Decade in tech: The greatest innovations and the biggest flops

As 2019 ends, Jason Cipriani and Jason Perlow review the past decade and the technology that has changed our lives.

In the latest episode of Jason Squared, ZDNet's Jason Cipriani and Jason Perlow talk about what they believe are the greatest innovations and biggest flops of the past decade. 

You can watch them talk above, or read through the video's transcript below.

A decade in review: Tech in the 2010s

Jason Cipriani: As 2019 comes to an end, it's time to reflect on the past decade at hand. And for us, Jason, it's kind of looking back at what technology products have really excelled and what have fallen flat. I'm Jason Cipriani with Jason Perlow. This is Jason Squared. Today, we're going to reminisce a little bit and kind of name our top picks and the bottom of the pile for the last decade. So I'll start with you, Jason. What do you think has absolutely won in the past decade and been the best tech innovation we've seen in the last 10 years?

Jason Perlow: I can't narrow it down to a specific product, but I'm going to have to say the cloud for me was the most important, most disruptive, technology for the past decade. Now, of course, we had data centers and things like that beforehand, but basically, every major product that we use today, in tech today, requires cloud to work.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: And everything going forward, 5G, requires cloud to work. All our mobile platforms require cloud to work. Every service we access-

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: Is hosted at a hyperscale or at a cloud data center. So whether we like it or not, it's here to stay, and it's going to drive business and consumer technology for years, and years, and years to come.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah. I think it's an interesting pick and definitely one that deserves to be up there, and honestly, when I was going through the list, it didn't even cross my mind, the cloud computing, cloud infrastructure, cloud storage. And when I look back on the last 10 years, I think the first time I heard cloud floated around was when Dropbox launched. All of a sudden there was this cloud storage, and then Apple jumped on with iCloud Drive and all that services that they provide.

Jason Cipriani: But you're right. It goes way beyond storage and way beyond daily interaction with files and folders. Twitter, all of their services are in the cloud. Amazon has made a killing off of their cloud services and everything that runs on that. And business-wise and consumer-wise it's vital. I mean the internet without the cloud doesn't exist the way we know it right now.

Jason Perlow: Absolutely not. No. Yeah, it's amazing how many small, medium, and enterprise businesses have moved from their own data centers into the cloud. I mean you take a look at Netflix. Their transformation was incredible as to how much stuff they had to move over to AWS. All the major services, all the ones that we know of, are all cloud-based.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: They're not running in private data centers at all.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah, it really is. That impact on the small and medium businesses and being able to set up virtual servers and propagate like that is tremendous. And I guess my top pick for the last 10 years kind of goes hand in hand with the cloud in some regard, and it's 4G LTE. I think without that added speed and connectivity that we have in our pockets with us at all times. It's miniaturized into our watches now. We have it in computers and tablets and that always-on, always connected. And everywhere we go, at least here in the U.S., it's not hard to find a 4G LTE signal. It really has changed not only the way we work but the way we live and the way things interact with each other. And looking forward, 5G is going to push that ahead, but we're still a few years away from that. But in the past decade, I don't remember what it was like living without always-on, fast internet in my pocket.

Jason Perlow: Yeah, Jason, I totally agree with that, and it's a critical technology that's going to continue to be with us for a very long time.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: Even when we get 5G. Because the two technologies very much go hand in hand with each other. Without LTE, we could not have possibly scaled to the tens of hundreds of millions, billions of wireless devices that we have today. Certainly, we had 3G. We had GSM technology in other products. Here we kind of diverge a little bit with the rest of the world with our LTE technology. It took us a while to sort of align with the rest of the planet.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: But the voice over IP technology would not have been possible. A lot of things would not have been possible without 4G LTE technology. And quite frankly, 5G, would not... That we're working on would also not be possible without 4G LTE technology. So that evolution that's occurring is critical for the future of mobile computing, and it was an important, very, very important, critical technology to introduce. I kind of wish though that we'd standardized it a little bit better with the rest of the world. I think that's kind of like what we're going to try to do with 5G.

Jason Cipriani: Hopefully.

Jason Perlow: But it was a little rough when we first started. I remember when Sprint was the first carrier to roll it out, and they got their... The EVOs were the first, for their first machines.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: And it took so long for AT&T and Verizon and T-Mobile to get their respective acts together with it.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: But when we finally did, it was beautiful. There's just so many things that came as a result of the rollout of that technology. 

