the technology, but the user experience left a little to be desired…perhaps we were all a little too inspired by the flawless communication abilities of Sci-Fi virtual assistants.
Luckily we, and Apple, still saw the great potential of Siri.
The voice revolution really began in earnest when Amazon unveiled Alexa along with the Echo in 2014.
With a name inspired by the Library of Alexandria, Alexa promised big things. On release, it was capable of setting alarms and reminders, making to-do lists, streaming content, controlling smart devices, and shopping the Amazon store.
Sure, there have been a few funny mishaps – like the time Alexa started a party by itself at 2 am in a German home – but since users have been able to add third-party skills to increase functionality, Alexa has enjoyed rounding success.
Now that Amazon has made such leaps with its AI technology, it’s hard to imagine life without it.
We started wearing tech
Smartwatches have been around since the 90s (we all remember those digital watches which beeped very loudly at seemingly intermittent times) but they absolutely took off in the 2010s!
According to CNET, global shipments of wearables nearly doubled in the third quarter – a big portion of which is thanks to ‘hearables’ like the aforementioned wireless earphones. But the wearable revolution goes beyond audio.
Society has always been obsessed with the latest health trend, whether it’s the Cookie Diet of the 1970s, Jazzercise in the 1980s, or the low-carb 1990s.
With FitBit taking fifth place on the list of top wearable companies in 2019 – with 8% of the market share in the 3rd quarter, it’s clear that the new fitness obsession is data.
We just love being able to track our steps, exercise, sleep, calorie intake, and heart-rate. One man was even able to see his own heartbreak on his FitBit when he was dumped in 2016!
Now what we have these insights into our own bodies, it seems impossible to live without them. Boutique gyms will take you through intense, competitive HIIT workouts, and monitor your heart rate to accurately show you how your body performed.
With high year-over-year growth for wearable devices – it’s hard to imagine the top tech giants doing anything other than scaling up their efforts and offerings.
AI got smarter
It’s impossible to talk about the biggest tech of the 2010s without talking about AI.
Having been a talking point on the lips of many, both with excitement and concern, it’s been a hell of a decade for AI! In 2010, Microsoft launched Kinect for the Xbox 360, which was the first gaming device to track body movements to control the game.
Speaking of games, did you hear about Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo, which won 60-0 rounds on two public Go websites? The 2,500 Chinese game is notoriously complex, and always thought to be too nuanced for a machine to ever beat a human master. Well…we were certainly wrong about that!
AI started to feel a lot more human in 2011 when Apple introduced Siri. We plunged deeper into the uncanny valley when in 2016 the world was introduced to Sophia, the brainchild of Hanson Robotics.
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. The power of AI raises some very real and very understandable concerns.
In 2015, 3,000 researchers in AI and robotics signed an open letter calling for the ban on development and use of autonomous weapons. Steven Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak are included in the signatures.
The next year the Asilomar Conference on Beneficial AI was held in California, with the aim to formulate basic principles and a code of ethics for AI technology. AKA, The 23 Asilomar AI Principles.
Looking to the Future
While it’s important to look back, it’s also just as fun to look towards the future.
Everyone likes to give in to the rumor mill now and then to gossip about what the big tech innovators are working on for us. Thanks to the steady advance of technology in this decade, we can cast our eyes into the next to see what’s in store…
Our homes will be smarter than us
We’re already carrying our tech around with us, wearing it on our bodies, and thanks to Alexa we’ve seen it take control of our homes.
We’ve even got little robots cleaning the floors for us while we’re out at work.
In the 2020’s, we’re sure to see a lot more tech coming into our homes. Companies like Google are working to create seamless and natural feeling experiences, by building products that blend into their environment.
Security systems have already taken the top spots on the list of priorities for homeowners. According to a 2012 report, consumers were most interested in wireless security systems, programmable thermostats, security cameras, lighting control systems, wireless home audio systems, and multi-zone HVAC systems.
Speaking of security – some skeptics are nervous about the digitization of our homes, and how vulnerable to hacking attempts that may make us. A stranger being able to unlock a front door from their iPad might not be too far away!
As home automation gets more advanced, so will Cyber Security. We should see some very interesting developments coming out of the 2020s and beyond.
We’ll all stop driving
While Google built its first autonomous car in 2009, the mainstream autopilot was really championed by Tesla in the 2010s.
Using eight surround cameras, a forward-facing radar, and twelve ultrasonic sensors, your car can finally take you to work for you. The hardware is designed to provide Autopilot features right now, with the expectation that full self-driving capabilities will be available in the near future.
It’s not just Tesla who is in on the action. As of December 2019, Mercedes-Benz and Bosch are testing self-driving taxis in San Francisco.
Much like AI, this technology does raise a few concerns. According to The Union of Concerned Scientists, safety issues and the environmental impact remain unknown while the tech is still in its infancy.
Only time and a lengthy development phase will tell…
Flip phones will make a comeback
There’s a sentence we never thought we’d say!
‘Retro’ things have a way of coming back into fashion. We’ve seen it with 3D movies, which almost died a slow and quiet death in the early 2000s only to boom back into popularity, and now we’re going to see it with folding phones.
The 2010s have already given us the new Motorola Razr, Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X, and many more.
As mobile devices start being able to do more and more things, some tasks require a bigger screen. But once you start expanding the size of your phone too much, doesn’t it just become a tablet?
The answer is the foldable phone.
While many are skeptical, Google certainly isn’t, as it has pledged Android support for foldable designs. Some even guess that it may be working on a foldable device of its own.
Early adopters have sung the praises of some key features – the Galaxy Fold’s hinge has been praised for its strength and durability. Even so, it’s clear that there’s still a long way to go. At the moment the screen scratches easily with no way to place a screen protector.
According to some critics, the dust-seal also leaves a little to be desired. So long as you don’t touch your phone screen with any force or put it anywhere with…dust…you should be fine!
What’s certain is that this is just the very beginning of the folding phone.
We’ll take cosmic holidays
Is this starting to feel a little ridiculous? Perhaps.
But Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are making real strides in the space travel field. What seemed like science fiction is now starting to get closer and closer to reality.
Virgin Galactic has already begun its ‘Astronaut Readiness Program’, and has partnered with Under Armour to create the official astronaut uniforms. Under Armour is also providing fitness and nutrition guidance to help space tourists prepare their bodies for the journey.
600 customers are signed up to fly in the first half of 2020, for the low low price of just $250,000. We’re still a long way off from colonizing other planets, but just imagine what Virgin Galactic could do with the next 10 years!