The 10 Biggest Apple Stories Of 20102:00 PM EST Fri. Dec. 10, 2010
2010 will forever be remembered in Apple corporate folklore as the year the iPad arrived on the scene, but it was also the year when Apple looked in the mirror and declared itself a mobile device company. The iPhone 4 scandal and subsequent ‘Antennagate’ controversy also captured attention, and Apple gave the world a sneak peek at its next, and probably final, version of OS X.
Here's a look back at 10 Apple stories that left a mark this year.
Apple's iPad launch in January featured all the hallmarks of the company's past mega-product launches. Long lines of fanboys and fangirls outside Apple stores nationwide on launch eve? Check. A firehose of speculation and rumors in advance of the actual unveiling? Check. Steve Jobs haughtily intimating that his latest creation would make existing products look exceedingly lame by comparison? Check.
Although some critics saw the iPad as a hubris-laden product without a viable market, Apple quickly silenced them with eye-popping sales figures. Even today, many folks are walking out of Apple Stores disappointed after being told that iPads are sold out. Meanwhile, developers are beginning to churn out apps that take advantage of the iPad's bigger screen size.
As 2010 draws to a close, the iPad freight train has plenty of momentum and shows no signs of slowing.
If the scandal over the lost-and-found iPhone 4 prototype didn't generate enough controversy, Apple's response to customers' complaints about antenna problems definitely did. When customers began reporting dropped calls while holding the iPhone 4 a certain way, Apple's response was akin to a giant corporate yawn. Apple initially told people to avoid holding their devices that way, then advised them to buy a bumper case.
Later, it emerged that Apple was aware of the design issue with the iPhone 4 antenna prior to launching the product, and customers didn't like that much. Eventually, iPhone 4 'Antennagate' blew up to the point where Apple gave in and offered customers free bumper cases.
But despite the hubbub, the iPhone 4 is still selling like hotcakes and Apple doesn't appear to have incurred any long-lasting damage to its customer relationships.
Apple's legendary secrecy was comprised in April when tech blog Gizmodo published photos of what it claimed was a prototype iPhone 4. How Gizmodo came to be in possession of the device wasn't initially clear, but it later emerged that Gawker Media, the blog's parent company, paid $5,000 to an individual who found the device in a bar after an Apple engineer misplaced it during a night out. Gawker subsequently returned the device to Apple, but not before sharing photos of it with millions of curious Web viewers around the world.
As it turned out, Gizmodo's device was essentially identical to the iPhone 4, which Apple launched in June. Apple called the leak "immensely damaging" because of its potential to crimp iPhone 4 sales, but the whole scenario amounted to a bunch of free advertising that made it virtually impossible to get one's hands on an iPhone 4 for months after launch.
Steve Jobs' disdain for Flash had already been well established when Apple in April changed the terms of its iPhone Developer Program license agreement to prohibit cross-compilers, effectively blocking Flash development on the iPhone. The timing of Apple's move was especially dastardly because Adobe had included a cross compiler in Flash Professional CS5 that was intended to enable iPhone development.
Unsurprisingly, Adobe and its legions of Flash developers had an apoplectic reaction, and there was even talk that Adobe might sue Apple. But in September, a funny thing happened: Apple relaxed some of the restrictions in its Application Developer Program license agreement to allow the CS5 cross compiler, thereby opening the door to Flash development. Apple still doesn't allow Flash content to run in the browser on iOS, but the move was a step toward repairing frayed relations.
Apple's 'Get A Mac' campaign was a devilishly effective marketing effort because it allowed Apple to shape Microsoft's image as a bumbling-yet-self-important nerd with no hope of redemption. Windows Vista's arrival on the scene also gave Apple a golden opportunity to further cement this notion in the hearts and minds of the American populace.
It took Microsoft nearly three years to respond to the ads, an excruciating interval for Microsoft partners who watched helplessly as Apple chipped away at the software giant's corporate image. "I'm a PC" is Microsoft's answer, but while that campaign has gained some traction, it can hardly be viewed as a decisive counter-attack.
Apple discontinued 'Get A Mac' this year but the campaign's influence remains strong, as evidenced by T-Mobile's hilarious copycat ad which skewers AT&T's network congestion issues.
Hey, did you hear the rumor about Verizon getting the iPhone?
AT&T's well-publicized struggles with iPhone customers have generated a never-ending stream of speculation that Apple could decide to allow Verizon, the nation's top ranked carrier according to Consumer Reports, to sell the iPhone. Consensus opinion is that Verizon could be granted this capability in January, and AT&T's embrace of Windows Phone 7 has spurred speculation that it sees the writing on the wall for its iPhone exclusivity.
Verizon, meanwhile, hasn't been shy about its desire to add the iPhone to its stable. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg has openly flirted with the prospect on multiple occasions over the course of the year. "We're open to getting the device," Seidenberg said at an industry event in April. "Our network is capable of handling it."
The runaway success of the iPhone and iPad has propelled Apple to several consecutive quarters of results that would make other IT company CEOs seethe with envy. So it wasn't surprising to hear that Apple fancies itself a major player in the mobile device space.
"As we compared ourselves to every other company in the world, including Sony, Nokia, and Samsung ... We found out that we were the largest [mobile company] in the world measured by revenue. So yes, you should look at Apple as a mobile device company," Apple COO Tim Cook said in February at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference.
In the meantime, Apple has sold somewhere north of 4 million iPads and is hurtling headlong into a holiday season that promises to spike those figures even higher. Mobile device company, indeed.
In October, Apple gave the world a sneak peek at OS X 10.7 'Lion', which brings OS X closer to the touch-enabled interface of iOS and reflects the company's growing embrace of all things mobile. Apple is also preparing to launch an App Store for Macs running Snow Leopard and Lion, in a bid to capitalize on the momentum it's built on the mobile side with the iPhone and iPad.
OS X 10.7 Lion is coming sometime in the first half of next year, and Apple's choice of the King of Beasts suggests an inflection point is imminent, and that Apple will undertake a greater focus on mobility and cloud computing.
After much deliberation, the U.S. Copyright Office in July ruled that jailbreaking iPhones doesn't violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and described the practice as "innocuous at worst and beneficial at best." It was a blow to Apple, which had been trying to get the government to criminalize jailbreaking iPhones.
Jailbreaking allows customers to run unsanctioned applications and enable features like tethering, which carriers have done their best to block so that they can charge extra for them. Apple has long opposed jailbreaking, and it frequently warns customers that the practice violates the iPhone warranty and opens the door to all kinds of unsavory scenarios. Of course, Apple is a control freak company that tries to exert as much influence as possible over customers' usage of its products, so the ruling didn't go over well at the company. Apple will now have to turn to other means of discouraging jailbreaking to maintain its customary stranglehold over the user experience.
Tony Fadell, the technical guru behind the iPhone, iPod and other breakthrough products, left Apple in March after nine years as an employee and consultant.
Apple revealed in November 2008 that Fadell was stepping down and that the company had tapped 25-year IBM veteran Mark Papermaster to take over as senior vice president of devices hardware engineering. IBM sued Apple to block the move, but the two sides settled the issue in January 2009. Papermaster left Apple in August of this year in the wake of the Antennagate mess and has since surfaced at Cisco.