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

For Apple, 2011 marked a year of incredible accomplishments, capping a decade of deftly executed strategies including the development of Mac OS X, ten years of the iPod and the ten year anniversary of Apple Retail stores. But the year was also marked with technological tragedy, from Steve Jobs' final struggle with cancer to the cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and flooding in Thailand.

Mac App Store revolutionizes PC software distribution

The year began with Apple launching Mac OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard with support for the Mac App Store, an initiative Jobs had outlined in an October presentation focusing on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Jobs said Apple wouldn't wait for Lion to launch the new digital downloads marketplace, promising it would launch by itself in the next 90 days.

Apple subsequently launched the Mac App Store weeks ahead of schedule at the beginning of January, and throughout 2011 it completely shifted how desktop software was sold. This month, the company announced a year long figure of 100 million downloads.

Apple shifted its own consumer iLife and iWork suites to digital downloads, eventually adding its entire lineup of Pro Apps to the store as well, from Aperture to Final Cut, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro and MainStage. Apple also made available its Remote Desktop package, as well as the new FaceTime for Mac. The company's biggest release, however, was Mac OS X Lion, which shipped in July as the first digital download of a commercial PC operating system.

Mac App Store

Apple also released Mac OS X Server as a $50 App Store download, a radically simplified version of the package that formerly sold for $500. While more accessible to small office users, the package drew complaints from enterprise users who found the scaled down software ill fitted for their large deployments. Apple had also backed out of the server hardware business, canceling the Xserve at the beginning of the year and offering a Mac mini Server appliance in its place.

More than just bringing the iOS App Store to the Mac, the new marketplace for desktop software dramatically shifted software prices downward, with Apple shaving hundreds of dollars from its higher end software packages in the transition from paper boxes and discs to digital downloads. By discounting its software, Apple made its own titles more competitive while lowering the bar for what third parties could ask for their competing titles, ranging from Microsoft's Office to Adobe's Lightroom to Avid and even Microsoft's Windows, a package the company has struggled to raise the price of with a series of "editions" and upgrade options. The $29.99 Mac OS X makes any version of Windows now look awfully expensive.

In addition to shifting the price of software, the Mac App Store has also changed how desktop users obtain their software, greatly minimizing the need for an optical drive in a continuation of how iTunes and the iPod made CDs and DVDs far less necessary. Combined with network disc sharing and the new firmware Internet Repair install and restore features Apple delivered alongside the new 2011 MacBook Air models running Mac OS X Lion, the optical drive appears slated for retirement, at least among Mac users, starting 2012 as a new decade of Mac OS X development.


Jobs takes leave, continues working with iPad 2

Less than two weeks after the Mac App Store launched, Jobs announced he would take a medial leave of absence while remaining in his role as chief executive and staying involved in major strategic decisions.

While battling his health issues, Jobs continued to make regular public appearances. In February, Jobs joined a small group of Silicon Valley tech luminaries to meet with President Barack Obama in a discussion aimed at promoting technological innovation in an effort to boost the U.S. economy. Jobs presented Obama with a prerelease iPad 2.

Jobs 1

Jobs made a surprise appearance introducing the iPad 2 in March, his first in front of an audience. The revamped new tablet went on to obliterate competition from firms that had spent billions to challenge the iPad, ranging from Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb used by Motorola and Samsung to a flurry of tablets by Asus, Lenovo, Samsung and others running Microsoft's Windows 7 to HP's webOS TouchPad to RIM's PlayBook, all four of which were absolutely crushed by the iPad in 2011.

Jobs had previously described the iPad as "the most important thing I’ve ever done," according to Michael Arrington, who observed, just prior to the release of the original iPad, that "coming from the man who has created so much, that’s saying something."

On page 2 of 3: Jobs introduces iCloud, forces ahead open standards