2016 technology round-up

A look back at the biggest news in the IT industry over the past year

Tags: Cloud computing
  • E-Mail 2016 technology round-up's delves into some of the biggest regional and global IT stories from the year, covering all the doom and gloom. (Shutterstock)
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  December 29, 2016

It's been a year of ups and downs for the tech industry, with augmented reality and virtual reality making its way to the forefront of technologies to watch and major acquisitions from top tech players to exploding smartphones and cybercriminals showing no signs of slowing down.

The year also saw driverless cars come into action, the growing popularity of artificial intelligence, Apple's run in with the FBI, Yahoo suffering from the biggest hack record and the launch of countless number of gadgets.

From a regional perspective, 2016 became the year for the start-up scene, Dubai's continued efforts to become the happiest city in the world though digital transformation and evolving into a smart city, as well as hosting the region's largest technology event, GITEX Technology Week.'s delves into some of the biggest regional and global IT stories from the year, covering all the doom and gloom.

January 2016:

The New Year began with less of a bang as WhatsApp users faced issues as the service was down for a number of hours on New Year's Eve. The outage has begun at around 8.30pm Gulf Standard Time on New Year's Eve, with users across the globe complaining that they had lost access to the Facebook-owned service. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he would spend the year working on an artificial intelligence (AI) system designed to help him manage his home and work. Zuckerberg completed his AI project in December, unveiling the first version of his own "Iron Man"-inspired Jarvis, which he spent 100 hours building.

2016 also kicked off with the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Angeles, unveiling Lenovo ThinkCentre X1, Samsung Creative Lab projects, LG Roll-able 18-inch OLED Display and LG SmartThinQ, as well as other gadgets.

TP-Link entered the mobile market in 2016, not only paving its way into the mobile market but also allowing it to expand the scope of business. Other smartphone vendors launched new product lines, including Huawei, Apple and BlackBerry.

Furthermore, research stated that the Middle East was ideally positioned to take advantage of the era of digital transformation. With the eruption of the digital transformation era, cyber-security came out hand-in-hand with experts urging organisations and individuals to become better prepared for the year ahead.

February 2016:

February saw a number of appointments being made; VMware appointed of Jean-Phillipe Barleaza as vice president, Channel and Alliances and General Business in EMEA. Virgin Mobile hired Fouad Halawi as its new CEO to lead the company into its next phase of development in Saudi Arabia. Plus, Ericsson appointed three new heads of Customer Units in the Middle East and East Africa to further strengthen market position and accelerate transformation and growth.

President Barack Obama praised the UAE's commitment to government innovation, also the government decided to outsource most services to the private sector will provide a boost to regional and multinational service providers.

Cloud continued to strengthen in the region, with Qualys and Ixtel partnering to deliver cloud IT security, Avaya took aim at the midmarket with hybrid cloud solutions and du and SAP partnered to support UAE governments and private enterprises with cloud-based applications.

Apple users faced a number of issues in their devices, such as "Error 53" and changing the date to 1970 bricked the iPhone. Plus Android phones faced problems also as users experienced malware hijacking some models.

Mobile World Congress in Barcelona unveiled a number of announcements, including BlackBerry launching its own cyber security practice, talks of driverless cars, Visa's efforts to secure payments with the Internet of Things (IoT) and of course, various mobile announcements.

March 2016:

Google's driverless car hit headlines when it collided with a public bus in California. The driverless car was reportedly travelling at a low speed of 2mph and the bus was travelling at 15mph and no injuries were reported.

Sadly, the founder of email, Ray Tomlinson, died in March. He was widely credited with inventing email and for selecting the @ symbol for email addresses.

The Middle East's largest online retail and marketplace platform,, announced the completion of a funding round of more than AED 1bn (USD 275m), the largest financing of an e-commerce business in the region. CEO Ronaldo Mouchawar told "We also want to leverage the trust the public has for our platform to become the true souk of the Arab World. We are born here and we want to see the region being innovative in technology. We want to be seen as the company that is always innovating around ecommerce and in online payments and logistics space while empowering our users in making better choices at better prices."

