GaS News — What Happened Next: January 2013

As we come to the end of 2013, a year in which “geek” was not only reclassified as a positive but selected as word of the year by one dictionary, it’s time to look back at some of the stories we covered on Geeks are Sexy and see what happened next, starting with January’s news.

We reported that Canonical was planning to offer a smartphone running Ubuntu at some point in 2014. Plans for Canonical to produce its own device (the Ubuntu Edge) fell by the wayside when a crowdsourcing campaign attracted pledged donations of “only” $12.8 million. However, a few weeks ago Canonical announced it had agreed a deal for at least one manufacturer to release an Ubuntu handset next year, with talks ongoing with several other major players.

Rumors were rife that Apple was working on a cheaper model iPhone using less expensive parts. At the time it appeared the idea was to target less affluent nations. In the event, Apple did release what became the iPhone 5C in the US and other major markets, though it seems most folks believe a “cheap” iPhone is simply an inferior handset that’s still quite pricey. The 5C was slow to take off and the 5S (seen widely as the “real” latest iPhone) is still outselling it by around a two-to-one ratio.

Amazon launched Autorip, a tool that not only gives buyers of many new CDs a free MP3 copy of the album, but even made the digital copy available for retrospective purchases dating back years. The idea found favor and was later adapted to the Kindle MatchBook system, by which publishers can choose to give a free Kindle copy to people who’ve bought a printed book; the publishers can also choose to offer the digital copy at a reduced rate of 99 cents, $1.99 or $2.99.

A judge ordered Apple and Amazon to begin talks to reach a settlement rather than proceed to trial in a dispute over the trademark of the term “App Store.” Apple eventually realized it stood little chance of winning the case and agreed to drop the issue.

Verizon revealed that it had carried out a security audit for an unnamed client and discovered that an employee known only as “Bob” had unofficially and secretly outsourced his entire job to a Chinese developer, paying him around 20 percent of his salary to do his work and instead spending much of his work day watching cat videos on YouTube. Sadly we’ve not been able to get any updates on this one, though several later reports referred to Bob as a former employee.

Atari’s American arm split from its French parent company and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, allowing it an opportunity to restructure its finances. It was unable to find a buyer for its entire video game library but has since sold off the intellectual property rights for individual titles. In early December a court approved a plan that will mean Atari pays back only around half of its total debts, spread over the next three years.

A ruling by the Library of Congress meant unlocking phones to work on rival networks was exempted from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but only for handsets sold before January 25 this year. In principle at least that made unlocking of new handsets since then a criminal activity. Following a public petition backed by the White House, the Commerce Department has formally asked the Library of Congress to review the decision. The Federal Communications Commission has also indicated it could be willing to use its rulemaking powers to give legal protection to phone unlockers.