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.


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?