The 10 Biggest Apple Stories Of 2011

Apple's Biggest Stories In 2011

There’s no denying that Apple knows how to capture our attention. Whether it’s a release of a new iPad, an iPhone that talks or the loss of an industry icon, the market’s interest (and arguably the world’s) is almost always piqued by the mobile giant’s most recent move.

2011, of course, was no exception, as Apple unveiled a number of product, executive and channel changes that lit up CRN headlines. Here are the top 10.

10. The Apple vs. Samsung Patent War

Patent infringement cases seem to infiltrate every inch of the IT world these days. And, despite its obvious success this year, Apple sparked one of the industry’s biggest design-related feuds. In April, the mobility guru initiated a still-raging legal battle against competitor Samsung, accusing the electronics company of basing its Galaxy smartphones and 10.1 tablet designs almost exactly on those of the iPhone and iPad. Apple went so far as to say that Samsung’s mobile devices were "slavish copies" of its own.

The two companies are still in the midst of this patent war, and are slotted for an official U.S. court date in July of next year. Apple has made some headway, though, invoking temporary bans on Samsung’s Galaxy products in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.

In a recent setback, however, a U.S. federal judge denied Apple’s request for a Galaxy ban and threw Samsung a bone, ruling that the devices could stay on U.S. shelves – at least until the two rivals face off in court next year.

9. Verizon and Apple (Finally) Shake On It

In February, Apple’s beloved iPhone 4 was made available on Verizon Wireless’ network. It was a move that made a lot of iPhone-eager Verizon customers smile. It was also a move that probably made AT&T – the exclusive iPhone carrier for nearly four years – shake in its boots a bit.

Pricing for Verizon’s iPhone 4 started at $199.99, and the device was made available at all Verizon Wireless retail stores, Apple Retail Stores, and through Apple resellers. Verizon, of course, was excited about the opportunity to get a piece of the almighty iPhone pie.

"This is an important step for the industry as two great companies join forces to give wireless customers one of the most important technological additions to the mobile landscape this century," said Lowell McAdam, Verizon president and COO.

8. Apple Breathes New Life Into MacBook Pro And MacBook Air

Apple reminded us all of its PC roots this year with the introduction of its faster, sleeker MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops.

Both of the revamped laptops boast Intel Core i5 and Core i7 dual-core processors, making them up to twice as fast as the original MacBook series.

In true Apple fashion, both laptops received an external make-over as well. The new MacBook Pro was made available in a 13-inch, 15-inch or 17-inch frame, while the updated MacBook Air came in 11-inch or 13-inch models. The MacBook Air also shrunk in thickness, measuring an "incredibly thin" 0.11 inches at its thinnest point.

More important than the specs, though, was the message behind them: the revitalized MacBook Pro and MacBook Air assured us that, even with all the iPad/iPhone fuss as of late, Apple is still a computer maker at heart.

7. iOS 5 and iCloud Make Their Mark In The Mobile Revolution

In October, Apple introduced its iOS 5 software upgrade for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. The revamped OS touts over 200 new features, including a Notification Center for users to track text messages, emails and even friend requests with a one-stop-shop kind of convenience.

Perhaps most notably, though, iOS 5 transformed the way we tweet. With the mere tap of a button, Twitter handles are automatically included along with phone numbers and email address in your Contacts list.

Unlike the plethora of new tweet-friendly iOS 5 features, the system’s cloud-based storage service – fittingly named ’iCloud’ – didn’t receive the warmest of receptions. On the day of the launch, iCloud had a hard time reaching its transaction servers, and, despite Apple’s clear system requirements listing, a few users learned the hard way that the new cloud service wasn’t supported by pre-Mac OS X Lion versions of the operating system.

6. Apple Brings Aboard 11 New Channel Advocates

While the popularity of Apple’s products has never been called into question, its channel strategy has. This year, though, Apple changed that by onboarding 11 channel-friendly faces to join its ranks.

