Don't look now, but another year is almost over. Looking back at what Apple has done this past year seems astonishing. Each year I think, 'what can Apple do to top itself?' and I am sure they put the same question to all their employees. In 2010 they really did outdo themselves.
To start off 2010, Apple introduced one of the fastest selling tech items in history. I am talking about the groundbreaking iPad. Today it may seem like the iPad has been around for several years, it actually only went on sale April 3rd. This was the WiFi only model. Those who wanted the cellular network model (which also had built-in GPS) had to wait another four weeks.
The iPad was an immediate success. Since Apple had plenty of experience with the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad is a very mature product. While some touted it as just a big iPod Touch, the iPad is really so much more. With a 9.7-inch touch screen, the iPad is a perfect size not too small, not too big. It weighs only 1.5 pounds and is only half an inch thick.
While the iPad hardware is amazing, it's the software that really makes it special. Based on the same OS as the iPhone/Touch, the iPad had plenty of available software at launch. Apple also gave developers time and resources to help create iPad specific applications. An iPad specific App is usually identified by adding HD to the name. Since the iPad screen has more resolution than an iPhone, Apps needed to be updated to show more pixels. Good Apps written for the iPad look stunning.
Along with the introduction of the iPad came 'Flashgate.' One thing that is not available on the iPhone, and now the iPad, is Adobe Flash. This web technology is used for online games, web site navigation, and videos. Apple, or maybe just Steve Jobs, decided that Flash was not appropriate for mobile devices and chose not to include Flash or even allow Flash to be added later. This started a somewhat overblown dispute with Adobe and some users. Apple stood its ground and Flash is persona non grata at Apple. No matter, this omission didn't slow sales of the iPad.
To go along with the new iPad, Apple introduced a new mobile OS. They also re-branded it to iOS - the newest version is called iOS4. Summer also brought a new iPhone, the iPhone 4. Touted as the thinnest smartphone, the iPhone 4 flew off the shelves.
It soon became apparent that the new model had a slight antenna problem. Owners found that holding it just the right way (or maybe it should be called the wrong way) would cause the signal to drop to almost nothing and in some cases drop completely. Apple said this is common to all phones and gave away some free cases, which helped to eliminate the problem. Many blamed AT&T, but Apple was not completely blameless. 'Antennagate' came and went fairly quickly. The iPhone 4 has sold in record numbers.
Introduced in October, the new Apple TV 2.0, another device based on iOS, replaced the original Apple TV. The new Apple TV is much smaller in size and in price. The original model, which had an internal hard drive, was $299 when introduced. The new 2.0 model is only $99 but has no internal storage. Instead of downloading content to the device, Apple decided (and I'm sure the content providers helped) to make the new Apple TV play only streaming video and audio. You can rent TV shows for as little as 99 cents and movies start at $2.99.
The new Apple TV is much more versatile than you might think. It can also be used to watch instant content from Netflix (accounts start at $7.99 a month), You Tube, MobileMe, and Flickr. Since the Apple TV 2.0 is based on iOS the future is wide open. It is possible that future updates could bring all kinds of additional features. This is all guesswork, but it is possible that there could some day be an Apple TV App Store, much like there are Apps for the iPad and iPhone. This $99 device could be just the start of another revolution one that happens on your HDTV.
Of course let's not forget that Apple is a computer company, which for the past couple of years is easy to forget with all the mobile products Apple now produces. The Macintosh went through some nice changes in 2010. The mini, one of my favorite Macs, got a complete design change with an all aluminum unibody, better graphics, and no external power brick. It is also the only Mac with a built-in HDMI port.
This past year will definitely go down as the year of the multi-core processor. The top-of-the-line Mac Pro towers went from an amazing 8-cores to an outrageous 12-cores a pair of 6-core Intel chips. To top that off, these 12 processor cores also had a technology called HyperThreading, which to the operating system actually looks like there are 24 processors. If you are doing global weather predictions, 3-D rendering of the next Pixar film, or processing the human genome, then this was the machine of your dreams. This monster workstation was also monster in price at a whopping $5000.
On the consumer end, the iMac went from dual-core to quad-core. The latest Intel processor line, the Core i-Series - the i3, i5, and i7 - all made it into new iMacs in 2010. The i3 is basically a replacement to the Core 2 Duo chip, while the i5 and i7 are new quad-core designs.
The iMac is available with either a 21.5-inch display or a massive 27-inch display. The 21.5-inch iMac can have either an i3 or i5 processor and the 27-inch iMac can have either the i5 or i7 processor. The top-of-the-line 27-inch iMac with the i7 is the fastest iMac yet, and can even beat the low-end Mac Pro tower on some tasks.
The year ended with another bang in the form of a new MacBook Air. The new model is sleeker, with more ports, and the option of two different screen sizes. There is the replacement for the original Air with a 13.3-inch screen, and a completely new 11.6-inch model.
The mini Air was by far the biggest surprise of the year and at $999 sold out fast in many locations. While the new Airs don't have the fastest processors available, Apple replaced the spinning hard drive with a new solid-state type storage system. This type of storage is much faster than spinning type storage so the Air 'feels' fast.
This year Apple showed why it is the leader in product design and development. They make things that people just have to have, but they are also things that people really use. It will be hard for Apple to top this year, but if anyone can do it, it would be Apple. Next year we should see iPad 2.0, iPhone 5, and a new Mac OS X named Lion. What else will 2011 bring, well, we'll just have to wait and see.