2007: How was it for Apple?

Summary:ZDNet Australia takes an iLook at the Year that was for Apple.

ZDNet Australia takes an iLook at the Year that was for Apple.

It's hard to believe that 10 years ago pundits were sounding the death knell for Apple as Steve Jobs reclaimed his position at the top of the company.

Fast forward to 2007, Jobs is still at the helm, but is now leaning back in his deckchair, soaking in the Cupertino sunshine and thumbing through a copy of Fortune magazine's Power 25 2007 issue in which he took the top spot as the most powerful business person in the world.

However, with the notable exception of the iPhone, 2007 has -- in light of developments over the past decade -- been an ordinary year for Apple. The profits remain healthy, with a great amount of the company's revenue being generated by a renewed surge in sales of Macs, which Apple sold a record 2.16 million of in the last quarter. However, the year has also been one marked by security concerns, product glitches and even talk of a growing consumer backlash.

The year in review

The year for Apple starts off, as always, with Macworld; the company's annual conference held in January. Macworld starts off, as always, with Jobs' keynote address, which he used this year to launch the iPhone, with even more than the usual fanfare attendant to such an announcement.

With an entirely straight face, Jobs announced the device by telling the crowd: "We're going to make some history together today." In an un-Apple like move, the iPhone's announcement was followed by a six month wait for its release, spurring a hype frenzy interrupted only briefly by network supplier Cisco, who filed a lawsuit against Apple for use of the iPhone trademark immediately after the device debuted at Macworld.

The lawsuit was settled in February, and within just over a month the company had announced its plans to push back the release of Leopard as developers worked to ensure the iPhone was released on schedule.

As the first quarter came to a close, the beginning of April marked the start of a slew of security issues for the company, when it released a security update for both the Tiger and Panther versions of OS X featuring patches for 25 new vulnerabilities.

Adriel Desautels, chief technology officer for security company Netragard and founder of the SNOSoft research team, said: "If OS X had the same installed base as Windows, Linux and other systems, it would be less secure or at the very most, as secure as the other systems ... It's just a matter of what [attackers] focus on."

By June, all Apple eyes had diverted back to the iPhone ahead of its US release at the end of that month. The company also announced plans to release a version of its browser Safari for Windows.

The browser received two security updates within the first week of release, but it didn't succeed in putting off users, rocking up over one million downloads in the same period.

By 29 June, shortly after the iPhone hit stores, Apple reported that it had sold over a quarter of a million units in its first 30 hours on sale, although there was some confusion as default carrier AT&T said only 146,000 were activated over the same period.

So what did the critics have to say about the iconic device? Kent German and Donald Bell, reviewers for ZDNet Australia's sister site CNET.com, summed up the general reception to the device amongst many mainstream reviews when they asked themselves these questions: "Is the iPhone pretty? Absolutely. Is it easy to use? Certainly. Does it live up to the stratospheric hype? Not so much."

Security problems arose again for the company in July as figures revealed it had been forced to plug around 100 vulnerabilities in the operating system in that year alone. At the time software vendor CA's VP of development, Eugene Dozortsev, told ZDNet Australia: "Actually, the Mac is as vulnerable as everything else." Nevertheless, the subject of Mac security continued to split opinion throughout the year as to whether OS X is inherently more secure than its Windows counterpart, or just more secure due to its lower user numbers.

The iPhone overshadowed all other Apple developments over the next couple of months as the company responded to a series of issues that generated the first complaints from disgruntled consumers.

Apple enthusiasts and early adopters lambasted the company for dropping the iPhone's price by US$200 in August, only two months after its release. Such was the outcry that the company took the unusual step of reimbursing many of those who complained with a US$100 Mac store credit as compensation.

Another uprising erupted in late September when the company issued a security update for the device that disabled those with any unauthorised software installed on the system and those that had been unlocked from mandatory carrier AT&T, prompting widespread criticism. Despite this, the company proudly announced that it had sold 1.4 million iPhones by October.

After a spike in security issues for Cupertino in the first half of the year, its resident boffins announced in October -- just ahead of the release of Leopard -- that the OS featured an all new security regime intended to make it more secure than its predecessor.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was released on 26 October, but seemed a damp squib after the iPhone excitement and some users even found themselves unable to install the OS without a Microsoft-style blue screen of death.

Leopard too had its own security issues, as problems with its firewall were reported within a week of its release, and by November an unusual Mac-targeting trojan had been discovered by Mac security firm Intego.

Only a week after its discovery, security firm F-Secure reported it had found at least 32 variants of the trojan, and linked its development and distribution to an infamous Russian malware gang and its various porn sites. Alex Eckelberry of security firm SunBelt cited the company's resident Mac guru on his blog as being "genuinely surprised" by the trojan discovery.

"I've been using Macs since 1989. This is the first time I've seen something like this," Eckelberry quoted his colleague as saying.

October also saw the leaking of council plans unveiling the location of Australia's first Apple store in Sydney, though the company remains tight lipped about when the store will be opening.

The iPhone had its first European release in the UK on 10 November, where it was locked to carrier O2. The device was also released in Germany on the same day amidst a legal battle between T-Mobile and Vodafone over Apple's carrier exclusivity policy, prompting the first case of unlocked iPhones being made commercially available legally.

German courts ruled in favour of T-Mobile on 4 December when they reversed an injunction issued by Vodafone requesting that T-Mobile be barred from selling the iPhone exclusively through its 24-month contracts.

The iPhone is not expected to be released in Australia until sometime next year. When that will be exactly remains one of the company's closely guarded secrets for the region, but it is expected to be some time in the first quarter. Pricing and an assigned carrier for the device also remain open to speculation, although early speculation placed suggested 3 would be a contender. Telstra initially dismissed the device, then later CEO Sol Trujillo hinted the telco would be keen to offer the device.

Topics: Apple, Cisco, Hardware, iPhone, Malware, Networking, Security, Software, Tech Industry

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