6 tech storylines to watch in 2022
Welcome to 2022, Data Sheet readers. Let’s hope it’s better than 2021.
At a minimum, the new year figures to bring big changes to the tech world, with the pandemic, manufacturing challenges, looming business battles, and antsy domestic and foreign policymakers.
As the markets open for the first time this year, here are the key topics we’ll be watching over the next 12 months:
Supply chain challenges
While some experts are hopeful that the global supply chain squeeze will ease in 2022, the new year brings many of the same production challenges. Big Tech companies must overcome huge hurdles if they are to emerge relatively unscathed.
Keep a particular eye on Amazon, which undoubtedly learned important logistics and supplier relations lessons from the billions of additional dollars it spent during the holiday season to facilitate timely delivery. Apple, which cut production targets in 2021 amid widespread chip shortages, will also be a barometer as it prepares to roll out a slate of new products this year.
Rising economic nationalism
Several political winds blew in favor of economic nationalism in 2021:
- China made big moves to insulate its tech industry.
- The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the perils of relying on overseas semiconductor manufacturers.
- President Joe Biden pushed for hundreds of billions in government subsidies for American-made products via his Build Back Better agenda.
We could see a quick return to an embrace of free trade as the pandemic (hopefully) subsides—especially if Congress fails to pass Biden’s spending package and inflation keeps rising. But for now, economic nationalists are having a moment.
Cryptocurrency’s coming of age
Expect another busy year in cryptocurrency. While crypto went mainstream last year, with the value of all coins combined tripling, big questions about its future loom in 2022.
Chief among them:
- How does inflation impact an already up-and-down market?
- How much do regulators and legislators step up their oversight?
- Are big businesses ready to dip their toes into crypto transactions?
- Do stablecoins gain more traction as a happy medium for those concerned about crypto’s volatility?
Antitrust advocates laid groundwork in 2021 for an assault on Big Tech. Now, we’ll see the fruits of that labor.
- European lawmakers are on the precipice of landmark legislation forcing unprecedented regulation of social media platforms.
- Biden’s Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department antitrust division are primed to stall mergers, limit the power of Silicon Valley giants, and foster greater competition in tech.
- And who knows what Congress may cook up (my prediction: probably not much).
Satellite wars ramp up
The prospect of high-speed Internet blanketing the globe figures to draw nearer in 2022, as more companies and countries expect to launch hundreds of low-Earth orbit satellites.
SpaceX, the leader in the field, continues to build on its roughly 1,500 satellites in orbit toward a goal of 12,000. British competitor OneWeb projects to reach its goal this year of nearly 650 satellites in orbit. And Amazon is set to join the crowd, with plans to send up its first Project Kuiper satellites in late 2022.
Donald Trump, social media mogul?
The company behind the would-be service already faces a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry, and the platform appears behind schedule. Will Trump eventually take a bite out of his hated social media rivals in 2022? As with so much about the former president, who the heck knows.
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Tesla rings in 2022 with big sales. Electric-car maker Tesla sold a company-record 308,600 cars in the fourth quarter, beating analyst expectations and sending the company’s stock up 11% as of early Monday afternoon. The blockbuster quarter brought Tesla’s 2021 sales total to about 936,200, up 87% from the prior year despite a chip shortage gripping the auto manufacturing industry.
Twitter tells MTG she’s G2G. Twitter permanently suspended the personal account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after the far-right legislator continued to promote inaccurate and out-of-context information about COVID-19, the Associated Press reported. The decision by Twitter leaders follows several prior temporary suspensions of Greene’s account. Greene’s final tweets included a chart that suggested more than 20,000 people have died from COVID-19 vaccines, citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public vaccine reporting system. However, CDC officials have repeatedly noted that anyone can submit a report to the system, and health officials do not verify the accuracy of each report.
Telecom-FAA standoff drags on. AT&T and Verizon refused a request by federal transportation officials that they shelve plans to unveil new superfast 5G wireless service in dozens of metro areas this week amid concerns that it could interfere with airplane safety systems, the Wall Street Journal reported. The two telecommunications giants offered instead to temporarily reduce the power of their 5G service. The Federal Aviation Administration could force airlines to cancel or redirect some flights if an agreement is not reached by the planned Wednesday debut of the 5G service.
Automakers still stuck in neutral. While Tesla surged in 2021, legacy car manufacturers are expected early this week to report below-average annual sales as the global chip continues to weigh on automakers, Bloomberg reported. The slump was particularly acute in December, as a lack of inventory combined with an increase in sticker price, led to an estimated 23% decline in year-over-year sales. Analysts expect General Motors will rank among the hardest-hit automakers, with TrueCar projecting a sales decline of about 40%.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The health revolution that wasn’t. While Apple pitches its signature Watch as the “ultimate device for a healthy life,” some doctors aren’t quite as impressed, the Financial Times reported. Six years after the Apple Watch heralded the arrival of a health care paradigm shift, medical experts said the device still falls short of its full potential. The technology isn’t quite there yet, doctors haven’t adapted to the product, and users aren’t responding to nudges on their wrist.
From the article:
Critics said Apple’s efforts have not matched the promise of its marketing. Sami Inkinen, chief executive of Virta Health, a telemedicine clinic focused on type 2 diabetes, said simply giving people more information was not enough.
“It’s like selling someone a scale: it’s not very hard to tell people what percentage they are overweight,” Inkinen said. “But how do we actually change behavior and drive results, like getting your blood sugar down, getting you off the medication and getting your weight down? For me, that is completely missing from the Apple Watch.”
A research paper published in May corroborated what others have found: “wearables are lagging behind their potential”, with “little evidence” they “bring about sustained behavior change”.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Inside the U.S. capture of the Kremlin insider who may have secrets of the 2016 DNC hack, by Henry Meyer, Irina Reznik, Hugo Miller, and Bloomberg
From lane nannies to voice controls, 2021 was the year for annoying auto tech, by Hannah Elliott and Bloomberg
The third largest cryptocurrency gained 1300% in 2021, outperforming market leaders Bitcoin and Ether, by Akayla Gardner and Bloomberg
Apple is doling out bonuses up to $180,000 to retain top employees, by Mark Gurman and Bloomberg
BEFORE YOU GO
For the bath-lover who has everything. This week’s CES 2022 tech extravaganza will look different—parts of it have gone online-only, and several big names are skipping it—but that isn’t stopping companies from unveiling ridiculous, expensive, mostly-unnecessary-but-kinda-cool futuristic products. Case in point: Kohler is debuting its PerfectFill technology, which will draw the perfect amount and temperature of water for your bath, The Verge reported. You’ll have to spend $2,700, plus the cost of a spout, compatible bathtub, and professional installation. But can you really put a price tag on comfort? CES officially kicks off Wednesday. Enjoy the show.
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