The year’s biggest Mac stories

‘Tis the season for year-end lists, many of which are of the “Year’s Biggest Stories” variety. Our friends at PC World have their list. Infoworld took a slightly different approach with a list of the top 10 underreported tech stories of 2007 (which more than a few Macworld readers did not agree with). Computerworld even compiled a top 10 list of… top 10 lists.

Well, I’m game for getting in on the Top 10 act. Here’s a list of the 10 biggest Mac stories of 2007, selected arbitrarily and in consultation with nobody else.

1. The iPhone’s debut

So much ink, virtual and otherwise, has been spilled touting the significance of Apple’s smartphone that nothing I’m going to say is going to convince you that this was the most important product Apple released this year if you don’t already subscribe to that line of thinking. Instead, I’ll just quote my Editors’ Choice Award write-up for the iPhone: Just as the Macintosh changed personal computing in 1984 and the iPod did the same for digital music in 2001, the iPhone heralds a dramatic shift in the future of smart phones. Future devices might challenge and even surpass it, but for the time being, every smart phone that hits the market will be a response to the iPhone. What’s more, the iPhone story doesn’t end as the clock strikes midnight—we can expect development guidelines for third-party iPhone applications in February and a 3G iPhone later in the year (at least if AT&T is to be believed). And those are just the things we already know about.

2. Leopard ships

It arrived later than expected, but you could argue that OS X 10.5 was worth the wait. (Unless, of course, you were among the users stung by some upgrade headaches.) Like the iPhone, Leopard figures to influence events well into 2008. Look for OS X 10.5’s Time Machine backup feature to spark innovation in the storage market, while the operating system’s Core Animation feature should make its presence felt in future software releases.

3. Record Mac sales

Amid the iPhone hoopla and the ongoing popularity of the iPod, it’s easy for some people to forget that Apple also makes a pretty good computer, too. The company served notice in 2007 that, even as it expands its business into other areas, it hasn’t taken its eye off the Mac ball. In July, Apple reported a record quarter for Mac sales—a record that lasted all of three months until Apple broke it again.

4. Adobe delivers a new Creative Suite

Adobe was among the last high-profile Mac developers to come out with software that ran natively on Intel-based Macs. But when it came time to deliver Universal Mac software, Adobe delivered in a big way. Its massive Creative Suite release featured updated versions of nearly every professional product in Adobe’s arsenal across the imaging, design, and video-production disciplines. The different permutations of Creative Suite 3 easily represented the most significant third-party release of 2007.

5. A Mac-targeting trojan horse

In October, reports emerged of a Trojan Horse called OSX.RSPlug.A that changed a Mac’s Domain Name Server address to point to malicious DNS machines. There was no cause to panic—the malware could be detected and removed or avoided altogether with a little level-headed behavior. But it did serve as a reminder that as secure as the platform is, Mac users should guard against complacency.

6. A little competition for iTunes

Since its 2003 debut, Apple’s online iTunes Store has pretty much stiff-armed any would-be challengers to its digital media dominance. But a worthy foe emerged in 2007 in the form of Amazon MP3. The end result of this added competition? By year’s end, you could buy more music free of digital-rights management restrictions for a lower price at iTunes than you could earlier in the year. Here’s hoping iTunes and Amazon MP3 continue to push each other into 2008.

7. High-profile software delays

Leopard wasn’t the only marquee release to take its time getting to retail shelves in 2007. A pair of major Mac developers—Intuit and Microsoft—both postponed releases of their flagship products. In fact, the year closes with neither Intuit’s Quicken nor Microsoft’s Office appearing in Intel-native form. (Office is slated to ship in two weeks, while the desktop version of Quicken isn’t expected until the fall of 2008.) What’s notable here is the reaction to these delays; while such high-profile no-shows might have inspired a rash of “The Mac platform is doomed” stories in some corners in the past, most users had a ho-hum reaction to the lack of new Office and Quicken versions. Perhaps it’s a sign of the Mac market’s overall strength as well as a shift away from developers who once dominated the platform.

8. The death of DRM

My colleague Christopher Breen covered this in his look back at the year in music, but it bears repeating: digital-rights management for online music sales appears to be going the way of the dodo. Steve Jobs signaled his desire to do away with DRM via a February open letter and the creation of iTunes Plus tracks (introduced at $1.29 each, but now available for 99 cents). Amazon MP3 has its own DRM-free selection, which just got bigger with the addition of the Warner Music Group’s catalog.

9. Apple’s green policies

The year began with environmental group Greenpeace protesting Apple’s policies at Macworld Expo. By May, Jobs issued another open letter, this one outlining Apple’s plans to remove toxic chemicals from its products. The company took the first step toward doing just that, when the 15-inch MacBook Pro models introduced in June featured environmentally-friendly LED-backlit displays. Look for Jobs’ green directive to influence more Apple hardware developments in 2008.

10. Media companies take aim at iTunes

Whether it was former Disney CEO Michael Eisner partly blaming the ongoing writers’ strike on iTunes pricing or the spat between Apple and NBC Universal that removed NBC television programs from the iTunes Store, it’s clear media companies want more say in how their wares are priced at Apple’s online store. That dispute doesn’t figure to disappear in the new year, either.

That’s one man’s list. Feel free to ring in the New Year by supplying your own thoughts on the top news stories of 2007 or what to expect in the coming year. And while we’re on the subject, Happy New Year to all our readers.

Subscribe to the Help Desk Newsletter

Comments