Biggest global tech newsmakers of 2013

From Jeff Bezos’ surprise Washington Post buy to Edward Snowden splitting open a global surveillance scandal – 2013 has not been lacking in big names making big waves in the global tech space.

Here are BusinessTech’s picks for the biggest international newsmakers in 2013 (in no particular order) – people who were the news, rather than simply being behind the news.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Elon Musk

SA-born SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, has had a busy year.

The “triple threat” executive – co-founding payment service, PayPal, straight into the world of borderline sci-fi, with space exploration, electric cars and solar energy – has become a name associated with futuristic fancies and big ideas.

In 2013, Musk moved Tesla Motors on the path to profitability, and caught the eyes of analysts and consumers with his ideas and visions – and in the midst of all his successes, still managed to indulge in his own personal fancies, such as buying James Bond’s Lotus Esprit submarine-hybrid.

With another successful commercial launch of his SpaceX craft behind his name, and Tesla Motors’ electric cars becoming something of a hot topic, Musk has been likened to a real-world “Tony Stark” – mostly thanks to his Hyperloop transport concept, revealed in August 2013.

The $6-billion “Hyperloop” transport system is a conceptual proposal to build a solar-powered network of crash-proof capsules that would whisk people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.

While his companies are not without their hang-ups – the Hyperloop is very much a pipe-dream, SpaceX was hit with many delays and a numbner of Tesla’s cars ended up in flames over the year – Musk remained on everyone’s lips, and was named Fortune’s person of the year.

Carl Icahn
Activist investor, Carl Icahn

Carl Icahn

Another name to appear in the running for Fortune’s person of the year was billionaire “activist investor”, Carl Icahn.

Icahn – the majority shareholder of diversified holding company, Icahn Enterprises – first popped up onto the map of tech in 2013 when he and other Dell shareholders faught ferociously against Dell CEO, Michael Dell’s move to take the computer giant private in a $24.4 billion deal.

Icahn, along with other activist investors with a stake in the company, found Dell’s plan to go private to be flawed and undervalued the company, eventually entering into litigation against the company’s founder to stop the move.

Ultimately Icahn pulled out of efforts to block the deal.

Icahn also drew headlines in his hammering on iPhone maker, Apple to share more of its cash pile with shareholders.

It was reported that Icahn, who is known for “strong arm tactics”, had met with Apple CEO Tim Cook on a number of occasions to talk about returning as much as $50 billion to shareholders.

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

While Yahoo, as a whole, seems to be doing its utmost to change its course for the better – it’s no secret that it’s the former Google executive, Marissa Mayer that’s firmly in the driving seat.

Since taking the reigns at Yahoo, Mayer has taken an active role in forcing Yahoo to change its stripes and become more relevant in the highly-competitive Internet market.

From overhauling company dynamics, getting flak for stringent hiring practices, leading billion-dollar acquisitions and even overseeing a rebranding campaign, Mayer has made a name for herself as the wind of change in Yahoo’s sails.

Mayer made headlines in 2013 leading the $1.1 billion acquisition of social blogging platform, Tumblr, amongst various other web and digital companies – and was named as one of Forbes’ most powerful women.

Yahoo appointed Mayer as its new CEO in 2012 – and since then, the Internet company has boosted its users to 800 million worldwide – a 20 percent increase since she was lured away from Google.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos

Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos caused quite a stir in 2013 when he announced that he was buying long-standing newspaper, The Washington Post for $250 million of his own personal wealth.

The move raised many eyebrows and got global media speculating as to what the e-commerce pioneer had in store for the paper, which was running at a loss in the face of a declining print industry.

Ever an advocate of digital – it was reported that Bezos would be taking the paper in a new tablet-friendly direction, though specific strategies and products are still unclear.

Not leaving his online retailer giant out of the picture, Bezos also rocked the tech world in November by revealing a conceptual drone delivery programme called “Amazon Prime Air”.

Probably logistical and regulatory issues surrounding the ambitious project – which, in theory, would see Amazon product being delivered by small air drones – many shrugged it off as a PR stunt.

However, for many, it was a bright-eyed glimpse into what may one day be the future of delivery.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

By far and large the biggest newsmaker in the technology space in 2013 is former CIA contracter, Edward Snowden, who blew the lid off the biggest surveillance scandal in the uSA, and indeed the world.

Around the middle of 2013, Snowden revealed himseld as the source that leaked information to the media surrounding the US National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) PRISM program – which was running a global network of surveillance.

From major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft – to other governments and multi-national institutions, no one came away untouched by the NSA’s spy programme – which allegedly gave the agency direct, warrantless access to user data.

Unfortunately for Snowden, because he leaked documents that apparently compromised US national security, the US government gave chase, ultimately causing him to flee his home country.

Snowden fled the USA and effectively remains “on the run”, having found asylum Russia – while tech and media companies tried to shake off the stigma of having been “compromised” by the NSA’s spy network.

More on the global newsmakers

Mayer leads Yahoo to 800 million users

NSA whistleblower hopes to keep govt honest

Amazon delivery drones still far from reality

Icahn keeps the pressure on Apple

Elon Musk named businessman of the year

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Biggest global tech newsmakers of 2013