In an industry that changes minute by minute, a year's worth of news is a lot to digest. We combed our archives in an attempt to drown out the noise and came up with a short list of the stories that made 2011. Consider this an abridged look back at the year that was. Head past the break to check it out.
2011 Year in Review
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January 4: AMD revealed its hybrid CPU / GPU Fusion processors, complete with DirectX11 support, at CES 2011. Dedicated 1080p HD video processing and 10 plus hours of battery life quickly jumped aboard laptops, including the first fusion-powered machine, the HP Pavilion dm1 (announced the same day).
January 4: ASUS' pair of Tegra 2, 10.1-inch, keyboard sportin' tablets, the Eee Pad Slider and Transformer, were announced at CES causing quite the buzz. Not entirely abandoning the outfit's commitment to the keyboard, both shape-shifting slates put a creative spin on the tablet -- but most importantly laid the groundwork for their quad-core successor.
January 5: Putting rumors to rest and simultaneously increasing selection in the Windows market, Microsoft announced that the next major version of its OS would ship complete with ARM support. As if that weren't enough, the company said that the release would play nice with SoCs as well.
January 10: After lending us a hand in escaping a soggy and cold Washington DC last year, the Chevy Volt was named North American Car of the Year. Despite government loan issues and delayed shipping, the 93MPG-capable vehicle bested both the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Sonata in its quest for top honors.
January 11: Apple and Verizon made a million dreams come true when the two announced the iPhone 4 would make an appearance on Big Red in February. After beginning talks way back in 2008, the wait was over as the Verizon 3G (EV-DO) only -- it lacked 4G and GSM -- handset finally became a reality.
January 19: Nintendo finally spilled the beans on the US and Europe launches of the 3DS after what felt like an eternity. The $249.99 glasses-free 3D gaming handheld was slated for a March 27th release in the US, while European gamers were able to snag one two days earlier. Sales of the device would prove somewhat less certain.
January 20: Among the details of Google's Q4 2010 financials was a bit of a bombshell: in April, Larry Page would take over as CEO. Page would assume the helm of day-to-day operations in addition to product development and strategy. Eric Schmidt stayed on board as Executive Chairman, focusing on external projects. [Photo: Getty Images]
January 27: Sony came clean with its next-generation PlayStation Portable, codenamed NGP. What we could come to know as the Vita was announced in all its quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 glory. Of course, a 5-inch OLED touchscreen, dual analog sticks and a rear-mounted touchpad were nice specs as well.
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February 4: We knew the Verizon iPhone launch would be huge, but after only two hours of having the handset available for pre-order, Big Red shattered its all-time record for first-day sales of a single device. The feat is even more impressive when you consider pre-orders were only open to subscribers and began at 3AM.
February 9: While HP unveiled a host of devices in the phone and tablet space, including the TouchPad, Pre 3, Veer and webOS for PCs, one thing was missing: Palm. As an apparent casualty of HP's acquisition and subsequent "scale," the source of handheld innovation for decades left behind its webOS to fight another day – for a few months, anyway.
February 10: Sure, we knew the White House was on board with the FCC's desire to free up 500MHz of spectrum. Then, Obama announced a plan to make it happen, enticing spectrum squatters with a share of the auction revenues. The plan also included a $5 billion investment for 4G networks in rural areas.
February 13: Samsung announced two highly anticipated devices: the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The dual-core GS II was released in Europe and Asia first, North America clamoring for its variants. Not to be outdone, the 10.1-inch slate featured Android 3.0 and a dual-core Tegra 2 processor, but would face an admittedly more complicated release.
February 14: At Mobile World Congress, Intel's Senior VP Anand Chandrasekher took aim at ARM while hammering home the company's focus on battery life. Intel announced that its Medfield processor was being tested in mobile devices and that it would in fact ship in a phone, complete with the "longest usage time" we've seen.
February 15: After getting our hands on a NVIDIA roadmap, the barely conceivable quad-core Tegra chip was made official. What was known as Kal-El internally, the Tegra 3 was promised to land in tablets in August. After a few months delay, the processor shipped in the Transformer Prime; it's expected to grace the Padfone in early 2012.
February 16: It shouldn't have been a surprise that IBM's million-dollar Watson would take a pair of regular humans to school on Jeopardy. As it turns out, all three contestants knew the answer most of the time, but the supercomputer was just quicker on the draw. As a victory lap, Watson would take on the healthcare industry. [Photo: AFP / Getty Images]
February 24: While it wasn't the most original name the couple could've mustered, Apple's implementation of the Intel's Light Peak standard was unveiled in Thunderbolt. Making its debut on this year's MacBook Pro models and promising 10Gb/s transfers, we'd eventually see both storage and display implementations for the new tech.