Among the new hires are Francois Daumard, a 12-year Microsoft channel advocate, who acts as Apple’s new manager of iPhone and iPad channel development; Steve Lieberman, who joined the company as manager of U.S. corporate reseller channel after a 15-year run with HP; and Darci Reimund, former head of North American channels for Google, who joined as manager of business applications on the App Stores and Mac App store.

Solution providers were excited to see familiar channel faces join the Apple team, and anticipate their influence to be a positive one.

5. Apple's Mobile Technical Competency Initiative Opens Its Door To Partners

In another effort to bulk up its channel presence, Apple quietly unveiled this year its Mobile Technical Competency (MTC) program for partners.

MTC was launched in response to the growing number of Apple products making their way into the corporate world (no surprise there, I suppose). It is a program through which solution providers can become members of the Apple Consultants Network and obtain technical certification for deploying iPhones and iPads in an enterprise setting. In other words, Apple is creating a go-to list of solution providers it can depend on for large, enterprise-wide deployments.

To be eligible for MTC, Apple requires VARs to be Microsoft certified professionals and enroll in a series of four courses, called "iPhone and iPad Technical Training for Enterprise." While participation stakes are high, many VARs welcome MTC and view the program as a channel game-changer for the iconic company.

4. iPad2 Sends Apple Competitors 'Back to the Drawing Board'

Apple made its market-leading tablet even sleeker this year with the release of the iPad 2 in March. The next-gen tablet maintains the simplicity of its predecessor, while being noticeably more chic. The iPad 2 is a staggering 33 percent thinner than the original iPad and weighs in at only 1.3 pounds, compared to the iPad’s 1.5 pounds.

While its sleek new design certainly didn’t go unnoticed, the biggest change seen with the market's most sought-after tablet was on the inside. The iPad 2 is fueled by a low-power A5 ARM-based dual core processor, which offers nine times faster graphics performance than the original product.

Even Steve Jobs, Apple’s then-CEO, noted the new product’s potential to shake up the market. "While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again," he said.

3. Siri Says: Meet The iPhone 4S

In case Apple fanatics didn’t get their fill with the highly anticipated iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S was announced in October of this year.

The iPhone 4S is 33 percent faster than the iPhone 4 and, most notably, introduced the world to Siri, an intelligent assistant application that you can literally talk to. What’s more Apple’s next-gen iPhone touts an 8-megapixel camera with 60 percent more pixels than the iPhone 4’s 5-megapixel camera, along with full 1080p HD resolution video recording.

These features, of course, wooed Apple fans almost instantly. The company received a record-breaking one million preorders for its new phone within the first 24 hours it was available. The previous single-day record of 600,000 orders was held by (you guessed it) the iPhone 4.

2. Jobs Resigns, Cook Takes Over

In August, Steve Jobs shocked the industry by resigning as Apple’s leading man. Even in his resignation letter, the industry icon demonstrated that famous simplicity Apple fans had come to love and expect in his products. The day had come, Jobs put frankly, when he could no longer meet the "duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO."

Jobs passed the CEO torch to Tim Cook (pictured) – who had been serving as Apple’s COO at the time – and took on instead the position of Chairman of the Board. It was assumed that Jobs’ step down was related to the unexpected medical leave he took earlier in the year, after facing an on-going struggle against pancreatic cancer.

"I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it," Steve said modestly in his resignation letter. "And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you."

1. The Loss of An Icon

This one isn’t just Apple’s biggest story of the year. It’s arguably the industry’s – and perhaps even pop culture’s, as well.

Steve Jobs, the iconic Apple front-man who pumped out innovative, market-shaping products including the iPad, iPhone, and iPod, passed away in October at the age of 56. Jobs, who had been long suffering from poor health caused by pancreatic cancer, will be remembered by his chic, industry-leading mobile products that many claim kick-started the consumerization of IT.

"Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple," Apple said in a statement announcing Job’s passing.

Jobs’ biography Steve Jobs, released on October 24, sold 379,000 copies during its first week on the market, and has recently claimed the top spot on Amazon’s Best Seller List for 2011.