The 12 Apples of Christmas

With all the rumors, announcements, keynotes, and online drama, 2010 has been a banner year for the Apple brand. The 12 days of Christmas start after Christmas day, so in the spirit of that tradition, here's a look back at what was, and a look ahead at what's to come for Cupertino.

Twelve New Product Announcements

MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod touch, Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. All 12 of Apple's primary offerings received major updates within the past 12 months. Even such accessories as the Magic Track Pad and the Apple Cinema Display were updated, along with many software titles, such as iLife, Aperture, and Logic Pro, as well as core applications iTunes, Safari, and Quicktime. Most of Apple's iOS apps were updated this year, too. A smaller list is what Apple (AAPL) didn't update: Final Cut, iPod Classic, XServe, and OS X. And iWork doesn't count, since the iPad version made its debut.

Eleven Hours of Battery Life

While Apple claims only 10 hours of battery life for the iPad and only seven for the new MacBook Air, others have been able to squeeze out as many as 11 hours from each product. When Apple changed the way it calculated battery life, its new calculations tended to be more conservative, which is a refreshing deviation from standard industry practice.

Ten More Gigs of Space

Since I became a subscriber to.Mac a while back, Apple has steadily increased the amount of storage available. Not too long ago, the space doubled from 10 to 20 gigabytes. With the doubling of the data center in North Carolina, we may be in for yet another bump in the coming months.

Nine Cloud-Based Services

While Apple's e-commerce initiatives may be strong, the same can't necessarily be said for the Mobile Me side of Apple's cloud-based strategy. With modest updates to their mail, contacts, calendar, gallery, and disk services, Apple has been struggling to keep pace with some fierce competition from all the free services available from Google and others. Apple's recent decision to make at least one of those services free indicates a change in that strategy could be in the offing.

Eight Rumors Brewing

Outside normal product promotion channels, 2010 started out with a tale of woe for a particular Apple engineer who left his iPhone behind. Antennagate reached such epic proportions that Apple held an unprecedented press conference to address it.Consumer Reports added fuel to the fire by denying the iPhone 4 its coveted buy recommendation. Human resources even made a splash as Graeme Devine (top game developer) left Apple, and Mark Papermaster got the boot not long after his hiring attracted so much attention. There was even false speculation that Apple's chief operating officer, Tim Cook, was leaving for Hewlett-Packard.How Apple will spend its money has also been a favorite topic.What did Steve Jobs have to offer Mark Zuckerberg over dinner back in October? Then there was the never-ending story of the white iPhone. All told, there were more likely eight new rumors each month in 2010 than just eight overall.

Seven Colors of iPods

Silver, black, blue, green, orange, pink, and red: the new colors of Apple's 5th generation iPod nano. Apple reduced the number of colors from nine to seven this year. I wouldn't read too much into this, as for the most part, Apple is quite color blind in all its other product lines. Color is more Google's thing, anyway.

Six Strategic Acquisitions

Apple has quite the war chest ready to invest. Provided Apple continues its trend of purchasing companies based on their abilities and patent portfolio rather than on a ready-to-market product, I think Apple will continue to be the inspirational thought leader it is today. In the past 12 months, we've seen Apple purchase Liquidmetal Technologies patents for the firm's advanced "amorphous" metal alloys, Poly9 for its online mapping, Quattro Wireless for mobile advertising, Intrinsity for its chip design expertise, Siri for its artificial intelligence, and Lala Media for its streaming media. This trend is very likely to continue.

Five Apple Keynotes

This year saw the Jan. 27 iPad announcement, the Apr.8 iOS 4 preview, followed by the June 7 WWDC launch of the iPhone 4, the Sept.1 iPod updates, and closing out the year was the Oct.20 Back to the Mac announcements. It was a roller-coaster ride that'll be hard to top in 2011.

Four Different App Stores

Is there an App Store for every Apple product on the horizon? Having software marketplaces for the iPhone, iPad, OS X, and Apple TV would be amazing. Apple has to provide some kind of solution for adding new content providers to the Apple TV. Will it follow its own lead and introduce an Apple TV department in the App Store, or will everything be delivered via firmware updates?

Three U.S. Carriers

Verizon may be the most obvious contender as the next U.S.iPhone service provider, but T-Mobile also looms large. T-Mobile may be willing to let Apple own the customer experience, something Verizon seems less likely to do.

Two Potential Steve Jobs Successors

In 2009, there was speculation that Steve's health may affect the future of the company. In 2010, it was the rumored departure of Tim Cook to HP that made people question the line of succession.There's still no heir apparent.Phil Schiller has stepped up his online Twitter presence recently, perhaps as his way of becoming more of a public face for the company.

And an iPhone 5 in Every Apple Tree

We all know it's coming, and if 2011 is like 2010 (and 2009, etc.), this coming June will see the release of the iPhone 5. With carrier expansion, the No. 1 reason not to buy an iPhone will be a thing of the past.

It actually is a catchy little tune if you try to sing it out loud. What was your most memorable Apple related story or event of 2010?

Also from GigaOM:

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly of iPad Media Apps

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What the Smart Grid Needs in 2011

New Android Music App Hits at 2011 Streaming Wars

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