10 Most Surprising Tech News Stories of 2016

  • 10 Most Surprising Tech News Stories of 2016

    Tech News Word Cloud
    Big mergers, big hacks and big product recalls dominated the tech industry headlines last year.
  • 10. IoT Hacking Leads to Major Website Outages

    Dyn logo

    Security experts have long been issuing warnings about vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, so perhaps this story shouldn't have been a surprise. Still, many were shocked in mid-October when a botnet powered by IoT devices took down many popular websites, including Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix. The attackers launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against Dyn, a little-known but crucial provider of Internet infrastructure services. Their weapon of choice was the Mirai botnet software, used to compromise IoT devices like DVRs, CCTV systems and routers to mount the attack.

    Dyn has since been purchased by Oracle.

  • 9. Pokémon Go Breaks Download Records

    Pokemon Go Logo

    Many smartphone owners got their first taste of augmented reality (AR) last July when the game Pokémon Go debuted in the App Store and Google Play. In its first week, 30 million users downloaded the game, setting a new record. It also brought in a tremendous amount of money — an estimated $35 million in its first two weeks alone. And while the initial craze has died down, the smash hit continues to rack up plenty of daily user sessions and plenty of revenue.

    Recently, a new game called Super Mario Run broke the download records set by Pokémon Go, but this new app's reviews and ratings haven't been nearly as high.

  • 8. Google Launches Pixel and Pixel XL

    Pixel XL photo

    It wasn't astonishing that Google launched a hardware product – after all, it had been selling its Nexus line of smartphones and tablets for years. However, many were surprised that the company abandoned the Nexus brand name when Google launched the Pixel and Pixel XL. Many were also pleasantly surprised by how good the "Made by Google" devices were, with many reviewers pronouncing them even better than Samsung's flagship line of Galaxy smartphones. Their superb cameras and deep integration with Google Assistant quickly won the Pixel and Pixel XL many fans. Analysts believe Google will sell between 3 and 4 million of the devices in 2016.

    Image Source: Google

  • 7. Samsung Recalls Replacement Galaxy Note 7s

    Samsung Galaxy Note 7 photo

    In the summer, reports began to surface about Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones catching fire. On Sept. 15, the company began a recall for the 2.5 million devices equipped with batteries that had the potential to overheat or explode, and it offered replacement devices in exchange. Things seemed to be progressing in a fairly orderly manner when in October, Samsung recalled the replacement devices as well. Even the supposedly "safe" versions posed a safety risk, and the company began exchanging them for different models of smartphones. So far, 93 percent of the faulty devices have been turned back in, but Samsung's brand image has been tarnished by the incident.

    Image Source: Samsung

  • 6. Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

    Microsoft and LinkedIn logos

    In June, Microsoft shocked many observers by announcing that it planned to buy the social network LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in cash. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “This deal is all about bringing together the professional cloud and professional network.” However, many analysts questioned the acquisition, which was Microsoft's biggest purchase ever. The deal closed in early December, and Microsoft has already begun integrating many of its software products, including Outlook, Office and Skype, with LinkedIn.

    In acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft reportedly outbid Salesforce, which was also interested in owning the professional social network.

  • 5. Verizon Buys Yahoo

    Verizon and Yahoo logos

    Another big and somewhat unexpected merger of 2016 was Verizon's decision to purchase most of Yahoo's Web properties. Yahoo had been looking for a buyer for some time, and Verizon announced that it would pay $4.83 billion in cash for Yahoo's core assets. Those core assets do not include Yahoo Japan, the company's stake in Alibaba or its sizable patent portfolio.

    However, this deal hasn't closed yet. Many wonder if Yahoo's recently disclosed security incidents will cause Verizon to re-negotiate or call off the planned acquisition altogether.

  • 4. Yahoo Hack Affects 1 Billion Users

    Yahoo website screenshot with security notice

    In September Yahoo announced that hackers had breached its networks in 2014, stealing data belonging to 500 million accounts. That news was bad enough, but in December, it got even worse. At that time, Yahoo admitted that hackers had stolen data related to more than 1 billion accounts back in 2013. This was easily the biggest hack in history, and the number of people affected was staggering. Making matters worse was the fact that Yahoo didn't discover the breach itself but was notified of the incident by law enforcement and a third-party company.

    Yahoo is requiring all users to reset their passwords and update their security questions.