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March 2: Apple made its second-generation iPad official featuring a 1GHz dual-core A5 chip and both front and rear facing cameras. The new internals promised to be twice as fast and showcase graphics performance up to nine times faster that the O.G. model. While battery life remained nearly the same, so did the price as the slates started at $499.
March 4: Whether you love or loathe Apple, the upgrade of the iPad was quite impressive. Even Samsung had to take another look at the hardware and pricing model for its Galaxy Tab 10.1. Originally expected to cost more than the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, the company eventually shipped a slimmed-down 10.1 with at $499 base price.
March 11: The massive 8.9 earthquake that rocked Japan shut down factories around the country. Several familiar manufacturers were forced close cease production due to damage. Sony and Toyota stopped operations while injuries were reported among Honda and Panasonic workers. The tragedy ultimately led to widespread losses and delays. [Photo: AFP / Getty Images]
March 17: Verizon's first 4G LTE handset was unveiled in the HTC Thunderbolt. While the 4.3-inch smartphone was impressive on paper, it packed a $250 price tag on contract. As we would come to experience for ourselves, one major flaw with the device was its battery life, as the hardware couldn't keep pace with 4G download speeds.
March 20: The AT&T / T-Mobile saga started back in March when Ma Bell agreed to the $39 billion purchase from Deutsche Telekom. AT&T claimed a significantly expanded LTE footprint among the benefits of what would have been a de facto GSM monopoly. The companies estimated that the regulatory hurdles would last 12 months...
March 22: After popping up on Sprint's site before the official word, it was announced that the HTC EVO 3D was headed to Sprint. Trumpeted as a 3D ambassador, the 4.3-inch WiMAX handset came loaded with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and dual 5 megapixel cameras. In the end, the 3D moniker wasn't much more than a gimmick.
March 22: Samsung went back to the drawing board after the iPad 2 launch, looking to slim down their 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab. At CTIA, the company revealed its thinner revamped model as well as the smaller 8.9 version. Both slates were the first to alter a pure Android 3.0 experience by adding TouchWiz 4.0.
March 29: Looking to throw its hat in the music-streaming ring, Amazon rolled out its own service dubbed the Amazon Cloud Player. While the announcement wasn't exactly groundbreaking, it did shake things up a bit. Sony Music took the company to task in the press over streaming media rights, while Amazon remained unmoved.
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April 1: Following the sudden resignation of the company's CEO, Gianfranco Lanci, plans for a new strategy at Acer began to emerge. Lanci's replacement, JT Wang, announced that while the company would continue to focus on PCs, it would more aggressively attack the tablet and smartphone markets, à la Apple.
April 18: Bringing news of perhaps the biggest patent suit of 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was taking Samsung to task for allegedly copying the iPhone and iPad. Among the offending devices at the center of the year's most wide-sweeping case were the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab.
April 19: RIM's attempt at tackling the consumer tablet market came up short with the launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook. With basic software like native email and calendar apps absent right out the gate, it appeared the already troubled company wasn't poised to capture the hearts and dollars of casual users.
April 20: Sparking one of the year's biggest controversies, a pair of UK researchers exposed a feature in iOS 4 that constantly collected and recorded location data. Culminating in a Senate hearing on mobile privacy, the firestorm would leave no OS untouched, with Google and Microsoft being swept into the fray. [Photo: Getty Images]
April 21: Following the announcement of a strategic alliance between Nokia and Microsoft, the two tech industry heavy hitters penned a definitive agreement that would see Espoo concentrating its handset strategy on Windows Phone. The announcement brought with it the promise of a new portfolio of handsets as well as a new way of doing business.
April 21: Proving it had a few – ten to be exact – bones to pick of its own, Samsung struck back at Apple with a hefty stack of infringement claims in South Korea, Japan and Germany. Shedding light on the accusations, Reuters reported Samsung's claims centered mostly on data transmission-related technology.
April 21: Just weeks after Anonymous claimed responsibility for intermittent PlayStation Network outages, Sony's online service was down again. The company initially stated that the interruption could be the result of "targeted behavior" and could last "a full day or two," but it would last nearly a month. [Photo: Getty Images]
April 28: It took almost a full year for the white iPhone 4 to follow its ebony predecessor to market. After various delays and endless speculation, the albino handset was finally set free, with the big Apple's marketing head, Phil Schiller placing the blame on the addition of extra UV protection.
