Apple's Awesome Year In 60 Seconds

Steve Jobs

Apple (AAPL) had a very good 2009, despite a slowdown in the PC business and increased competition in smartphones.

Notably, the company survived a five-month absence by its iconic leader, Steve Jobs, who took medical leave from January through June after receiving a liver transplant.

Among Apple’s products, the iPhone rose to become the company’s growth story, thanks to increasing market share and the high-flying App Store.

Click here to power through Apple’s awesome year in 60 seconds →

Steve Jobs missed the first half of the year on medical leave

Apple's biggest story of the year: CEO Steve Jobs got a liver transplant and took the first six months of 2009 off.

A week after blaming his Macworld Expo absence on a 'hormone imbalance,' Jobs wrote a letter to Apple employees, saying, 'during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.'

Executive of the year: Scott Forstall

Steve Jobs' absence let some of his lieutenants get more of the spotlight this year, including COO Tim Cook and marketing boss Phil Schiller.

But iPhone software god Scott Forstall deserves special praise for his work with the iPhone app platform -- which has truly, violently disrupted the mobile industry.

What recession?

Apple repeatedly crushed the Street's sales and earnings estimates despite a global economic collapse. (The slowdown did take a big chunk out of the Mac business's growth momentum in 2009, but the iPhone excelled.)

Investors who bought shares early in 2009 got a good deal. Apple shares started the year under $91 and are currently trading around $195. That's a roughly 130% return, versus a roughly 20% year-to-date return for the S&P 500. Nice!

Another great year for the iPhone

Apple continued to improve the iPhone this year. (Though the competition is catching up. Particularly, Google Android.)

The new iPhone 3.0 OS included some obvious features like copy and paste, and future hits like in-app purchasing for virtual goods and support for cool hardware accessories.

People stood in line and bought 1 million iPhone 3GSs in its first weekend of sales in late June, and the $99 iPhone 3G opened the device to even more markets. Sales started (slowly) in China later in the year.

Another year of ridiculous iPhone app rejections

Apple managed to properly approve tens of thousands of iPhone apps this year, and it passed the 1 billion and 2 billion apps-downloaded marks. But the approval process also received plenty of public humiliation as angry developers found their apps rejected for stupid reasons.

For example: Bobble Rep, which included caricatures of U.S. politicians, was initially rejected 'because it contains content that ridicules public figures.' After a public lashing, Apple realised it was being dumb and now the app is available for purchase.

Apple's relationship with Google soured

After years of enjoying one of Silicon Valley's closest relationships, Apple and Google grew more distant in 2009.

The companies began to compete more directly as Google announced a desktop operating system and as Android began to take off. There was an embarrassing spat when the FCC bugged Apple about why it hadn't approved the Google Voice app for the iPhone. (It still hasn't.)

And Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down from Apple's board over the increased conflicts of interest.

Apple still hasn't figured out the living room

Steve Jobs has to be frustrated with the Apple TV set-top box, which is still Apple's lamest product.

The company's next move seems to be structuring some sort of iTunes TV subscription. But that's not Apple TV's problem. The problem is the big picture.

Apple needs to swallow its pride here and give up some control. If Apple TV -- or any Web TV box -- is going to have a fighting chance against cable, it needs to be able to play every video that's on the Web, paid or free -- not just iTunes and YouTube videos. Perhaps it needs an App Store, too.

A series of recession-era ads portrayed Macs as overpriced pieces of art and PCs as affordable workhorses.

Later in the year, Microsoft also moved deeper into Apple territory by opening its own retail stores... which look just like Apple stores.

Apple tablet rumours heated up

Apple tablet rumours escalated in April, kept going all year, and won't stop soon: Apple has a big opportunity to build something awesome and lead a market where existing products -- the Kindle, JooJoo, etc. -- are nothing special.

Image: Gizmodo

Product of the year: 27-inch iMac

Apple's best new product this year was probably the 27-inch iMac. (The 13-inch MacBook Pro, a top seller, comes in a close second.)

We snapped up a quad-core model a few weeks ago. In addition to being the fastest computer we've ever used, with a ridiculously awesome display, it makes a cool bedroom TV at night (for falling asleep to Hulu and Boxee shows).

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