Apple's 2011 saw the company preserve its position in mobility thanks to the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. In October, it also wrestled with the death of Steve Jobs.
Apple gained much in 2011, managing to hold off Google Android in both the tablet and smartphone arenas. However, it also lost co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, who died in October following a long battle with cancer.
Apple's first big release of 2011 was a long anticipated one: the iPhone on Verizon Wireless' CDMA network. Executives from the carrier joined Apple COO Tim Cook onstage at New York City's Time Warner Center Jan. 11 to reveal what was one of the tech industry's worst-kept secrets. With the exception of tinkering with the antenna to make it CDMA-applicable, the Verizon version of the iPhone 4 offered precious little difference from the AT&T version in both hardware and software. Nonetheless, Verizon hoped the iPhone would work the same magic on its revenue and profits as it did for AT&T.
Verizon launched the iPhone 4 Feb. 10. Despite the iPhone receiving prominent placement front-and-center in Verizon stores, however, the carrier continued to promote several rival devices, including Motorola's Droid franchise-illustrating how, despite its longstanding popularity, Apple's sleek smartphone entered 2011 facing more competition than ever from Google Android smartphones.
Despite the hoopla surrounding the release of the iPhone 4 on a new network, analysts and Apple fans were already conjecturing feverishly over the possible specs of Apple's next iPhone, which some dubbed "iPhone 5" and predicted would see a summer release. They would end up disappointed on both counts.
The iPad 2
Apple's second big unveiling of 2011 came March 2, when Jobs took a San Francisco stage to unveil the next-generation iPad 2. The 9.7-inch tablet featured a dual-core processor, front- and rear-facing cameras, and a thinner body. "Is 2011 going to be the year of the copycats? I think if we did nothing, maybe a little bit," he told the audience. "But we haven't been resting on our laurels."
The first iPad's release in early 2010 ignited the consumer tablet market. Rival manufacturers rushed to introduce an "iPad killer," many of them running Google Android. As 2011 began, this trickle of competing devices threatened to become a flood that would erode Apple's sizable market-share lead. In addition to Android devices such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab, Hewlett-Packard was prepping a tablet loaded with webOS, the mobile operating system inherited as part of its Palm acquisition in 2010.
The iPad 2 hit store shelves March 11. In New York City, hundreds of people lined up at Apple stores, anxious to get their hands on the 9.7-inch tablet. Analysts such as Global Equities Research's Trip Chowdry estimated sales of the iPad 2 as on track to eclipse those of the first iPad during those first days of release. At least in the short term, it seemed as if Apple's hold on the tablet market was assured-something validated throughout the course of the year, as many of the ostensible "iPad killers," including HP's TouchPad, crashed and burned in the marketplace.
In addition to consumers, the iPad gained further traction with businesses. During a July earnings call, company executives claimed some 86 percent of the Fortune 500 had either tested or deployed the tablet. Throughout the year, more productivity apps found their way into Apple's App Store alongside the usual games and "consumer" products.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.