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Apple sees record iPad sales, but suffers a month of screw-ups
Apple really suffered during the final months of the year. From mid-September, things started to go badly wrong. First of all, Hurricane Sandy had a devastating effect on the Eastern seaboard, which hit major metropolitan areas at the same time that the new iPad mini was released. Sales were not as good as expected as a result of the "superstorm," but Apple was still able to achieve a "weekend record" of three million iPads during the first few days of the product's launch.
iOS 6, the firm's latest mobile operating system, came with a serious headache all of its own: Maps. The in-house application that was meant to replace Google Maps was terrible; so much so, Apple chief executive Tim Cook even apologized for the screw-up. Weeks later, the company announced a massive management shake-up that led to the departure of Scott Forstall, the man in charge of Apple's iOS division.
Apple's retail chief John Browett was also ousted from the company after he not only failed to crack China -- a key market for Apple to dip into -- but also led to a near-coup of the firm's retail store staff after he said they would face reduced worker hours and even layoffs. One of his final acts at the company was backtracking on the changes, before he was summarily booted out.
U.K. flips on the 4G LTE switch
Many European countries already have 4G services, and the next-generation mobile network speeds are common across the U.S. and Canada.
But the humble United Kingdom, a small island off the European mainland, was stuck in the cellular dark ages with 3G mobile broadband speeds. Eventually, after constant bickering and the threats of lawsuits by various mobile network operators, the U.K. government intervened and said 'enough was enough,' and the path was paved to prepare the population for faster cellular networks.
In September, EE was born as the first 4G LTE network in the country, aligning it with much of the Western world. It would still be a few weeks before LTE services were enabled and the switches were flipped firmly in the 'on' position. But the U.K. could -- at long last -- call itself a 4G country.
State-sponsored Flame malware hits Middle East
Two years after Stuxnet infected Iranian nuclear facilities and damaged the country's ongoing nuclear program, malware called Flame was next to cause damage and disruption. Dubbed 'Flame' due to referenced words in fragments of code analyzed by Kaspersky Lab, the Russian antivirus and online security firm found the malware to be the "most complex threat" ever discovered. According to Kaspersky, the state-sponsored malware "redefines… cyberwar and cyberespionage."
Flame targeted machines in Iran, the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, Sudan, Syria, and others in the region, and was far more sophisticated than Stuxnet in a number of ways. Instead of just targeting the physical infrastructure of the network, it was designed to steal data and collect audio and video content from webcams and microphones.
Who or what was behind Flame remains unknown. While speculation remains rife around the circumstances of Stuxnet and similar state-sponsored malware attacks, some words in the code suggests an English-speaking country may have been behind the attack.