The winners and losers of 2013

Some companies had a great year. Others are just glad it's over.

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The year 2013 is gone and with it countless triumphs and failures for the tech industry. Some soared, others crashed to earth while a few are in limbo. We've had scandal, crisis, huge launches and dismal failures.

And after all is said and done, very few pieces on the chess board actually moved. Microsoft still rules many areas, Apple is still the Ferrari of tech, Android is still the top mobile OS, Qualcomm and ARM are still the standard in mobile computing, and so on. It's reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War I.

Of course, it could all change this year. The old conventional wisdom is that it takes one slip to fall from grace, but experience tells me you need a few slips in a row. Just one is recoverable. And we have a few companies that have slipped a few times already. But then again, one of 2013's big winners also screwed up massively just a few years ago, so comebacks are always possible.

With that, let's run down the winners and losers (as I see it) for 2013.

Winners

Microsoft – Windows 8.1 fixes some problems, the rest of the company is doing well, for the most part. CEO Steve Ballmer recognized his own shortcomings and decided to retire early, and in the process, is taking the company's despised employee review system with him.

Apple – For now it seems like all the company is doing is iterating on existing products, but you can't deny the sales of the iPhone 5S. And the redesigned Mac Pro almost makes me want one.

AMD – Every time a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One is sold, AMD makes $100 because its chip is inside the consoles. Considering both consoles are near the two million mark after just a month on the market, AMD will be making easy money for years.

Candy Crush Saga – The first mobile videogame I ever saw advertised on TV. Its developer, King, has reportedly made a fortune off this game. King's sales are said to be north of $1 billion, but how much of that is due to CCS is unclear.

Qualcomm – There are more than 100 ARM licensees, but this is the only one that seems to matter. Pick a popular Android phone, and it's got Qualcomm inside. Even Nokia uses Qualcomm for its Windows Phones.

Netflix – Here is a company that started by sending out DVDs for rent in the mail to streaming content and now developing original content that is winning accolades and award nominations. Reed Hastings has shown you can be both evolutionary and revolutionary and you can recover from a major foul-up (Quikster in 2011).

Epic WIN Award

Xbox One customers who fought back hard against the worst DRM ever concocted. Not only did they win, they knocked off a Microsoft executive in the process, although he Zynga insists the talks for him to jump from Microsoft took place for months prior to the incident that led to Mattrick's departure.

Losers

MySpace – Don't call it a comeback… because it's not. Despite a major redesign, new branding strategy that focused on music and celebrity ownership from pop star Justin Timberlake, Myspace's relaunch has been fairly tepid. So was the reaction to the relaunch.

Reddit/4Chan users -- In the aftermath of the April Boston marathon bombing, members of Reddit and 4Chan went on a tear through photos from the event, trying to find the culprits. 4Chan users have been pretty good about finding lawbreakers in the past, but this time, they just made a mess of things for the police.

HTC – Its HTC One phone is beautiful but almost unprofitable because it costs so much to make, and the ad campaign with Robert Downey Jr. failed to pay off. The question now is whether HTC will go bankrupt before BlackBerry or after.

BlackBerry -- Massive job cuts, product delays, quarterly losses and no sales. We are watching the death spiral of a once dominant player, which should make every top vendor stop, watch, and learn from its mistakes.

Adobe – Target had a bigger breach in terms of exposed customers, but in just tech, no one could touch Adobe's late October admission that it had suffered a massive security breach. It initially said three million people were affected, but later revised the number to 38 million.

HealthCare.gov – If you want something done wrong, have the government do it. HealthCare.gov reportedly has 500 million lines of code. By comparison, Windows 7 has about 50 million lines of code, and that's a complete PC operating system, not what should essentially be an e-commerce Web site.

Epic FAIL Award

Electronic Arts, for FUBARing the release of "SimCity" as badly as the government's rollout of HealthCare.gov. EA took one of the greatest games in history and, after a decade of waiting for a sequel, introduced a broken mess of a game that was unplayable, sullying the image of both EA and the iconic game in the process.

Jury's still out

Nokia – It's picking up steam as the de facto phone for Microsoft, but it has lost a lot of the worldwide dominance it once enjoyed.

Nvidia – Still the best GPU maker but AMD is coming on strong. We're waiting to see what the Maxwell architecture is like, and if Tegra can ever steal some big wins from Qualcomm's SnapDragon.

Intel – Will they ever get a significant series of wins in mobile? Or are they doomed to be a PCs and servers company (which isn't necessarily a bad thing)?

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