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Inside Apple's 2011: Steve Jobs' achievements, battles and crises

Jobs introduces iCloud, shuts down the PC-centric "digital hub" he booted up

Jobs also appeared at Apple's summer Worldwide Developer Conference in June to introduce iCloud as the "next big insight," replacing the PC "digital hub" he had introduced around the iMac ten years ago. In its place, Jobs would deliver upon his vision for bringing to the masses the type of cloud storage network technologies that had been put into place at NeXT in the early 90s. Rather than requiring a link to iTunes to set up new iOS devices, Jobs outlined a "PC Free" setup for iOS 5 that would enable users to link directly to iCloud and related features including iTunes Match without needing a local "digital hub," a major change in Apple's mobile device strategy.

Upon returning to Apple in 1997, Jobs had outlined the future of cloud computing at that year's WWDC. By the end of 2011, Apple delivered upon the initial premise of iCloud, with support in Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and in its iCloud web applications. The company is continuing work to enhance and expand upon those efforts.

Six months earlier, Samsung had unveiled at CES its own "digital hub" strategy, following in Jobs' footsteps from ten years prior but substituting the iMac with its "Smart TVs" running Adobe Flash and apps authored in AIR.

Jobs kills off Flash, Silverlight and forces ahead open standards: HTML5 and H.264

Along with Samsung, Google, HP, RIM, and a variety of other tablet makers had supported Flash in an effort to differentiate their products from Apple's Flash-free iOS devices. But by the end of the year, Adobe would concede defeat for Flash on mobile products, deferring instead to support the open HTML5 specification as Jobs had recommended years earlier.

Microsoft also abandoned its own Silverlight platform this year, similarly citing iOS as the reason it shifted its support to HTML5. Microsoft's push to embrace more open standards and technologies reflects its failed battle with Apple's iPod, MP3s and H.264/AAC, which Microsoft waged for years at astronomical costs. Its own efforts to push proprietary DRM with Windows Media Audio and WMV (aka VC-1) not only crashed with the failed HD-DVD format, but also its iPod competitor PlaysForSure and the company's Zune products, which it finally decided to terminate this year to focus on smartphones.

Google, which strongly backed Adobe's Flash both in Android and in YouTube and its other web properties, continued its own largely ineffectual efforts this year to push Adobe's proprietary Flash alongside its "royalty free" but patent encumbered WebM video codec in a bizarre effort to attack the ISO's H.264 video specification as "not open enough" because it involved patent licensing just like its own proprietary apps for Android or Flash itself.

While promoting itself as open, Google also closed access to its Android 3.0 code throughout the entire year. That left Apple's WebKit as the only truly open, major platform throughout 2011. The WebKit open source project, which Apple has used to push the open HTML5 specification it helped to develop alongside Google and other partners, has long been the largest open development platform, exceeding Android's roughly 50 percent share of all mobile devices by nearly a factor of two.

Last October, Jobs pointed out during an Apple conference call that "Google loves to characterize Android as 'open' and iOS and iPhone as 'closed.' We find this a bit disingenuous and clouding the real difference between our two approaches." He added that "many Android OEMs, including the two largest, HTC and Motorola, install proprietary user interfaces to differentiate themselves from the commodity Android experience. The user's left to figure it all out. Compare this with iPhone, where every handset works the same."

Jobs also described various Android app stores as "a mess for both users and developers" and noted that "many Android apps work only on selected handsets, or selected Android versions," alluding to the fact that most Android phones still run an OS release roughly a year old, and often can't be updated for 3 to 6 months after Google makes an update available, observations that remained accurate throughout the year.

On page 3 of 3: Jobs unveils new Apple campus, Apple loses Steve Jobs, continues his vision