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May 1: Over a week after Sony's PlayStation Network went down for the count, the outfit's VP, Kaz Hirai, officially addressed the outage. Sony mentioned targeted attacks by Anonymous, but stopped short of placing blame. The FBI was brought on to investigate, but it would take a full month for restoration to begin.
May 10: Sealing the deal for a cool $8.5 billion, Microsoft announced plans to suck up internet calling giant, Skype. Under the agreement, Skype CEO Tony Banks would become president of the newly minted Microsoft Skype Division, while Redmond made clear that it would encourage development of "Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms."
May 10: Marking a new direction for its sugary sweet operating system, Google laid bare its plans to meld its tablet-based and smartphone-oriented operating systems in "one OS that runs everywhere." Following the Ice Cream Sandwich excitement, the company announced its very own cloud-based music service, aptly titled Google Music.
May 11: Google I/O served as the jumping off point for the company's official foray into the commercial laptop game, with the introduction of not one, but two Chromebooks. The Samsung Series 5 and creatively named Acer Chromebook would be the first laptops to make it to market, running Mountain View's cloud-based Chrome OS.
May 19: Proving that not all augmented reality is dumb, Sony introduced us to SmartAR. Billed as "integrated augmented reality technology," the software touts increased responsiveness and markerless object recognition. While the outfit stopped short of offering release dates, we eventually caught it showing off its smarts on the PS Vita.
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June 6: The portable formerly known as the NGP made its debut at E3 this summer, touting prices of $250 and $299 for WiFi and 3G models, respectively, and aiming to revolutionize on-the-go gaming. While the Japanese PS Vita we reviewed came up short in terms of battery life, we ultimately dubbed this machine a "beast."
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July 7: Despite its designation as 'North American Car of the Year,' sales of Chevy's Volt fell behind that of Nissan's Leaf. Nissan outpaced Chevrolet by 1,121 units, selling 3,875 Leafs (Leaves?) in the first six months of 2011. That victory came in spite of a month-long setback in production due to the earthquake that hit Japan in March. [Photo: AFP / Getty Images]
July 12: What started out as a straightforward separation of Netflix's streaming video and DVD rental services would fast become one of the year's most notable marketing fiascos. Following an internal leak and errant advertisement, the outfit officially cut its service in two, offering either DVD-only or streaming-only unlimited plans for $7.99 each or $15.98 as a package... But the worst was yet to come.
July 14: One day after CCO Ken Parks announced that Europe's much-loved music service was going the way of Prince Akeem, Spotify was ready to stream on American shores. The initial launch was an invite-only affair, but gave paying customers the chance to jump the queue for a $5 Unlimited or $10 Premium account.
July 20: Holding true to Steve Jobs' declaration that we live in a "post-PC world," the launch of OS X Lion brought us ever closer to a mobile OS for desktop computers. While it trumpeted some 250 new features, it was its similarity to iOS that stood out most. All told, the world's "most advanced" operating system ultimately proved more evolutionary than revolutionary.
July 28: Following lack luster sales and a significant downgrade in its financial projections for the fiscal year, Nintendo announced that it would cut the cost of the 3DS by a full $80. The August price reduction, which put the 3DS at $169, would lead to a reported 260 percent increase in sales and a Merry Christmas for Mario's papa.
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August 10: HTC's investment in Dr. Dre's Beats was no AT&T&T, but it did birth a whole new slew of well-hyped handsets. The Taiwanese company took a $300 million bite out of Beats, resulting in a partnership that brought phones like the Sensation XE to market. Our review of that phone would prove that the Beats hype was just that.
August 18: A little over a year after HP sucked up Palm and webOS, the company announced its plans to put a stake through the hearts of devices running the operating system. The discontinuation of such devices as the newly minted TouchPad came as part of a larger announcement that the outfit was considering a spinoff of its personal systems group. [Photo: AFP / Getty Images]
August 19: And just like that, HP's flagship tablet became one of the most sought after pieces of hardware on the market; no doubt thanks to its newly acquired $99 price tag. The TouchPad fire sale would lead to the poorly received slate taking the number three spot in worldwide tablet shipments in Q3 2011, according to IDC.
August 24: We fell in love with its little brother, the NEX-C3, but Sony's NEX-7 was the real heartbreaker, or should we say, record-breaker. With its announcement, it became the first APS-C camera with a 24.3 megapixel sensor. It also became the first of its size to be a worthy replacement for a DSLR (if you ask us, anyway).
