There can be no doubt that 2005 was a stellar year for Apple. From record-breaking quarterly financial reports and the release of Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" to the announced transition of the Macintosh to Intel chips and new iPods, Apple fired on all cylinders throughout much of the year, creating unprecedented demand for many of its products.
The company started off 2005 by announcing a $295 million profit and the highest quarterly revenue and net income in its history. Apple sold 1.04 million Macintosh computers and 4.5 million iPods for the quarter, which represented a staggering 525 per cent year-over-year increase in iPod sales alone.
Apple continued its upward climb in the second quarter, shipping 1.07 million Macs and 5.3 million iPods and registering a $290 million profit. While the quarter is the only one of the year that the company didn't report record profits, it did see a 43 per cent increase in computer shipments and a 558 per cent rise in iPod shipments.
The third and fourth quarters of the year saw Apple return to its record-breaking ways posting profits of $320 million and $430 million, respectively. By the end of the year, Mac shipments topped 1.2 million units, and iPod almost reached 6.5 million shipments for the quarter.
iPod
Perhaps the single most influential product in Apple's arsenal is its diminutive MP3 and video iPod line. From the Shuffle and iPod video to the new iPod nano, analysts raved about the portable music player -- even saying it had reached iconic status.
Apple also turned its attention to the mobile phone market in 2005. In a joint event with Motorola, Apple introduced the Rokr cell phone, the first such phone that included Apple's iTunes music software.
Apple software
At the Macworld Conference and Expo last January, Apple CEO Steve Jobs declared 2005 the "year of HD video editing." Backing up that declaration, Jobs introduced new versions of the company's intermediate video editing software, Final Cut Express, and its consumer-level iMovie, which was released as part of iLife '05.
While the year of high-definition video seemed to fizzle quickly, the year of Tiger did not. On 29 April, Apple released its most advanced operating system to date, Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger."
With its many marquee features -- including Spotlight, Automator and an updated version of Safari -- Tiger proved to be a winner with users. Apple also used Tiger to help its initiatives in other markets, such as sciences and enterprise.
Apple credited Mac OS X -- in combination with its hardware offerings -- with renewed interest in the operating system from scientists. New applications aimed at the scientific community made Mac OS X an attractive buy because of its easy-to-use interface and its powerful Unix back end.
One of the more interesting software announcements from Apple in 2005 was saved for the end of the year, when the company introduced Aperture. Billed as the first professional all-in-one postproduction tool for photographers, Apple was quick to denounce speculation that the application was a competitor for Adobe's Photoshop.
Analysts agreed that Aperture served a different purpose than Photoshop but said the release was a clear shot across Adobe's bow.
Hardware
Very few announcements in recent years have rocked the Apple world like the move to Intel processors announced at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in June. Jobs said the first Intel-based Macintosh would be available within a year.
Jobs said that Apple's goal is to provide users with the best personal computers it can and that Intel has a very strong road map. Two of Apple's biggest developers, Adobe and Microsoft, both pledged support for the new processors during Jobs' keynote.
To help with the transition, Apple introduced Rosetta, a technology that will translate PowerPC-based applications to the new platform -- a process that will be immediate and transparent to the user, according to Apple.
While a lot of work lies ahead for developers to build code that run natively on the new processors, most were unfazed by the news. Apple issued an update to its development tools and offered developers an Intel kit that would give each one an Intel-based Macintosh for testing.
Apple issued speed bumps to its laptop line throughout the year, but the introduction that caught most people's attention was the Mac Mini. The low-cost Mini was an immediate hit with users who wanted a small Macintosh computer, without the typical higher Macintosh price.
The Mac Mini also became the focus of many groups looking for an Apple product in the home cinema market. Some developers have even started putting out builds of products that allow users to play movies, music and view photos on a television, all from a Mac mini.
Apple added to this later in the year when it introduced Front Row, an application that gives users an interface to control their media. For now, that application is only available on the iMac.
Apple ended its hardware year in October by introducing a new Power Mac G5 featuring dual-core PowerPC CPUs and a Peripheral Component Interconnect Express expansion architecture. The release of the new processors led some to speculate that Apple's high-end systems would not be the first to incorporate an Intel chip.
Lawsuits
No year would be complete without a slew of lawsuits, and 2005 was no different. Apple sued and got sued, appeals were won and lost, and as with most legal battles, many promised to extend into 2006 and beyond.
The litigation started early in the year for Apple's corporate attorneys when a user of its iTunes Music Store sued the company for its use of FairPlay, the company's preferred digital rights management software.
The suit accused Apple of violating federal antitrust laws and California's unfair competition law by requiring users who buy music from the iTunes Music Store to use an iPod if they plan to take their music on the road with them.
Apple was also sued by two former employees. In one case, Tim Bucher, Apple's former senior vice president of Macintosh Hardware Engineering, sued the company for termination without cause. The other case involved discrimination when an employee sued Apple after being terminated from her position when she complained that her white counterparts, who were junior to her, were making higher salaries than she was.
A pair of lawsuits between Apple and its developers was resolved after the company sued them for posting pre-release versions of Mac OS X Tiger on file-sharing Web sites.
Apple's ongoing battle with rumour Web sites hit highs and lows. The company won a ruling, but the decision was quickly appealed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Apple agreed to settle a class-action suit filed against it by owners of iPods who said the company misrepresented the capabilities of the iPod's built-in rechargeable battery. Apple offered a $50 coupon and extended warranties to consumers who can produce a receipt. The company denied the plaintiffs' claims, but agreed to the settlement.
The lawsuit that attracted the most attention towards the end of the year involved the iPod Nano. A class-action lawsuit launched against Apple claimed that the device's display screen scratches too easily. The lawsuit seeks to represent up to 125,000 iPod owners, said the law firm that launched the case.
The suit claimed that the iPod Nano is defectively designed, allowing the screen to quickly become scratched with normal use. The suit also claims that the excessive, rapid wear renders the device unusable.
Market share
As Apple begins to make its mark in the life sciences and business markets with Mac OS X, the company's education desktop market is beginning to grow. According to market research firm IDC, Apple has experienced growth in demand for education shipments both in the U.S. and worldwide.
Comparing the fourth quarter of 2004 with the fourth quarter of 2005, Apple saw its education computer shipments rise 15.08 per cent worldwide and 13.79 per cent in the U.S. By comparison, education leader Dell Inc. saw its worldwide shipments rise 6.51 per cent, while U.S. shipments rose by 3.84 per cent.
Next up: Macworld Expo
With Macworld Expo set to begin in San Francisco on 10 January, there is little doubt that Apple will have more treats for the Mac faithful. With its focus on faster Macs with an Intel processor, a new operating system in the works and its move into the iPod video market, 2006 could start off with a bang.