It's been a tough year for Apple. Company critics have been relentless in talking against it at every move. Calls for the removal of CEO Tim Cook have arisen, along with chatter claiming that the company has lost its innovative edge.
That was 2013. What about 2014?
I expect it to be a very different story. And that's not wishful thinking; I see a lot of signs that suggest Apple is going to have a good year in 2014.
For one thing, it's not just sitting by and letting all the negativity overwhelm it. That the negativity has got under Apple's skin was most clearly confirmed by company marketing chief Phil Schiller, introducing the Mac Pro (which has since sold out, by the way) at WWDC, in June.
"Can't innovate anymore my ass," he said.
In retrospect, rumblings that some members of Apple's board were concerned about " the pace of innovation" (meaning that they thought it was too slow) seem to suggest that those board members were second-guessing the decision earlier in the year to slow new product launches down until Apple could take its new creations to the tech show catwalk this fall.
The impact of that decision to slow new product introductions had an effect on Apple's finances. Relative iPhone market share declined, and Mac sales also dipped. The latter had grown at a rate exceeding the industry for more than 20 straight quarters.
Company stock fluctuated. It hit a low of $390.53 during the year and a high of $566, not far above its level on Dec. 31, 2012 ($549). Billions in company value were wiped out, then replaced. Some investors lost confidence, though, and sold out. At time of writing the price stands at $560.09.
In any event, Apple came alive in the fall. Things began with September's introduction of iOS 7, the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. The company had been expected to introduce new phones months before, but work on iOS 7 -- and the 64-bit underpinnings of that OS -- delayed things. There were grumblings because Apple didn't meet the expectation that it would introduce a cheaper iPhone, but the company still sold nine million of the new phones on launch weekend, a record.
Fall continued with new Macs and iPads. These didn't appear until October, and we've no hard figures to rate their success -- but despite the tough economy, the prognosis looks good: NPD estimates Mac sales climbed 29% year on year for the months of October and November.
That's on the way to achieving the 33% growth seen in the 2009 December quarter, and the recent sellout of the Mac Pro suggests that the company may even have achieved what no one else seems capable of: an increase in desktop computer sales.
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