Samsung's S7 and S7 Edge debuted in the UAE in March, however the handset market as a whole took a dive in the Middle East as IDC reported it grew only 1% in the Middle East during the final quarter of 2015.

Security as a whole remained topical with Saudi Arabia pushing its cyber-security agenda, however IDC noted that tight budget constraints led to hindered security efforts.

Microsoft's AI chatbot, Tay, went on a racial rant on Twitter, leaving the company red-faced but it vowed to address the flaws that led to Tay being attacked.

As the month drew to an end, Etisalat confirmed Saleh Adbullah al-Abdooli as its new chief executive officer.

April 2016:

April was the month for security. Some of the highlights included a report from ESET, who partnered with Axiom Telecom to drive awareness on the importance for mobile protection in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. With the GCC's two most populated countries boasting region-leading mobile penetration rates, the personal data and sensitive information processed on smartphones and tablets has made the Gulf nations attractive target for potential cyber attackers.

Furthermore, UAE security analysts hacked and compromised well-known smart consumer electronics, children's games and toys, computing devices and industrial equipment. The aim was to raise awareness in the market about the dangers lurking in these devices and how to mitigate the risks.

Google also unveiled that is discovered 16,500 infected websites per week and that over 12% of recently fixed websites fall victim again to a new attack within 30 days. The bad news did not stop there, as the Register reported that the Qatar National Bank had been ‘hacked'.

In other news, Apple celebrated its 40th birthday and its recycling program recovered sixty-one million pounds of metals from used Apple devices, which otherwise would have gone into landfill.

Smart Dubai Government exhibited an array of smart services and apps at the Dubai International Government Achievements Exhibition 2016, where it promoted how these services can ease UAE living. Other projects came to light in April too, where Etisalat and Huawei tested smart parking in the region.

May 2016:

After Qatar National Bank admitted it had been breached, DarkMatter spoke of why organisations should know their digital environments top prevent such things. Security FireEye came out and said that it has detected a wave of cyber-attacks against banks in the Middle East.

The Dark Web regained some exposure after 117 million hacked LinkedIn accounts were sold on Dark Web, along with 65m Tumblr passwords.

Nokia made a comeback in May after Microsoft officially announced it is selling its feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn and Finnish company HMD Global for $350m. However, Toshiba exited the B2C PC market as IDC and Gartner reported declining PC sales for the past eight consecutive quarters.

Dubai welcomed the world's first 3D printing office which was opened by the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai's ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. 

Apple's chief executive officer Tim Cook surprised shoppers at the Mall of Emirates, he spoke to fans and discussed the latest Apple trends.

GITEX Technology Week, it will become home to more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, investors and mentors as it plans to launch the GITEX Start-up Movement. It highlighted innovative start-ups around the world will have the platform to sell, form partnerships and attract investors. 

June 2016:

June was the month when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg fell victim to a cyber hack as he lost control of his LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter accounts.

On 1 June, Hotmail and Outlook woke up to high volumes of spam in their accounts. Microsoft had confirmed that its spam filters for its email services were experiencing issues.

June also saw a number of major deals take place, including Uber announced it had received a $3.5bn investment from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. The move marks the largest investment raised by a private company, plus a crucial play in its expansion into the Middle East. Plus, IBM had revealed it has signed a ten-year technology service agreement with Emirates Airline, worth $300m. The agreement meant that IBM would provide IT infrastructure delivered as a service, enabling the airline to improve efficiency on its passenger support systems and functions. Also, Microsoft had announced it is buying professional social network LinkedIn for $26.2bn in cash.

Keeping in line with the UAE's digital transformation plan, Emirates NBD revealed its own $136m digital plan where the focus lied on launching a three-year program focused on digital innovation and multichannel transformation of processes, products and services.

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