  • 3. Russia Hacks the U.S. Election

    Satellite image of Russia

    Yahoo's hack wasn't the only big security news of the year. On Oct. 7, the U.S. government accused Russia of masterminding several hacks in an attempt to influence the presidential election. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security and the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian hackers compromised systems at the Democratic National Committee and leaked documents they found on those servers. "The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations," the agencies said. "These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process."

    President-elect Donald Trump has said that he does not believe the report, calling it "ridiculous."

  • 2. Apple Revenues Decline for the First Time in 13 Years

    Apple logo

    Ever since 2003, Apple had been a money-making machine, churning out a series of increasingly profitable quarters. But in the second quarter of 2016, that streak came to an end when Apple announced its first sales decline in thirteen years. It reported revenues of $50.6 billion, 13 percent less than in the same quarter in 2015. And its net income also dropped, falling from $13.6 billion to $10.5 billion. Much of the decline was attributed to lagging sales of iPhones and iPads, and Mac sales also decreased.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook attempted to shine a rosy light on the report, stating, "Our team executed extremely well in the face of strong macroeconomic headwinds. We are very happy with the continued strong growth in revenue from Services, thanks to the incredible strength of the Apple ecosystem and our growing base of over one billion active devices."

  • 1. Microsoft Joins the Linux Foundation

    The Linux Foundation logo

    The biggest tech news surprise of the year had to be when Microsoft announced that it had joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member. To be fair, Microsoft has been warming up to the open source community in recent years, but the very idea that the company would be involved with an open source operating system was once all but unthinkable. In fact, former CEO Steve Ballmer even called Linux "a cancer."

    Still, times change, and under its new CEO, Satya Nadella, Microsoft has open sourced thousands of lines of code.

    About Microsoft's announcement, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said, "This is a good day. There was a time when the software industry in general was defined by rivalry and a zero-sum game mentality. The biggest thing that open source and Linux has proven over the last 25 years is that sharing works, and you can better yourself and others at the same time."

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10 Most Surprising Tech News Stories of 2016

  • 1 of
  • Tech News Word Cloud

    10 Most Surprising Tech News Stories of 2016

    Big mergers, big hacks and big product recalls dominated the tech industry headlines last year.
  • Dyn logo

    10. IoT Hacking Leads to Major Website Outages

    Security experts have long been issuing warnings about vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, so perhaps this story shouldn't have been a surprise. Still, many were shocked in mid-October when a botnet powered by IoT devices took down many popular websites, including Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix. The attackers launched a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against Dyn, a little-known but crucial provider of Internet infrastructure services. Their weapon of choice was the Mirai botnet software, used to compromise IoT devices like DVRs, CCTV systems and routers to mount the attack.

    Dyn has since been purchased by Oracle.

  • Pokemon Go Logo

    9. Pokémon Go Breaks Download Records

    Many smartphone owners got their first taste of augmented reality (AR) last July when the game Pokémon Go debuted in the App Store and Google Play. In its first week, 30 million users downloaded the game, setting a new record. It also brought in a tremendous amount of money — an estimated $35 million in its first two weeks alone. And while the initial craze has died down, the smash hit continues to rack up plenty of daily user sessions and plenty of revenue.

    Recently, a new game called Super Mario Run broke the download records set by Pokémon Go, but this new app's reviews and ratings haven't been nearly as high.

  • Pixel XL photo

    8. Google Launches Pixel and Pixel XL

    It wasn't astonishing that Google launched a hardware product – after all, it had been selling its Nexus line of smartphones and tablets for years. However, many were surprised that the company abandoned the Nexus brand name when Google launched the Pixel and Pixel XL. Many were also pleasantly surprised by how good the "Made by Google" devices were, with many reviewers pronouncing them even better than Samsung's flagship line of Galaxy smartphones. Their superb cameras and deep integration with Google Assistant quickly won the Pixel and Pixel XL many fans. Analysts believe Google will sell between 3 and 4 million of the devices in 2016.

    Image Source: Google

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7 photo

    7. Samsung Recalls Replacement Galaxy Note 7s

    In the summer, reports began to surface about Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones catching fire. On Sept. 15, the company began a recall for the 2.5 million devices equipped with batteries that had the potential to overheat or explode, and it offered replacement devices in exchange. Things seemed to be progressing in a fairly orderly manner when in October, Samsung recalled the replacement devices as well. Even the supposedly "safe" versions posed a safety risk, and the company began exchanging them for different models of smartphones. So far, 93 percent of the faulty devices have been turned back in, but Samsung's brand image has been tarnished by the incident.

