FORTUNE -- No man is an island, the famous John Donne poem reads. It's especially appropriate for tech, where one new startup, app, or slab of hardware can bring about meaningful change in society.
As another year winds down for this dynamic industry, we look ahead. What do we think will be the major topics taking up the technology world's attention next year?
San Francisco's culture war gets worse before it gets better. What once seemed like a booming testament to the American Dream is generating scorn from city residents irked about the growing economic divide. Some are so bothered, they've organized small protests, including one that resulted in the vandalism of a Google (GOOG) bus in Oakland, Calif. two weeks ago. Expect the tension to mount in the coming months as more non-tech workers feel the effects of higher rents and a fiercely competitive job market. "I think the end result will be actual political engagement between the groups," Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis told me earlier this month. "It may not be what the inflammatory people want, but I think it's going to happen."
Wearables take off. (Yes, really.) 2013 was a year of baseless hype for wearable computer devices like Google Glass -- a market worth as much as $6 billion by 2016, calculates U.K. firm IMS Research. But in truth, wearables remained scarce this year, and those up for grabs, like Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch remain too limited features-wise to be anything but niche conversation starters. As for Glass? "The delta between expectations that have been created and the actual reality shows they have a lot more work to do," Box CEO Aaron Levie told Fortune earlier this month. (The consumer version of Glass isn't even out yet.) A more polished Glass is expected to hit next year between $250 and $600. When it does, expect competitors to quickly follow.
More startups take the public route. Twitter's successful public offering -- at $63, it's priced 42% higher than its initial price -- will spur some companies to make good on their IPO ambitions. The recent debuts of Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) have paved the way for other startups to dive into the public markets. Square, Jack Dorsey's other company, may be one of them. The credit-card processing startup reportedly expects $1 billion in revenues next year. Others, including file-syncing competitors Box and Dropbox, may do the same.
Same-day shipping gets real. Delivery by Amazon drone is at least three or four years away, if it ever comes at all. But as businesses like Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY) swell their distribution ranks and trim delivery times, same-day will become standard for millions more instant gratification-loving shoppers. Never mind that same-day shipping still has its skeptics -- companies aren't charging consumers the full cost, Forrester research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru explained in November -- the race is now partly like a contest for bragging rights. In the eyes of the customer, whoever can get to your door quickest sends a powerful retail message, even if they don't opt for it much.
Electric vehicles inch closer to mainstream. Sales of battery-electric and plug-in cars could number under 100,000 for 2013, but that's roughly twice 2012 sales, says the Electric Drive Transportation Association. Thank Tesla (TSLA), the avant-garde carmaker from Elon Musk for changing their image with top-notch design and sports car performance. The company projects it will sell 20,000 of its $70,000-plus Model S sedan this year -- the most of any electric car. Also entering the mix next year: Tesla's Model X SUV, with 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 4.4 seconds and BMW's cheaper, puckish-looking i3.
The election makes the Twitter inventor and Square CEO a board member effective immediately.
FORTUNE -- Jack Dorsey's schedule just got even busier. Effective immediately, the Square CEO and Twitter (TWTR) co-founder is joining The Walt Disney Company's (DIS) board of directors.
"Jack Dorsey is a talented entrepreneur who has helped create groundbreaking new businesses in the social media and commerce spaces," said Robert A. Iger, Disney's chairman and chief executive officer, in MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 23, 2013 4:17 PM ET
Exclusive: The founder and CEO makes an uncommon move to expand the company's pool of shares for compensation and acquisitions.
FORTUNE -- Jack Dorsey, the founder and CEO of Square, has voluntarily given 10% of his shares in the company back to Square. The highly unusual move will expand significantly the pool of shares available for employee compensation and acquisitions while minimizing dilution for shareholders.
Dorsey owns approximately 30% of Square and MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - Dec 20, 2013 4:59 AM ET
The company is taking a low-key approach to its public offering, according to sources.
FORTUNE -- Twitter (TWTR) may be a publicly traded company as of this Thursday, but for the company's 2,300 employees, it'll be largely business as usual.
"I don't think you will find any Twitter IPO parties in San Francisco," says one investor. "It's just not that kind of culture."
On Wednesday, Twitter raised $1.82 billion, pricing 70 million shares at $26 MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 7, 2013 8:24 AM ET
Square CEO Jack Dorsey spoke to Fortune exclusively about his company's new hardware, Stand, a $299 countertop point of sale system.
FORTUNE -- On Tuesday, fast growing mobile payments startup Square introduced Stand, a hardware device that cradles an iPad, turning it into a countertop point of sale system. Square CEO Jack Dorsey and Jesse Dorogusker, a former Apple (AAPL) exec who led the development of Stand, spoke with Fortune on Monday MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - May 14, 2013 11:45 AM ET
The fast-growing payments startup is making an aggressive play for larger retailers.
FORTUNE -- Early last year, Square, Jack Dorsey's fast-growing mobile payments startup, made an unusual hire: Jesse Dorogusker, an Apple hardware executive who was responsible for docking stations, headphones, and other peripherals, joined as vice president of hardware. The move foreshadowed a foray into gadgets by Square, which is best known for its white plastic credit card reader for iOS MOREMiguel Helft, senior writer - May 14, 2013 11:23 AM ET
The social network might launch a music service this weekend and seek TV content deals with Viacom and others. What's the endgame?
FORTUNE -- Can a social network once entirely conceived around 140-character real-time updates transform itself into a multimedia hub? Twitter seems intent on trying.
Bloomberg reported this week that Twitter is in final negotiations with networks like Viacom (VIAB) and Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal that could let the social network distribute MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 17, 2013 3:02 PM ET
Also: how startups are tracking you to build a cyber reputation; how living room PCs will take on video game consoles.
Google's lost social network [BUZZ FEED]
The difficulty was that Reader users, while hyperengaged with the product, never snowballed into the tens or hundreds of millions. Brian Shih became the product manager for Reader in the fall of 2008. "If Reader were its own startup, it's the kind of company that Google MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 10, 2012 5:30 AM ET
The latest dust-up between Instagram and Twitter will have lasting consequences.
FORTUNE – If your Instagram photos look wonky on Twitter, remember that's not by accident. It's by design.
Earlier this week, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced onstage at Europe's tech conference Le Web that the popular photo-sharing start-up was killing support for "Twitter cards." As Twitter explained in a post, this basically means when users click Tweets with an Instagram link, photos MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 6, 2012 11:11 AM ET
Also: Pandora CEO argues some artists are making millions; Box hits 14 million-plus users.
Art.sy is mapping the world of art on the Web [THE NEW YORK TIMES]
For the Art Genome Project, Matthew Israel, 34, who holds a Ph.D. in art and archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, leads a team of a dozen art historians who decide what those codes are and how they should MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 10, 2012 5:30 AM ET
|Why casino workers hate Obamacare|
|4.2 million have signed up for Obamacare as open enrollment nears close.|
|Five predictions for the World Wide Web that were way, way, way off|
|Tesla lashes out at Chris Christie|
|Netflix faster on Comcast, following deal|