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The highs and lows of the year for Apple
No. 1 Steve Jobs liver transplant: The most important Apple story over the last year was Steve Jobs taking a temporary leave of absence from Apple, only to return to the helm six months later. No CEO is more closely associated with the company he runs than Steve Jobs. Although Apple was left in the more-than-capable hands of COO Tim Cook, many were concerned when Jobs left. They needn't have been. Jobs returned to his position as CEO in June following a successful liver transplant. Jobs returned to the public eye in early September to introduce a brand new lineup of iPods.
No. 9 Apple releases the iPhone 3GS: Apple has released three iterations of the iPhone since 2007, the most recent being the June 2009 release of the 3GS model. The 'S' in the moniker stands for speed, and that's exactly what the iPhone 3GS phone delivered. With a faster processor and twice the RAM as the iPhone 3G, the 3GS was noticeably faster at doing just about everything, from a graphics-intensive 3D game to Web browsing. The 3GS also beefed up the camera, added support for video recording and editing, added a digital compass and improved battery life.
No. 5 iTunes App Store reaches 100,000 apps: Apple has made it very clear that it views the iPhone as a software platform, and given the scope of the iTunes App Store, it's fair to say that the iPhone-as-platform concept has been successful. In early November, Apple announced that its App Store now hosted more than 100,000 apps, with new ones submitted at an impressive rate of 10,000 a week. The success of the iTunes App Store underscores iPhone's massive market lead when it comes to mobile software. And the scary part is that the app store is still in its relative infancy
No. 6 Apple breaks financial records in its 33-year history: Despite a grim economy that hammered most tech companies, 2009 proved to be Apple's most profitable year ever. In its third quarter Apple sold 2.6 million Macs and 5.2 million iPhones, a non-holiday record. For its fourth quarter, Apple reported a profit of $US1.67 billion on revenue of $9.87 billion, its most profitable quarter ever. Apple sold 3.05 million Macs, eclipsing the previous record by an astounding 440,000 units. Apple is also sitting on $US34 billion in cash with a stock price hovering in the $US200s.
No. 8 Apple Defeats clonemaker Psystar: In November 2009, Apple emerged victorious in its legal battle to prevent Psystar from selling non-Apple hardware running OS X, and was awarded damages of nearly $2.7 million. While Apple's legal position was strong, Psystar and its attorneys presented a number of intriguing, though ultimately flawed, legal theories that could have spelled disaster for Apple whose business is based on complete control of its hardware and the software that runs on it. But the battle isn't finished. Psystar sells the Rebel EFI software which lets users install OS X by themselves on non-Apple hardware. Psystar argues that the California ruling only prevents it from selling pre-configured hardware. The Florida courts will decide.
No. 3 iPhone OS 3.0 introduces cut, copy, and paste and slew of new features: In mid-March, Apple held a special media event where it previewed iPhone OS 3.0, a monster update released in June. The new OS finally included cut, copy and paste - a feature users had been clamoring for since the iPhone debuted. It also included support for MMS, though AT&T frustratingly took months until its network supported it. Users were delighted by iPhone OS 3.0's Spotlight search, universal landscape keyboard, Push Notification and the nifty "find my iPhone" feature. All told, 3.0 included more than 100 new features plus some great API improvements for developers
What's ahead? Looking forward to 2010, all eyes are watching for the rumored Apple Tablet, a device that will reportedly revolutionize print media. The hype surrounding the tablet continues to grow, and is beginning to rival the chatter that preceded the launch of the iPhone. And we all saw how that story turned out.
No. 7 Apple introduces Snow Leopard: In late August, Apple released the latest incarnation of OS X, Snow Leopard. This release was a departure for Apple in that it didn't include hundreds of new eye-catching features but focused on boosting performance. (Leopard, for example, included more than 300 new features.) Even so, Snow Leopard still proved to be a success with early sales of the OS surpassing sales of every other OS X release. The $29 price plus the growing number of Mac users undoubtedly had something to do with that.
No. 2 iTunes DRM and tiered pricing: At Macworld 2009, Phil Schiller made two big iTunes related announcements: songs would become DRM free and Apple would let record labels experiment with prices. Since 2003, Apple insisted every song on iTunes cost (US) 99 cents. Record labels argued that the price was outdated and obviously wanted to charge more for big hits. Apple gave up ground on pricing to obtain licensing rights for distributing music over the air. Labels could charge up to $US1.29 for singles but that news was offset by DRM-free songs, a win/win as iTunes customers aren't tied to Apple devices forever anymore. Last we checked, only 12 of the top 100 songs on iTunes are available for $US0.99.
No. 4 Drama with Google (and Google Voice): For years Apple and Google had a close relationship, but that hit some speed bumps in 2009. In late July, Apple rejected Google Voice apps from the iTunes App Store. Apple claimed that the app wasn't rejected, but was merely under review because it replaces "the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality." (Not surprisingly, the app is still "pending review.") A few days later Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple's board of directors and in mid October Arthur Levinson resigned from the Google board and remained on Apple's board. Apple and Google are increasingly finding themselves in direct competition with each other, with Google's Chrome OS, Android and now the upcoming Google phone. It appears that Apple's buddy-buddy relationship with Google is a goner.
2009 was a blockbuster year financially for Apple but delivered some blows including a serious health problem for the company's beloved leader, Steve Jobs, attack from clone makers, and trouble with Google. We offer the Top 10 biggest stories for Apple in 2009.
No. 10 Attack of the iPhone clones: 2009 marked the most concerted effort from rival manufacturers to give the iPhone a run for its money. The Palm Pre arrived in late 2009 with a ton of hype and a dossier of former Apple engineers on its roster. It boasted multitouch support which flamed speculation that Apple would sue. It didn't but Apple and Palm did battle it out over the Pre's ability to sync media content from iTunes. Apple would periodically issue an iTunes update, which blocked the Pre, only to have Palm issue a WebOS update shortly thereafter which re-enabled syncing support. As of October, Apple broke the Pre synch again and Palm may have given up. But the Pre still hasn't been much of a threat to iPhone dominance. Nor has the BlackBerry Storm 2. Motorola's Droid, based on Android is getting a lot of attention, but even it has a ways to go before it will make a dent in iPhone's success.