Apple Shone in 2009 Despite Economy, Steve Jobs' Illness

Apple coasted through 2009 despite the global recession dragging down the profits and revenue of many of its rivals, thanks to strong sales for products such as the iPhone, the iPod Touch and its Mac line. Much of Apple's 2009 was dominated by questions about CEO Steve Jobs, who stepped down temporarily to have a liver transplant for an undisclosed health condition. Apple battled a number of rivals, including Palm and Microsoft, in arenas ranging from smartphones to PC operating systems. We take a look at Apple's year.

Apple began 2009 under heavy clouds, with what looked like a massive thunderstorm potentially on the way-its iconic CEO, Steve Jobs, announced that he would be stepping down temporarily in order to deal with an undisclosed medical condition. Outsiders immediately began to question how the company would fare without Jobs at the helm.

As it turned out, Apple's corporate structure and product pipeline allowed it to post strong profits and dominate media attention throughout 2009, despite the global recession's drag on the economy. But nobody knew what exactly would happen when Jobs released a note about his health to the public at the beginning of January.

"I've decided to share something very personal with the Apple community," Jobs wrote in a letter addressed to the "Apple Community" on Jan. 5. "As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors."

The weight loss, Jobs then claimed, was due to "a hormone imbalance that has been 'robbing' me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy." A few days later, on Jan. 14, he followed it up with another e-mail saying those health issues "were more complex than I originally thought" and he would be taking six months off from Apple.

Then Jobs fell off the public radar, with outside analysts speculating about how well the company would perform in his absence. Apple kept on a steady course throughout March, when it rolled out an updated AirPort Extreme, iMac and Mac Mini, along with a new Mac Pro utilizing an Intel "Nehalem" Xeon processor. On March 18, Apple premiered the iPhone OS 3.0, which offered 100 new features along with an upgraded SDK (software development kit) with more than 1,000 new APIs.

On April 23, Apple announced that the billionth App had been downloaded from the App Store, printing large ads in The New York Times and other media outlets to herald the event. At that point, less than a year after the online storefront's July 2008 launch, the App Store held about 25,000 mobile applications. According to Apple, the most-downloaded free Apps included Facebook for iPhone and Google Earth, while the paid category was topped by Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D and Koi Pond.

April also saw a bit of controversy for Apple, after protests erupted online over a 99-cent Baby Shaker application that let users "shake" a virtual baby quiet. In an e-mail sent to eWEEK and other media, an Apple spokesperson termed the application "deeply offensive" and announced that it would be removed from the store.

A more serious controversy erupted in July, when Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer of the iPhone and iPod, paid compensation to the family of an employee who allegedly committed suicide after an iPhone prototype went missing. The incident caused something of a public relations crisis for Apple, which reiterated that it had audited Foxconn's labor practices in 2006 and pushed for changes.