As 2008 slid gracefully towards its denouement, confirmation that Apple had lodged itself firmly in the popular consciousness — as if confirmation was needed — came in the form of The Simpsons, who mercilessly did for ‘Mapple’. Apple’s share price fell on the news. (You may notice that the only existent footage I could find on YouTube was this Hulu-approved clip. I hear that Apple’s legal team have posters of Fox’s lawyers on their office walls.)
If you had to pick out Apple’s biggest success of 2008, the sure-fire winner would have to be the App Store. In December we received news that in just 5 short months it had swelled to include over 10,000 applications, and had served over 300 million downloads. Could there be a happier group of individuals than iPhone developers? Well, yes. Easily. Much mewling and puking was to be heard over the rash of 99¢ ‘ring tone’ apps, which were said to be driving down prices and making serious development for the platform impossible. Responding to this criticism, Apple did some quick retooling of the way the lists of most popular apps were displayed in iTunes, and when that didn’t stop the whining, though “well bloody sod them then” and approved the Pull My Finger whoopee cushion simulator (and its numerous imitators).
Things continued to go brilliantly for Apple. OS X claimed an all-time high of 8.87% of the operating system market, with Safari taking 7.13% of the web browser share. The iPhone was said to account for almost 30% of the US smartphone market — a figure which was set to increase as rumours that it was to be sold at Wal*Mart stores finally prove to be true, although the $99 4Gb special edition never surfaced. The world continued to go iPhone crazy. Ohio State University Medical Centre, the University of Derby Medical School, and the University of Cologne all announced plans to purchase iPhones for their students, while in South Korea they went as far as changing the law to allow the iPhone to be sold there. But in France a judge ruled against Apple’s exclusive distribution deal with Orange.
The big question on the lips of every other pundit with a few column inches to fill was, What if Steve Jobs ran the US auto industry? Well, the one thing we can all be sure of is that the adverts would definitely have better music in them, as it was revealed that Steve personally picks the tunes for Apple’s ads.
There was a brief scare when rumours — and photographic proof — that Barack Obama used a Zune surfaced. These were quickly proven to be as accurate as rumours of a Zune phone. But the iPhone Nano rumours refused to die, with phone case manufacturers posting leaks left and right, in an attempt to stave off the boredom which comes from being phone case manufacturers. Elsewhere, Linux was shown (just about) running on the iPhone.
An old tech note surfaced, suggesting that Mac owners should use multiple anti-virus programs. It was pulled a few days later, with Apple claiming “Macs are secure right out of the box,” and adding that, coincidentally, PCs are only secure while still in theirs. Mac OS X 10.5.6 was released, and both NetFlix streaming and BBC iPlayer downloading came to the Mac.
Apple added DMCA charges to its lawsuit against Psystar, and also alleged the involvement of ten shadowy ‘John Doe’ figures, responsible for pulling strings behind the scenes. Another would-be Mac maker, OpeniMac, appeared in Argentina, and EFi-X USA also threatened to release a Mac clone for almost an entire morning, before their European parent told them to shut the hell up.
As all eyes turned towards January 2009 and Macworld, Adobe announced that it would be skipping the venerable trade show, after laying off 600 employees. Next to pull out was peripheral-maker Belkin. And then the unthinkable-but-in-retrospect-perfectly-logical happened, and Apple announced that next year would be their last year of attending the show, and that Phil Schiller would be presenting the Stevenote. Philnote. Whatever. How will Macworld survive without Apple? wondered commentators. No problem, said Macworld organisers, sighting Apple Expo Paris. Next year’s Apple Expo Paris is cancelled, said Apple Expo Paris organisers.
Now, I’m going to have to end this review of 2008 on a disclaimer: In order to maintain the pretence of having a life, I am writing this final entry on the morning of the 30th (so I can spend the whole of the 21st drinking alone). 2008’s still got a day and a half left in it, and considering that that half day is half a Tuesday, almost anything could happen in the next 36 hours. Already today we’ve had rumours of retail-boxed AppleTV software and an Apple Home Media Server. And while I can’t call to mind any products which Apple absolutely definitely cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die promised to have out this year, with them you just can’t rule out a last-gasp one more thing. Perhaps it will be the revamped Mac Mini. Or the Mac Tablet/NetBook. Or even Steve’s abdication. Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: Whatever happens, Apple’s share price will fall on the news.