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Apple's biggest product releases of 2011

Every year Apple releases a host of new products -- from hardware to software to services. Here are the company's 12 biggest product releases of 2011.

Apple's 2011 releases

Every year, Apple releases a slew of products. Here are some of the company's biggest releases of the past year.

Mac App Store

Inspired by the success of the iOS App Store, Apple launched the Mac App Store in January. The Mac App Store opened with more than 1000 software programs, letting users purchase Mac-specific apps in the same way that they purchase iOS apps on the App Store, or music and movies on iTunes. Less than a year later the store hit 100 million downloads, which according to Apple makes it the world’s largest and fastest-growing PC software store.

MacBook Pro

In February, Apple updated its line of MacBook Pros. The revamped models featured Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors for increased speed, updated graphics cards, and a new FaceTime HD Camera. But most importantly, the early 2011 MacBook Pro became the first computer on the market to include a Thunderbolt port.

iPad 2

The release of the original Apple iPad meant long, winding lines outside of Apple stores across the country. This year's iPad 2 launch in March wasn't any different. The highly anticipated Apple tablet drew crowds for good reason—the device sported a number of new features including a thinner and lighter design, a dual-core A5 processor, and a rear-facing camera for taking quick snapshots and videos. With the iPad 2, Apple only strengthened its position in the tablet market.

Final Cut Pro X

Apple's release of Final Cut Pro X was perhaps one of the most controversial product releases of the year. Professional video editors had mixed feelings about the software, many expressing their frustration about the lack of features previously available in Final Cut Pro 7. Others complained that Apple "dumbed down" the program to appeal to the masses. Still, Final Cut Pro X had and still has its fair share of fans. With a host of new editing features, a simplified interface, a transparent media management system, increased speed, and more, the video-editing software is all about making a change. And change can definitely be good.

OS X Lion

With OS X Lion, Apple released a significant revision to its Mac OS. The company took strides to make an OS that would be easy for new users, familiar to iOS device owners purchasing their first Mac, and keep veteran Mac users happy, and it seems to have succeeded. Released in July on the Mac App Store for only $30—a significant price cut from previous OS X upgrades—OS X Lion included a long list of new features such as Mission Control, full-screen app capability, Launchpad, a redesigned Finder, gesture-based navigation, and more.

MacBook Air

"As close to perfect as Apple's ever come," is how Macworld editorial director Jason Snell described the 2011 MacBook Airs in his review of the uber-thin and -light laptops. With the July release of the new 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple bid farewell to the MacBook, giving the Airs center stage in Apple's laptop lineup. Updated with Core i5 and Core i7 Intel processors and high-speed Thunderbolt technology, these once niche devices truly became "The ultimate everyday laptop."

Thunderbolt Display

This year, Apple totally embraced Intel's Thunderbolt technology, and in September, began to ship its new Thunderbolt Display. It's the first display with Thunderbolt I/O technology, meaning it's mighty fast at connecting to a Thunderbolt-enabled MacBook. In fact, the Thunderbolt Display is the perfect companion to the MacBook Air (especially if you own an 11-inch model).

iCloud

First announced at WWDC, Apple introduced iCloud as a way for users to sync their information, data, and media across multiple devices, and of course, to the ubiquitous cloud. When the syncing service was released in October, it did just that. Now you can keep your contacts, calendars, emails, photos, documents, Safari bookmarks, and more synced across your Mac and iOS devices. It wasn't the most revolutionary product release—other companies like Dropbox provide a similar service—but Apple's iCloud offers a free and fairly simple way to backup, sync, and keep track of all your Apple devices.

iOS 5

October's release of iOS 5 featured changes in nearly every part of Apple's mobile operating system, along with adding completely new capabilities to the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Because of iOS 5, our devices now sport a Notification Center, iMessage, Twitter integration, Reminders, Newsstand, and much more. The new OS introduced iPad users to a host of new Multitasking gestures, tabbed Safari browsing, and a split keyboard for easier typing. iOS favorites such as Mail, Maps, and Calendar got a number of improvements. Overall, iOS 5 made it possible for us to do more with our mobile Apple devices.

iPhone 4S

Even though it looked identical to its predecessor, the iPhone 4S was the most popular Apple phone to date. In the first 24 hours, Apple received one million iPhone 4S preorders; three days later iPhone 4S sales topped 4 million. This is largely due to the most talked about and talkative feature of the year: Siri, Apple's voice-controlled, mobile, personal assistant. Only available on the iPhone 4S, Siri can find you restaurants, tell you the weather, send your texts, and at times, is a decent conversationalist.

GarageBand for iOS

Apple made on-the-go music creation very easy with the November release of GarageBand 1.1 for iOS. The latest update brought the music-making program to the iPhone and iPod touch, and included a long list of improvements and new features. Senior Editor Christopher Breen bestowed GarageBand with five out of five mice—and we don't give that many mice to just anything.

iTunes Match

While we first heard about iTunes Match at WWDC in June and expected its arrival in October, Apple didn't actually make the service available until November. For $25 a year, Apple's iTunes in the Cloud service scans all of your songs and matches them with high-quality versions from the extensive iTunes library, then lets you stream your music to all of your other Apple devices. It's not without its quirks and issues, but iTunes Match is certainly a worthy service for any music-loving Apple user.