Year in review: The tech world's 2014 winners & losers

We take a look back over the past year in tech to find out who's had a stinker and who's had a stormer

Life's never dull in the technology space, with company takeovers, new product launches, senior management changes and security breaches occurring on - what feels like - a near daily basis.

The past 12 months has seen plenty of these scenarios play out in the IT industry, with devastating consequences for some and positive outcomes for others.

With this in mind, we run through who we think the tech industry's winners and losers have been in 2014.

LOSERS

Wearable technology 2014 look set to be the year where vendors stopped talking up wearable technology products, and actually started releasing some, but it didn't quite pan out that way.

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While Apple and Google both unveiled their first forays into this area (in the form of the Apple Watch and Google Glass respectively), both products are earmarked for unspecified general release dates in 2015, but precise details are scarce right now.

High cost and ugly designs have repeatedly been cited this year as reasons why the wearable tech trend hasn't quite set the world alight, but there's always 2015, right?

Sony Pictures The hacking community had a bumper year in 2014 by managing to take down high-profile targets including online auction site eBay and US retailer Target, to name but a few.

However, the largest, most wide-ranging and - potentially - the most damaging was the one involving Sony Pictures in November.Members of the self-styled Guardians of Peace hacking collective breached the firm's computer network, stole company documents and emails by the hundreds and then proceeded to dump them on torrent sites.

As a result, Joe Public now knows how little Sony's executives care for Angelina Jolie, what name Jessica Alba uses to check into hotels with and Sylvester Stallone's social security number.

North Korea has been cited as the source of the attack, after the hackers made repeated references to Sony Pictures' forthcoming comedy film The Interview, the story of which centres on a fictional assassination plot involving North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un.

The hack took an even more sinister turn earlier this month, with the perpetrators threatening "9/11-style" attacks on cinemas that showed the film, prompting Sony to pull its release altogether.

Satya Nadella 2014 started off very well for long-time Microsoft staffer Nadella, with the software giant naming him as CEO Steve Ballmer's successor in early February.

The appointment was warmly welcomed by industry watchers, who'd been calling out for someone new to steady the Microsoft ship in the wake of the twin flops of Windows 8 and the first generation Surface tablet.

However, the mild-mannered CEO caused widespread fury in October by suggesting women who didn't ask their bosses for a pay rises would receive "good karma" and be looked on more favourably over time.

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He apologised for the comments shortly after in a lengthy blog post, before urging anyone who wants a pay rise to ask for one.

Phones4uThe high street stalwart was forced to call it quits this year after Vodafone and EE pulled the rug out from under it by deciding not to renew their respective supplier contracts with the firm.

When faced with the prospect of having fewer devices and phone contracts to sell to customers, the company called in administrators PwC and told its 5,000-plus staff to remain at home until a solution was found.

Sadly, that solution was to sell off some of its shops to EE and Vodafone, make mass redundancies and auction off the remainder of its stock online.

The demise of the mobile phone retailer came as a surprise to many, given that its private equity owners had mooted the idea of floating the company on the London Stock Exchange at the start of the year.

Kim Dotcom Internet impresario Kim Dotcom has had a turbulent couple of years since the closure of his Megaupload file-sharing site in 2012 and subsequent arrest for alleged online copyright offences.

Even so, the larger-than-life character managed to bounce back to launch a new cloud storage venture in 2013 and embark on a move into politics in early 2014 with The Internet Party.

Sadly, despite investing more than US $2.9 million into the party, it failed to secure a single seat in the New Zealand general election, and in November Dotcom declared himself broke, citing mounting legal costs.

HP While its five-year turnaround plan continues apace, the tech giant has faced some tough decisions this year to safeguard the company's future, resulting in widespread job cuts.

In October,HP announced plans to hive-off its PC and printing business from its wider enteprise hardware and services arm at a cost of another 5,000 jobs.

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The move came as a surprise to many, given the backlash it suffered several years ago when former CEO Leo Apotheker proposed a similar move.

Uber While the number of people downloading the Uber taxi finder app has sky-rocketed this year, the company, its senior management and its operating methods have all come under fire.

Thousands of black cab drivers took part in an hour-long protest against Uber's method of working out the cost of fares that saw central London brought to a standstill in June.

The company has also garnered complaints about the way it treats journalists, after one of its executives suggested hiring a team of researchers to "dig up dirt" about those who write bad stories about the firm.

And, if all that wasn't bad enough, Uber faced a monumental backlash in December after its surge pricing system, whereby the cost of fares grows in line with demand, kicked in during the Sydney hostage crisis. This meant people using its service to escape the scene were charged around four times the normal fare.

Samsung After wowing smartphone buyers with its flagship Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 handsets in 2012 and 2013, respectively, the South Korean tech giant was widely expected to replicate the sales figures notched up by these devices with the S5.

Despite a striking re-design, the introduction of biometric security, a heartrate monitor, and a wealth of other bells and whistles that garnered favourable reviews, sales of the S5 fell short of analyst expectations.

Just to round off a bad year for the firm, December saw analyst house Gartner unveil its latest smartphone market tracker, which also revealed Samsung had lost 8 per cent of its global market share because of a fall in demand for its products in China.

iCloud Cloud security worrywarts were gifted a fairly credible reason to get uppity about the integrity of off-premise storage this year, after hackers managed to side-step Apple's iCloud log-in procedures and leak naked pictures of a host of female celebrities online.

The victims included US actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Gabrielle Union and R'n'B star Rihanna, and the fallout from it prompted Apple to issue assurances in September 2014 that it was tightening up security around its flagship cloud storage service.

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Turn the page for the winners of 2014.

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