May 2018 Tech News & Trends
While schools let out for the summer and the weather starts to get hotter, the tech world keeps moving. As usual, this month brings its share of tech company scandals, updates to common tech products, and tech news stories.
To help busy business people like you stay on top of it all, here’s our roundup of tech trends to pay attention to this month.
Zuckerberg Testifies as Facebook Continues to Profit
Facebook was frequently in the news last month – and mostly not in a good way. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mark Zuckerberg faced hours of questioning in front of Congress about the role the social media platform plays in society and politics. The company potentially faces significant fines and the scandal may be the beginning of government regulations for social media companies.
Sprint and T-Mobile Looking to Merge
The phone world finished out April with a bang with the news that two of the country’s biggest phone providers will be merging. Sprint and T-Mobile hope that by joining together, they’ll be able to more effectively compete with the two biggest players in the U.S. cell phone carrier space, Verizon and AT&T. And notably, they also hope that the merger will enable them to make the investment in 5G technology that’s required for the U.S. to stay competitive with China.
The companies have announced their intention to join forces, but they still face a considerable hurdle: government approval. If the government determines that the combination of the two companies means they take on too much of the market share, then the merger will be shot down in violation of antitrust laws. The companies seem to be banking on the business friendly politics of the current administration in choosing to attempt the merger at this time, but many experts are still skeptical the merger will happen.
Europe’s GDPR Deadline Has Companies Scrambling
Businesses around the world are struggling to make the changes that are required for them to be in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed by the European Union. The regulation officially takes effect on May 25, meaning the deadline for businesses looms large going into the month.
The GDPR places restrictions on what businesses can do with the user data they collect and how much data they’re allowed to collect to begin with. It also requires companies to disclose security breaches immediately.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the increasingly common data breaches we all hear about, this change may bring some peace of mind to European citizens. But the costs to businesses to comply with the new regulations is estimated to be up to $1 million per business. And the GDPR doesn’t apply to anyone outside of the E.U., so anyone in the U.S. concerned about data privacy can’t count on seeing any real change.
Gmail Makes Significant Updates
Gmail has just launched a significant update that could change the way you check your email. The new version of Gmail has a cleaner look, along with a number of new features. It puts your main organizational options on the same line as the email subject in your inbox, so it’s faster and more intuitive to move it where you want it to go. It gives a “Snooze” option and provides reminders about old emails that have been sitting in your inbox for a while, so you don’t forget to reply to them. Accessing attachments in a threaded email is easier. And you can choose to view your info from Google’s Calendar, Keep, and Tasks apps alongside your inbox.
For people who spend a lot of time dealing with email each day (which is probably true of most of you reading this), these changes can make a big difference to your efficiency and effectiveness.
Uber’s Private Arbitration Rule Under Fire
Uber’s been in the news before due to allegations of a culture of sexual harassment for employees. This issue adds further fuel to feminist criticisms of the company.
Zuora Launches, Sonos Files, and Tencent Considers IPO
We are in the midst of a huge few weeks in tech IPOs. In mid-April, Zuora, a company that provides a billing system for SaaS companies, went public and was an immediate success, jumping from $14 at launch to $20 at closing.
Following close on their heals, the smart speaker company, Sonos, has quietly filed paperwork to go public as soon as this coming June.
And inspired by Spotify’s successful IPO, China’s largest music streaming service, Tencent, is also eyeing a public offering – one that experts expect to be one of the biggest IPOs of the year.
This year has already been big for tech on the stock market, but the news this month suggests we’re just getting started.
Amazon’s Massive Profits Continue
In unsurprising news. Amazon had a great first quarter, with over $1 billion in profits. And with a $20 increase in the cost of Amazon Prime, they look poised to keep making even more.
That is, if the government doesn’t make changes that hurt the company’s profitability. Some recent Tweets from the president suggest he’s not a fan of the company and, in particular, the deals they receive from the United States Postal Service. Whether or not his opinion will lead to actions that influence Amazon’s bottom line is hard to predict at this point.
I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy. Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
Snap Spectacles Get an Upgrade
After a harsh couple of months, Snap finally has something positive for us to report on. They just released version two of the Snap Spectacles camera glasses and so far the response is positive.
The Spectacles can take photo and video, work underwater, and actually look good. They appear to offer the stylish looks and convenience that earlier models of AR glasses (like Google Glass) couldn’t manage. The Spectacles have already gone on sale for $150. Reviewers seem to like them, we’ll know soon enough if consumers agree.
Alexa Getting Smarter
Amazon’s smart assistant is set to gain some new features in the next few weeks. Amazon has announced that Alexa will soon be able to remember any information you tell her to, answer follow up questions using the information you provided in the first question, and pull out Amazon Skills in response to specific questions without you having to load them to the system first.
These features will make Alexa that much more useful to people and may give the product more of an edge in the smart assistant space.
Here’s to May
As you can see, the tech world is in the midst of a busy month. We can only guess at how much more is to come in the next few weeks. Check back here next month for an update on the tech trends to be aware of going into June.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.