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September 13: Microsoft kicked off its Build conference with a full-on developer preview of its next major desktop operating system, Windows 8. The company opened up downloads for devs to give them a leg up on the desktop, laptop, and tablet platform app building process. Featuring a "metro-styled" UI, graphical elements of Windows Phone 7 were brought front and center for use across devices.
September 19: For about a month, Netflix planned on spinning its DVD-by-mail service to another entity known as Qwikster. After much backlash, CEO Reed Hastings issued a string of apologies and backed off the split, keeping the division internal. Customers would remain virtually unaffected, as one site with one log-in still provides access to both DVD and streaming queues and the company said it's "done" with price hikes.
September 28: Perhaps no single announcement had a more widespread impact on the tablet market in 2011. With a $199 price tag, Amazon's Kindle Fire became arguably the most viable budget tablet yet. While it lacked access to the Android Market, its access to Amazon's vast media library made it a contender for casual users.
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October 13: RIM founder Mike Lazardis issued a public apology following a global outage of BlackBerry services. In a video address, he acknowledged that RIM dropped the ball and assured customers that the company was working hard to remedy the situation. He later admitted it was "the largest outage we've ever experienced."
October 18: Google took the stage in Hong Kong to unveil the next version of its Android OS, version 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich. The update featured a comprehensive interface redesign and showcased a host of new features. Among the highlights were the NFC-enable Android Beam, Face Unlock and the controversial "Roboto" font.
October 19: Lytro introduced the world's first consumer light field camera, bringing infinite focus to eager photogs everywhere. Within an anodized aluminum frame, the camera houses an f/2, 8x zoom lens with 11-mega-ray light-field power for all the infinite focusing magic. It's expected sometime in 2012 with a base price of $399.
October 26: The device Nokia was counting on to bring smiles to our phone-loving faces and a sigh of relief to its shareholders finally arrived. While it was similar in stature to our beloved N9, the Lumia 800 was dubbed the "first real Windows phone" -- it would set the standard for future Nokiasoft handsets.
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November 3: The Xoom 2's predecessor (you can guess the name) was the first tablet sporting Google's tablet-only Honeycomb, but failed to impress. With the second generation, Motorola improved in just about every respect, but stuck with the sticky sweet OS and a rather unpalatable price, making it yet another Android tablet in the crowd.
November 9: Mere months after its shape-shifting predecessors made it to market, ASUS' Eee Pad Transformer Prime would become the first-ever quad-core tablet. Sporting Google's freshest OS, Ice Cream Sandwich and packing NVIDIA's Tegra 3 SoC, it would fast become our favorite Android tablet of the moment.
November 16: The proposed Stop Online Piracy Act ruffled more than a few feathers, including those of heavy hitters like Google and Facebook. Taking out an ad in the New York Times, a group of nine Internet companies voiced its concern that the act would impose unwanted restrictions, including monitoring of websites, and pose a threat to innovation.
November 29: A little over eight months after it asked for T-Mobile's $39 billion hand in marriage, AT&T withdrew its application with the FCC, hoping to focus its attention on dealing with the DOJ. The FCC approved the move, but went on to publish its report on the proposed merger. AT&T, for its part, reaffirmed its commitment to the magenta one.
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December 1: Calling to mind the year's location-tracking debacle, Trevor Eckhart revealed that wireless providers and handset makers were secretly running a sneaky program on our phones called Carrier IQ. The software had the ability to track an awful lot of information, record keystrokes and, apparently, make the mobile industry squirm.
December 3: While Apple and Samsung continue to wage a patent-fueled war the world over, a US District Court judge shot down the fruity ones request to block the sale of Galaxy devices stateside. Of course, that battle goes on, but the decision would guarantee that devices like the Galaxy SII and Galaxy Tab were still fair game for holiday shoppers.
December 19: Ma Bell set out for a twelve-month run of jumping regulatory hurdles to secure the acquisition of T-Mobile, but just nine months later it was throwing in the towel. The ill-fated plan faced a massive amount of backlash from the industry as well as the government and ultimately cost AT&T $4 billion and a whole lot of heartache.
December 22: It may have suffered a bitter blow in its attempt to acquire T-Mobile, but AT&T wasted no time picking up its spectrum grab. The FCC approved Ma Bell's $1.9 billion purchase of Qualcomm's 700MHz spectrum, formerly used to facilitate FLO TV, solidifying Ma Bell's plans to put the airwaves to use on its LTE network. [Photo: AP]
Billy Steele and Jon Turi contributed to this report. Illustration by Stephen Webster.