If we choose, we can call 2014 a year of ups and downs for Apple, but the downs were few and nominal in importance, while the ups were massive enough to sway Wall Street, diminish competitors, and make the richest tech company on planet earth much richer.
The Bad, The Good, Nothing Ugly
Every company has hiccups and speed bumps (mixing metaphors is a passion), and Apple was no exception in 2014.
The first half of the year was mostly most of us waiting around for the second half of the year. The usual hiccups came with iOS 8, which promised much, delivered a bit less, and began life as a mixed bag.
That misstep was balanced somewhat by OS X Yosemite which seems to have met the litmus test of likability and performance. Either way, the price was right.
Speaking of price, AAPL started the year with a stock price in the upper $70s and should finish the year nearly 50-percent higher. Not bad for a company with a market cap pushing $700-billion.
Then there was the iPhone 6 with two new models sporting larger screens. Much larger screens. In fact, the iPhone 6 Plus screen is so large it spawned another meme– Bendgate. Within weeks of the launch 6 Plus models began to bend.
Or, rather, began to be bent. On purpose. To show they could be bent. On purpose. Since then Apple has shipped many tens of millions more iPhone 6 Plus models, and the bending trend has stopped. Imagine that.
Apple introduced a 5k Retina display priced about the same as Dell’s 5k Retina-like display. Except that Apple include an iMac with an Intel i5 CPU inside which made the venerable iMac the best of the best for 2014.
Best seemed to be the name of the game for Apple products. Both iPhones were named to the Best Of lists. Ditto for the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 (something needs to be done with the product numbering schemes at Apple). Apple pushed the mobile CPU envelope with the A8, added 128GB storage to iPhone and iPad at 64GB prices, and decided to drop the classic iPod Classic. Not because no one wanted it, but because no one was making parts anymore.
iOS 8 and OS X got chummy and will spend more time together; or, at least, handing things off to one another. You can now answer iPhone phone calls on your Mac. I know, right?
2014 was also the year Apple spent money. Lots of money. Record levels of money. R&D was at the highest level ever. So was the stock buyback program. And Beats became Apple’s largest acquisition to date, at $3-billion. What does Apple have to show for all that spent money?
First, Apple Watch videos, photos, specifications, oohs and aahs, and an option to wait until next year to touch feel and order the real thing which is likely to be priced real high. Second, after spending nearly $60-billion in stock buybacks, Apple has far less money, but still far more money than all but a few developed nations; and probably most planets. Finally, Beats is in the fold, but the latest iTunes might just be the worst ever. An intervention is in order here.
One more thing. Apple opened up and came out in 2014. Tim Cook announced what everyone knew already, but we heard more and read more from Jonathan Ive, Angela Ahrendts, Eddy Cue, Craig Federighi, and others. Except Phil Schiller. 2014 was a good year for Apple, but as 2015 arrives everyone asks the same old question, “What have you done for me lately?” For Apple, it looks to be more of the same.