From legal battles to tablet launches and the rise of mobile, 2012 was a mixed bag for big tech companies and consumers. Here’s a look at the highlights (and lowlights) of the year:
Apple had quite the year, refreshing the majority of its product lines, dealing with a controversy or two and fighting off competition. The company was also the subject of close scrutiny, as investors and others obsessively analyzed Tim Cook’s first year as chief executive officer. Legal battles, new competitors and expectations have all buffeted Apple’s ship this year, but at the end of the day it still carries the title of the world’s most valuable public company.
Google has had a strong year in 2012, watching its Android mobile platform continue to grow and taking some interesting steps into hardware. Larry Page celebrated a year as chief executive in April and received generally high marks for his performance. The company sparred often — and continues to battle — with regulators on both sides of the ocean, which may change how it does business in the future. But Google had plenty to celebrate, too, with the introduction of a new Android operating system, several smartphones and tablets and an exciting future product, Google Glass.
Microsoft followed through on quite a few of its new year’s resolutions in 2012, taking big steps to play in the mobile marketplace and revamp its Windows operating system. The company released new phone, tablet and computer operating systems and doubled down on the tile-based, touch-friendly formats of that it first introduced on its Windows Phone operating system.
Facebook had what may be the most eventful year in its history in 2012. After months of preparation, the company went public in May — with some unexpected results. As the site hit a billion users, it also struggled with the pressure to make money without hurting the experience on the site. Finally, the company made several moves to address its self-admitted largest weakness — the shift to mobile devices.
Amazon has earned a reputation as a dark horse in the tech industry, walking its own road to success through low profit margins to long-term profits. It’s not as splashy as Apple or Google. It doesn’t have a social network. Its operating costs are huge. But Amazon’s plans for the future came into focus this year as the company released new Kindle models and forged new partnerships to build out its streaming video catalog.
The past year saw the introduction of a lot of new hardware: hand-helds from Sony and Nintendo in the form of the PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS XL, as well as a new console from Nintendo called the Wii U. From a game standpoint, 2012 was mostly a year of high-octane sequels, many of which focused on stronger narratives and more innovative game play. But even in a year of much-anticipated follow-ups, some new titles gained a lot of attention.