What Is Apple’s Next Big Thing?

The past decade has been a remarkable one for Apple. They’ve revitalized and reinvented their product line several times and have even shifted a large portion of their vision and focus to devices that didn’t exist in the 90s.

Innovation has been the name of the game since Jobs took back the helm right before the turn of the century. This spirit of innovation has brought Apple back from the grave and kept customers forking out cash on major device purchases on at least an annual basis.

The Passing of An Era

Now that Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO, speculation abounds as to where Apple is headed in the future. Popular opinion seems to peg Apple Inc. as a company that has officially been put into autopilot. Jobs spent the last decade building an empire and surrounding himself with people that could run it upon his departure, now all they have to do is not screw up what he built.

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The Apple Hardware Lineup

The product line is a solid one: two types of MacBooks (Pro and Air), three desktop Mac choices (Mac Mini, iMac and MacPro), three traditional iPods (Shuffle, Nano and Classic) and four iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV). This is of course in addition to the pending release of iCloud, which ties all of this hardware together with a nice cloud-shaped bow.

With all these great products, Apple is set and can now function on marketing and upgrading those products, continually offering refreshes that are just good enough to keep us reaching for our credit cards.

Cult of Mac recently published an article to this tune titled “iPod. iPhone. iPad. Why Apple is Done Inventing New Devices.” In this article, the author states, “Now that Apple has product lines that offer the best experience for creating and consuming content, both on the desk and on the go, no further product lines need to be added.” So you see, beyond claiming that Apple won’t invent any new device categories, the author seems to think that you can stop expecting new product lines altogether from Apple for quite some time.

Will Apple Really Sit Still for a While?

This argument definitely makes sense, Apple is indeed set up fairly well in its current state. However, the personal electronics industry has thrived on Apple’s innovation for so long that cutting it off cold turkey may not be a realistic solution for continued market cap growth.

DailyFinanace sees a dire outlook for this path and went so far as to say that “Steve Jobs’ departure, and the subsequent loss of his innovative leadership, may leave Apple up a creek without a paddle.”

Apple’s DNA

Forunately, the corporate culture inside of Apple doesn’t seem to be one that would even strive for keeping things nice and smooth while avoiding new product risks. I doubt that Tim Cook wants his claim to fame to be “I kept everything fairly stable for a few years.”

To put it another way, laying low isn’t what Apple does. They push the boundaries and transform niche products into household items that we can’t live without.

To be honest, we’ve reached a point where I don’t really know what Apple has up their collective sleeves. People saw the iPad coming from so far away that it was easy to know what to look forward to for quite some time, the current situation though has people stumped and they have nothing left but to suggest that we’ve reached the end of the innovative era.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from decades as an Apple user, it’s that just because the market doesn’t know what it wants the next big thing to be, that doesn’t mean Apple isn’t hard at work on something that we’ll line up in droves to get our hands on.

Is an iTV in the Works?

So where does this leave us? Someone else says Apple is done creating new product lines for a while, I say don’t count them out so quickly, neither seems to be a truly informed opinion based on anything but speculation. If we put our ears to the ground of the ever-churning Apple rumor mills, what do we hear?

Strangely enough, we’ve circled around to a rumor that seems to resurface every few years: that Apple will soon be releasing an actual television product, distinct from its current set top box, the Apple TV.

Rumors of the existence of this “iTV” have recently been published on VentureBeat, CNET, ABC News, PC World and scores of other tech sites. This time around, these rumors come partnered with a television subscription service which supposedly has cable companies shaking in their boots.

Is This Thing Real?

The physical television game is already an industry with plenty of fierce competitors, I don’t think it’s impossible that Apple will enter it, but I don’t necessarily see a clear reason for them to do so.

Despite the fact that they’ve yet to turn the existing Apple TV into a must-have product, it makes far more sense for them to completely rethink this product yet again than to suddenly jump into making full on televisions.

The current Apple TV connects to existing televisions, making it possible for Apple to infiltrate nearly every living room. A dedicated Apple television set would alienate lots of customers with existing expensive, large screen, high definition televisions. I suppose it’s possible for Apple to pursue both avenues or even simply partner with existing television manufacturers like Google did.

One thing is for sure, televisions are in fact evolving from dumb terminals into software-driven products and Apple has already shown that this is a market they intend on owning. This nut has merely proved much more difficult to crack than the first-try raving success than they had with the cell phone market. I’m excited to see what they have in store in this arena.

Here’s to Looking Forward

Despite popular opinion, Apple isn’t about to take a step back and stop expanding their product lines or forgo attempting to take over even more markets with untapped potential. This recipe for success has served them well and they haven’t yet encountered a reason to abandon it.