    Image Source: Samsung

  • Microsoft and LinkedIn logos

    6. Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

    In June, Microsoft shocked many observers by announcing that it planned to buy the social network LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in cash. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “This deal is all about bringing together the professional cloud and professional network.” However, many analysts questioned the acquisition, which was Microsoft's biggest purchase ever. The deal closed in early December, and Microsoft has already begun integrating many of its software products, including Outlook, Office and Skype, with LinkedIn.

    In acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft reportedly outbid Salesforce, which was also interested in owning the professional social network.

  • Verizon and Yahoo logos

    5. Verizon Buys Yahoo

    Another big and somewhat unexpected merger of 2016 was Verizon's decision to purchase most of Yahoo's Web properties. Yahoo had been looking for a buyer for some time, and Verizon announced that it would pay $4.83 billion in cash for Yahoo's core assets. Those core assets do not include Yahoo Japan, the company's stake in Alibaba or its sizable patent portfolio.

    However, this deal hasn't closed yet. Many wonder if Yahoo's recently disclosed security incidents will cause Verizon to re-negotiate or call off the planned acquisition altogether.

  • Yahoo website screenshot with security notice

    4. Yahoo Hack Affects 1 Billion Users

    In September Yahoo announced that hackers had breached its networks in 2014, stealing data belonging to 500 million accounts. That news was bad enough, but in December, it got even worse. At that time, Yahoo admitted that hackers had stolen data related to more than 1 billion accounts back in 2013. This was easily the biggest hack in history, and the number of people affected was staggering. Making matters worse was the fact that Yahoo didn't discover the breach itself but was notified of the incident by law enforcement and a third-party company.

    Yahoo is requiring all users to reset their passwords and update their security questions.

  • Satellite image of Russia

    3. Russia Hacks the U.S. Election

    Yahoo's hack wasn't the only big security news of the year. On Oct. 7, the U.S. government accused Russia of masterminding several hacks in an attempt to influence the presidential election. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security and the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russian hackers compromised systems at the Democratic National Committee and leaked documents they found on those servers. "The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations," the agencies said. "These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process."

    President-elect Donald Trump has said that he does not believe the report, calling it "ridiculous."

  • Apple logo

    2. Apple Revenues Decline for the First Time in 13 Years

    Ever since 2003, Apple had been a money-making machine, churning out a series of increasingly profitable quarters. But in the second quarter of 2016, that streak came to an end when Apple announced its first sales decline in thirteen years. It reported revenues of $50.6 billion, 13 percent less than in the same quarter in 2015. And its net income also dropped, falling from $13.6 billion to $10.5 billion. Much of the decline was attributed to lagging sales of iPhones and iPads, and Mac sales also decreased.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook attempted to shine a rosy light on the report, stating, "Our team executed extremely well in the face of strong macroeconomic headwinds. We are very happy with the continued strong growth in revenue from Services, thanks to the incredible strength of the Apple ecosystem and our growing base of over one billion active devices."

  • The Linux Foundation logo

    1. Microsoft Joins the Linux Foundation

    The biggest tech news surprise of the year had to be when Microsoft announced that it had joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member. To be fair, Microsoft has been warming up to the open source community in recent years, but the very idea that the company would be involved with an open source operating system was once all but unthinkable. In fact, former CEO Steve Ballmer even called Linux "a cancer."

    Still, times change, and under its new CEO, Satya Nadella, Microsoft has open sourced thousands of lines of code.

    About Microsoft's announcement, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said, "This is a good day. There was a time when the software industry in general was defined by rivalry and a zero-sum game mentality. The biggest thing that open source and Linux has proven over the last 25 years is that sharing works, and you can better yourself and others at the same time."

2016 has been a year of surprises. From the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series to the election of Donald Trump, events that once seemed impossible somehow happened anyway.

That same trend held true in the technology industry as well. Throughout the year, quite a few events took analysts, experts and consumers by surprise. Several tech giants were involved in major mergers or acquisitions, and some of these same companies were involved in security incidents with a scope and scale that has never been seen before. One of the biggest mobile companies in the world was forced to recall millions of devices, while another suffered its first sales decline in more than a decade. And several stories involved broken records and shattered expectations.

This slideshow highlights ten of the biggest and most surprising technology news stories from 2016. See how many of these you remember and start making your predictions now for what will be the most surprising stories of 2017.