Jason Cipriani: Well, I mean just look at the App Store and the apps we now rely on on a daily basis. Without 4G LTE, calling an Uber, or using Grubhub, or playing video games, all of that stuff wouldn't even be possible. And like I said, it goes hand in hand with cloud computing. All of that ties into the cloud, and it's just one big, giant, happy communication network. LTE, it was a catalyst for it in reality. Okay. So we have two top picks. Now let's get into the bottom picks. What failed and fell flat for you in the last 10 years?

Jason Perlow: So I had to think very long and hard about this one because there's a lot of things on the list that I just didn't like that I think completely failed. But the one that I think that has the most negative impact on all of us has been social networking.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah, that's a big one.

Jason Perlow: In terms of evaluating its positive versus net negatives, net negatives these days is definitely winning out over positive. And I have to say, both Twitter and Facebook have become... Just in terms about how it's disrupted our real-life social experiences or real-life social interactings with other people, the damage it has done has been so tremendous that I have to say I think we need to completely re-evaluate and redesign all these things to better facilitate actual human relationships than these fake relationships, and the dissemination of false news, and all these other things.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: That I think it just has ruined so many. I mean I can't tell you how many personal relationships of mine have been completely upended because of this technology in many ways.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah. And it's unfortunate. Honestly, looking back at the last 10 years, I almost had Twitter on top. If Twitter had launched in the last 10 years, it probably would have been second or third, maybe even first for my top 10 products. And strictly from a networking, professional standpoint, it has helped me land freelance contracts for the last 10 years all the time. And that's where all of my leads have come from. I haven't used LinkedIn. Facebook, not great for networking for me because I put a lot of family stuff on there, and I try to keep that as private as possible. But Twitter has been up there. Although in the last three years, it's really taken a turn, and it's mentally taxing to be on any-

Jason Perlow: I agree.

Jason Cipriani: Social network. And to the point where I may check in on Twitter for news because that's where news breaks usually, and it's part of our job. We have to stay on top of it. But as far as interacting with people on Twitter, I tend to shy away from that, and Facebook is even more so, and I agree.

Jason Perlow: Unless you put someone that's a colleague. Like I find myself talking with more other blue checks than I do normal people.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: And so you feel safe talking to another blue checkmark if you're a blue checkmark for the most part.

Jason Cipriani: Right, right.

Jason Perlow: You know? I've had some weird interactions with other blue checks. Sometimes I just cringe when I see stuff coming in from just out of random people. And the same thing can be said about Facebook although I haven't become a verified user on Facebook.

Jason Cipriani: No.

Jason Perlow: It seems to be very difficult to do that.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah, I haven't either.

Jason Perlow: Not to say that I don't have valuable experiences on Facebook and Twitter. I mean certainly on Facebook I am a member and run a couple of different groups for different things, support groups and stuff. I have a really big restaurant review group in Florida on Facebook which I enjoy. But the amount of sniping and nastiness and just... It becomes very emotionally taxing-

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: To be involved with these things.

Jason Cipriani: Mentally, it wears you down. At least it does me. There are days where I just have to sign-off, put my phone up, and just do something else. Which is a good thing, and I should do it more often without getting to that point, but social networking has taken a toll not just on individuals, but I think worldwide, and I definitely can see why it would be at the bottom of your list for the last decade. As for-

Jason Perlow: And what was your negative, Jason? What did you pick?

Jason Cipriani: Mine was Google Glass.

Jason Perlow: Yeah, that was a huge disappointment.

Jason Cipriani: Well, it wasn't a disappointment because the product failed, but because the idea of the product hasn't really come to fruition yet. Right? When Google started teasing Google Glass, they put out all these great concept videos and even Microsoft's HoloLens. Right? Although that's a big funky headset you're not going to wear around the house or out in public all day long. But the idea of this ambient computing, of having information pop in and out of your field of view at all times and not having to stare at a slab of glass and silicone in your hand at all times was something that I found incredibly appealing.

Jason Cipriani: So appealing, I paid the $1500 for Google Glass. My wife and I flew up to Venice, or LA, or wherever the Google Office was at 4:00 in the morning, picked up Google Glass at 11:00 in the morning, and flew home at 3:00 in the afternoon, just so I could be part of those glassholes that originally were trying to get Google Glass to take off.

Jason Perlow: I think if it didn't cost $1500, it would have been different. If it was $200, I think the technology may have succeeded. We might've seen multiple iterations of it.

Jason Cipriani: The price point killed it, but also the whole camera, and taking pictures of people, and the privacy implications, and how that blew up. You know that bar in Seattle.

Jason Perlow: Yeah.

Jason Cipriani: That started kicking people out and not allowing Google Glass. That really turned the conversation from all right ambient computing to these are spy devices, and there's no privacy, and blah, blah, blah.

Jason Perlow: Right.