Whether it’s the iTV or something we haven’t even thought of yet, you can bet there are secret dungeons in the deep, dark Apple castle where members of that legendary R&D team are piecing together future branches of the Apply family tree. My metaphors are so confusingly mixed at this point that it’s time for you to chime in. Is apple on autopilot or hard at work on the next big thing? If the latter, what will that next big thing be?


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  • Cordell

    I’m ready for an iTV and an iGame console.

    • RheeniBoi

      An iGame (or iPlay) could be something that Apple could relatively easily produce. When you think about it, Playstation and Xbox have great graphics and performance, but Apple are at the top of the game in my mind for graphics and performance, albeit on different platforms. Playstation and Xbox don’t have the best visual aspects (PS3 XMB isn’t exactly beautiful) but Apple have already proven that in the last few years they can design beautiful products. Also, the thought of a third App Store is exciting – I bet it would blow PS3 and Xbox’s online stores out of the water. The only problem – PS3 and Xbox have deep roots in game developer’s camps and Apple starting with a clean slate could go either way. An Apple gaming console is nonetheless an exciting prospect. As for an iTV, Apple with all it’s resourcefulness could come up with anything to blow away the market.

      • AMG151

        Thats a great post. I think that Apple should make a game console they are already in the game business with the multiple titles for the iPad and iPhone and now the Mac. They should transition those titles for the TV and integrate it with iTunes and iCloud with movies and music. The possibilities are end less and if they bring it all together they could have the baddest system on the block. I would stand in line for that. Great post I hope Cupertino is tuned in.

      • http://www.kieru.com Rob

        I don’t really see them trying to break into the CONSOLE market though. It’s a heavily saturated market with a lot of big players and even if they invented a console that entirely revolutionized the industry they would still lack the solid relationship Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have with game developers.

        Remember; until iOS Apple really didn’t care about gaming. The number of PC-only top-selling titles still reflects that lack of interest.

      • http://elziah.com Paul McDonough

        I think with iCloud they aren’t far from “console gaming” as we know it….

        think about it – the Wii sold in the millions yet was technically inferior to the Xbox and PS3 in everyway – Kinect and Move have rendered it defunt….

        Apple don’t need to re-invent the wheel – they could easily add new software to their products now to “turn” them into a console!

        Apple TV box with all your iOS games sync’d to it? The ability to use a iphone / ipod touch as the remote to control the game? iPad HD games on your tv too for multiplayers?

        4 x iPad gamers in a 4 way split all made possible through apple accounts syncing?

        I think it wouldn’t be too hard to make these products compatible in this way…… surely someone in apple must have thought how can they merge their products to make buying a ipod touch when you have an iPad or a Apple TV Useful???

        Just my 2 cents :)

  • B30

    … the next BIG thing is a “microwave oven fridge service” in the cloud, were I can download and store my food (ha,ha)

  • labucque

    I guess the next big thing from Apple will be related to Thunderbolt. I imagine a kind of “powerbox” with a 27″ screen and a lot of storage, ram and a great graphic card at home from one side and a device (something between iPad and MacBook Air) that plugs into it when you come back on the other side.
    The gap between iDevices and Desktop Computers would disappear and the two OS (iOS and MacOs) will join into one same big thing.
    I don’t really know if it’s already possible with Thunderbolt but I guess if it was, it could be a great thing !

  • http://smokingdesigners.com graphic design

    I believe the next big thing will be re-designed laptops with touch-screens but then again that could happen after 2013.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ConnorTurnbull Connor Turnbull

    I agree with Cordell in that I want an app-enabled Apple TV. Apple has the one ecosystem that can really work on TV.

  • FubarGuy

    If they could bring a seriously fantastic UI to a streaming & storage device for just TV/movies/podcasts I’d consider walking away from Tivo. I can’t see moving up to the latest offering from them (the Premier model) knowing it has so many flaws & complaints with it’s overall usability. I’m too busy to build my own, even thoug I know all the parts are readily available. Make something to knock my socks off Apple, and you know I’ll go along for the ride!

  • Seth

    The fact that Apple are, with the latest iteration, stripping out infrared remote support from the Mac Mini, MacBook and iMac and have removed FrontRow from Lion is interesting. I think Apple are clever enough to realise that an “iTV” would need to be critically differentiated from their other computer products, and so they’ve stripped these long-standing Mac features so that they can succeed in the Apple TV and iTV products. I also think, given the “texiness” (technology sexiness) of their products, Apple will develop a beautiful glass and aluminium “TV” which is hooked to iCloud, iTunes and a new streaming feature and which will be the next must-have product. It’s a no-brainer and Apple’s last traditional home-entertainment frontier.

  • http://www.aeronaves.org Aeronaves

    i AGree in stripping out infrared remote support from the Mac Mini, MacBook and iMac and have removed FrontRow from Lion is interesting.

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