2014 was an absolutely monumental year for Apple. Haters will hate, but one thing can’t be denied: This is a company that refuses to rest on its laurels.
Under Tim Cook’s leadership, Apple debuted a new product category with the Apple Watch, sold a record number of new iPhones, made the biggest acquisition in its history, and successfully sent its suffering stock price back into the stratosphere.
The company wasn’t without its missteps, but all in all, it’s hard to call 2014 anything short of a blow-away year for Apple.
AAPL splits 7 for 1
In April, Apple split its stock 7 for 1 and added another $30 billion to its share-buyback program, raising the total to $90 billion. Dividends also increased 8 percent, and shareholders responded very well to the changes.
AAPL has been on a relatively steady incline all year, peaking at $118.93 on November 28, an all-time high. Just remember, investors, Tim Cook doesn’t care about your “bloody ROI.”
Apple buys Beats
The biggest acquisition in Apple’s history was also its most shocking. Following weeks of hotly debated skepticism surrounding the company’s intention to buy Beats Electronics, the deal actually happened. With $3 billion on the table, Dr. Dre received the biggest payday of any musician in history. And more importantly, Apple got Jimmy Iovine, a music industry mogul and old friend of Steve Jobs.
Although still a good business to be in, margins on trendy headphones aren’t likely the reason Apple wanted Beats. It had all the signs of a talent grab, and with rumors saying Beats Music will be integrated into iOS next year, it’s clear Apple wants to stay relevant in music before iTunes goes the way of the dinosaur.
iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite
2014 was a big year for software. Apple debuted iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, both of which mark big leaps forward for both platforms.
Thanks to the new-found collaboration between Jony Ive and Apple software chief Craig Federighi, the company was able to integrate its mobile and desktop operating systems like never before. Under the umbrella of what the company calls Continuity, apps can use features like Handoff to pick up where they left off across devices.
Apple also introduced HealthKit and HomeKit, developer tools that are just now starting to spawn countless wearables that can better track your health and a plethora of smart-home devices.
Yosemite was more of a visual refresh that, while definitely similar to iOS 8, shows Apple has a distinctly separate vision for the Mac.
Enterprise push with IBM partnership
There’s some ancient proverb about the weakness of an enemy being your own strength. When Apple surprised everyone by joining with IBM for an unprecedented push into the world of enterprise, Tim Cook was clear they were doing “something that only Apple and IBM can deliver.” It marked a new era for Apple’s openness towards big partnerships.
The two were archrivals in the early days of the Macintosh, but they are very different companies in 2014. IBM specializes in providing enterprise services and technical support, while Apple is almost entirely a consumer electronics company.
The benefits of a marriage were clear. With Apple designing apps and IBM providing onsite installation and technical support, the two would offer a tantalizing package that corporations would be foolish to refuse.
We have yet to see the outcome of the relationship, although the first wave of enterprise apps was recently announced. Apple has committed to making more than 100 industry-specific apps and services for banks, insurance companies, pilots and more.
iCloud hack leads to celebrity nude leaks
When TMZ is writing about iCloud, you know Apple is caught up in a scandal. In September, a trove of leaked nudes from stars like Jennifer Lawrence hit the web. The source of the leaks was quickly traced back to iCloud being hacked, although Apple clarified it was a result of “a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions.”
While devastating for the victims, the outcome of the leaks ultimately led to some notable progress. A shady underbelly of anonymous hackers was unearthed, thereby exposing how easy it is to use social engineering to gain access to someone’s iCloud account.
Apple responded by beefing up iCloud’s security, including finally encrypting device backups. The company started heavily promoting two-factor authentication as well, which is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in 2015. Tim Cook admitted that Apple has a responsibility to raise awareness among its customers regarding internet security.
New iPhones and #Bendgate
The iPhone got bigger and bendier. It wasn’t long after the 6 and 6 Plus went on sale that YouTubers started showing them literally bending under pressure. The mainstream media quickly took the story and ran with it, because hey, APPLE IS DOOMED, right?
Never mind that Apple sold a record 10 million units in one weekend, and lines at Apple stores persisted for weeks. Apple’s cash cow is well poised to fuel a blowout holiday quarter.
First look at Apple Watch
By far the most anticipated announcement of 2014, the Apple Watch will mark the company’s first entrance into a new product category since the death of Steve Jobs. The smartwatch is rumored to go on sale in early 2015, although Apple has only given a spring release time frame.
At a packed press event in September, the Apple Watch was the star of the show, and rightfully so. It’s incredibly ambitious in scope. While some fear it may actually do too much at launch, the later release of WatchKit showed that it will be severely limited as a developer platform out of the gate. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Watch, like what it will cost beyond the $349 base model. It’s a very different product from anything Apple has ever done, and 2015 will be when we get to see how well it’s received by the general public.
Does Tim Cook have a hit on his hands? Place your bets.
Apple Pay rings up sales
When Touch ID debuted in the iPhone 5S, everyone knew it was going to be a mobile payments authenticator eventually. Heck, even Tim Cook said it would be. In September, we finally got Apple Pay — a frictionless payments service that banks and credit cards are embracing with open arms.
It only accounts for a minuscule percentage of transactions now, but Apple Pay is set up well to eventually dominate the mobile payments industry. Will physical wallets be obsolete in a few years? It’s very possible.
The retailers behind the Merchant Customer Exchange conglomerate don’t like Apple Pay at all, and one of the more interesting stories to follow in 2015 will be Apple Pay versus MCX’s rival app, CurrentC. When you’ve got banks literally paying people to use Apple Pay, it’s pretty clear who the winner already is.
One of Apple’s biggest missteps of the year was automatically loading the new U2 album on everyone’s iTunes accounts. Not everyone likes free music apparently, and a violent Internet outcry led to Apple providing steps for purging the record from your account forever.
The new iMac’s gorgeous 5K Retina display almost forgives the poor Cinema Display going through another year of neglect. Sexier than ever, the latest iMac proves Apple still cares about its desktop hardware.
Tim Cook: “I’m proud to be gay”
In a deeply personal essay, Tim Cook finally come out as gay. “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me,” he wrote.
As the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful companies, Cook’s coming out is truly historic. An anti-discrimination bill in his home state of Alabama is being named after Cook, and he recently donated $8.5 million to the Human Rights Campaign, an effort to abolish LGBT workplace discrimination in southern states.
Bizarre App Store rejections
Unfortunately, Apple ended the year by causing quite a ruckus among third-party developers. The outcry was the result of a string of seemingly random App Store rejections over the implementation of certain iOS 8-related features. Several high-profile apps, like PCalc and Transmit, were forced to remove new features after, in some cases, being promoted in the App Store for the very same features.
For a company that’s all about collaboration, there seems to be something very broken structurally with the way Apple internally reviews and then promotes apps. Either the teams aren’t working together, or there’s a war of opinion being fought.
While it won’t likely have an effect on the company’s bottom line anytime soon, enough developers are starting to get worked up for Apple to notice. Apps provide a lot of the value for why people buy iPhones and iPads to begin with, and Apple will need to work harder to please its developer community in 2015.