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Why 2012 Has Been Apple’s Most Important Year Ever

With the absence of Steve Jobs looming in the background, Tim Cook and his team faced a mountain of questions as they marched into 2012. Who would be the visionary now? Would the iPhone continue to be successful? What’s going to happen to the Mac now that the iPad has become a beast of its own?

The most important question Apple faced going into 2012 was whether they could maintain their supremacy. With competitors closing the gap, Apple doesn’t have Steve Jobs’s vision, charisma, or negotiating prowess anymore, and 2012 has been the year to prove that Apple can endure. The challenges and adversaries Apple is facing in 2012 has made this single year the most important one ever for Apple, and yet they’ve been able to come through in the clutch and blow us away with an army of incredible products and strategic moves.

 

For the first time in years Apple’s not the only company who bleeds its soul into the design of products.

Never before has the tech world seen such an amazing display of competition. Every major tech company in the world is in full-on fighter jet mode, arming themselves with a dazzling array of fanciful products to delight their customers (except maybe RIM). Not only are Amazon and Barnes and Noble duking it out with their great looking tablets, but Microsoft and Google are jumping into the hardware game as well, and their products actually look amazing. Now everyone wants to control both the hardware and the software just like Apple has done for the last 30 years, and they’re doing a pretty decent job at it.

Tech companies aren’t just adopting Apple’s software/hardware strategies, they’re trying to replicate their love for design as well. Apple has always dominated the industry when it comes to design, but for the first time in years they’re not the only company who bleeds their soul into the design of products.

Microsoft obsessed over the design Surface so much that they added extra hinges and clips just so the keyboard and kickstand sound cool. Nokia’s Lumia phones look distinctive and elegant. Barnes and Noble has gone from bookseller to tablet maker overnight. And even though their Nexus Q media center bombed, Google’s Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 are the best looking tablets on the market after the iPad and iPad mini.

Jony Ive’s design team deserves the tech equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor after working their asses off all year.

Responding to the assault that Apple has faced in 2012 would be an impossible task for any other company. But Apple’s not only responded, they’ve taken the game to a whole new level. In 2012 Apple has updated almost every major product they sell. Jony Ive’s design team deserves the tech equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor after working their asses off all year and redesigning everything in site.

Apple didn’t just bring us a redesigned iPhone, they redesigned the iMac, iPad, iPod Touch, iPod Nano, and the MacBook Pro. They made updates to the Mac Pro, Mac Mini and the iPod Shuffle. All that wasn’t enough for them though so they went out and created a new product with the iPad mini and they’re probably still slaving away on the iTV.

The amount of updated and redesigned products that Apple has put out this year has been completely mind boggling. As a result of all the hard work, Apple’s stock price has hit an all-time and their cash reserves have never been deeper. They’ve even been killing it on the legal front as well this year and won a billion dollar patent case against Samsung.

As if redesigning all of Apple’s products weren’t enough, Tim Cook then went and made some bold steps this year and restructured his management team. Even though iOS has been a huge success, Scott Forstall was fired and his duties were divvied out to other senior VPs. By firing Forstall, Tim Cook made a huge statement at Apple that nothing less than perfection can be acceptable. Under Steve Jobs’s direction Apple was great, but if Cook and co. want to get out from Steve’s shadow they’re going to have to be flawless.

At some point Apple is going to slip and another company will take advantage.

With Jony Ive now taking on Human Interface duties as well as hardware design, Cook has conceded that Apple needs someone with product vision like Steve Jobs had. Cook doesn’t have that vision, but Ive does. Cook’s willingness to give Ive even more power than Jobs did shows not only that Cook knows what his own strengths are, but that he’s not afraid to admit where he’s weak and find better solutions.

The bummer for Apple is that even though they’ve upgraded their entire lineup and improved their collaborative abilities this year, they’re still not guaranteed to win the tech wars. At some point Apple is going to slip and another company will take advantage. Apple Maps was a big disappointment. The iPad Mini is great, but it might not be cheap enough or have enough features to destroy the Kindle Fire HD, or keep people from buying a Microsoft Surface.  Android phones are catching up with the iPhone 5 even though it’s the fastest selling phone ever.

Apple is in an amazing position right now, but rather than being able to rest after all the hard work they’ve done in 2012, they’re going to have to work just as hard in 2013 or even harder.

2012 isn’t just an important year for Apple. It’s an important year for every company and has shown what the tech landscape might look like for the next five years.  Apple’s faced their challenges this year and dictated the pace of the tech industry. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Nokia, or Samsung can’t just release a decent product every two to three years and coast anymore, but neither can Apple.

Apple and their competitors have shown that if anyone wants to be the undisputed king of tech, you’re going to have to make incredible new products in every category every single year. Perfection isn’t just a goal anymore, it’s absolutely mandatory if you want to win.

Game on.