Jason Cipriani: And so for me, it's not Google Glass specifically, but that's kind of the product that embodies everything about that vision. Fell flat, and it was extremely disappointing. And I wish we could take that to the next level, and I guess that extends to AR in its own right as well. You know AR and VR really haven't taken off either. What do you think? Google Glass. Good, bad.

Jason Perlow: You know what? I think there's definitely vertical market applications for-

Jason Cipriani: Sure.

Jason Perlow: AR and VR. Certainly, HoloLens has succeeded in high-end vertical markets, in the aerospace industry, and things like that. They have not pushed it out as a consumer product at all.

Jason Cipriani: Because it's not ready.

Jason Perlow: It's crazy expensive. It has to be tethered to a PC. Except actually the new one doesn't have to-

Jason Cipriani: Right.

Jason Perlow: Because it is technically a PC. But it still is not something you can just kind of run around with because it eats up so much energy, and it needs a very fast Wi-Fi network to function. I mean and certainly when you've seen some of the things with telesurgery and some of the other things that they're able to do in the aerospace, and medical industries, and scientific industries, all those things are cool.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: I have not yet found a good application for it in the consumer space or in the regular business space at all.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah, it doesn't exist. There's gaming. I mean and that's always the big sales pitch. Right? Gaming. Like, no, give us useful.

Jason Perlow: But look what happened with like Pokemon. Right?

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: People went crazy over it for like a couple of months and then-

Jason Cipriani: Right.

Jason Perlow: You know?

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: And you get every single time both Android and iOS had these little things where you can put little characters on the screen with your selfies. I don't even use that functionality.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: And I know it's there. I never use it.

Jason Cipriani: AR Stickers, I think is what Google calls them.

Jason Perlow: Yeah.

Jason Cipriani: And, yeah, they're a gimmick. So anything that fell in the middle-of-the-road here for you? A product.

Jason Perlow: Yeah. So to me, it was the Internet of things.

Jason Cipriani: Oh, okay.

Jason Perlow: It had a huge amount of promise in the beginning and certainly Nest. There was a huge, huge uptake on Nest in the beginning.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah. It was huge. When it launched, it was the biggest news in all of tech.

Jason Perlow: I was the first one to buy one. And then suddenly I started adding all these other things to my house. I had to start adding smart plugs.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: And smart switches, smart fans. I have a smart jacuzzi controller for my hot tub outside. Don't laugh. I actually use it more than anything else. When I get up, I'm an hour away from the house, and I want my hot tub to heat up, I turn that on. And of course, we have the Rings at the front door.

Jason Cipriani: Sure.

Jason Perlow: And all these different devices which are internet-connected by different apps and such. But what ended up happening was is they became all different, controlled by different apps. Google ended up kind of messing up its entire strategy by the way it... I guess Nest was not allowed to continue as its own thing.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason Perlow: They wanted to absorb it into their own cloud infrastructure, and now everything's broken. And all these products end up getting abandoned. You know a whole bunch of people buy a bunch of these hub things for $500, $600, and then they abandon them, and then everything stops working around them.

Jason Cipriani: Yeah.

Jason PerlowAnd you have to replace all your junk.

Jason CiprianiIt's too broken.

Jason PerlowIt doesn't work.

Jason CiprianiOur home Smart IoT as a whole is too broken, too fragmented, and it's a hassle. I 100% agree. There are features and aspects of it I love. Nest is one of those. The Nest thermostats, we have two of them, one in my office, one in the house, use them all the time. We have a Nest doorbell. Love that. We actually just switched from Ring, and I think it's a huge leap in improvement over Ring's product lineup.

Jason CiprianiBut at the same time, for the last two months, I've been tearing hubs, and cameras, and sensors, and all that out of my house because it got to be too much. It's just too much going on. You go to one app to control this. You go to another app to control that. And whether or not SmartThings from Samsung or Apple's HomeKit has tried to consolidate that, no one has really seen that vision come together.

Jason PerlowAnd half the time, I just find myself screaming at Alexa to repeat myself like an old man. I'm like-

 Jason CiprianiHopefully that new, aggressive detection feature that they're rolling out will help alleviate that-

Jason PerlowRight.

Jason CiprianiYeah. There's pluses and minuses there. Yeah, I agree. It's a middle-of-the-road category to put on the list, and I think that's a pretty good list. There's a lot more we could have covered. But the last 10 years a lot happened and consolidating it down, I think what we picked kind of nails the broad aspect of it all. But that brings up another question. What do our viewers think? Go ahead and leave a comment below with what you think is the best product in the last 10 years, and then what is the biggest fail in the last 10 years. It'd be interesting to read through those and see what you guys think. 

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