Where art thou going, oh Apple? That’s a great question for those of us who want to know what new products Apple is about to launch.
Can we discern Apple’s future product paths by recent trails? Yes, I’m convinced we can know Apple’s future.
Apple is leaving a trail of evidence which points to future products; Mac, iPod, software, hardware, and one more thing products.
All that’s required is to follow the money trail. After all, Apple is a company that believes in profit.
Wherever the profits go, Apple is sure to follow. Can we tell the future from the past? Yes (um, gulp… here goes).
If the past means anything about the future, prognostication of Apple Computer’s future is risky business.
Something struck me about Apple’s it’s-about-time venture into movies that leads me to believe we can see where Apple is going.
Putting movies into the iTunes Music Store (then changing the name to iTunes Store) was a no-brainer and the first clue to successful future divining of Apple’s secret product plans.
Money. It’s all about the money. Yes, cool products are important. Money is more important.
The iPod and iTunes were launched because the market was ripe for a quality player with Apple’s sense of style and elegance.
Apple’s move to make iTunes available on Windows PCs was all about expanding the money trail.
Placing TV shows on the iTunes Store for $1.99 each is about money, too.
Apple firmly believes that it isn’t just the Mac that’s at the center of the digital hub. It’s Apple itself.
The digital life and digital home is rapidly becoming a reality and there’s a trail of money ahead.
Watch Apple closely. The company will follow the money trail. To see where Apple will go, look at the trail so far.
The Mac: notebooks, desktops, towers. The iPod: video and photos and music.
At the heart of all these products are Apple’s characteristic elegant design, simple functionality, and software.
Yes, the money trail, past, present and future, is in hardware, and increasingly, in software. Why software, Kate?
Software is what brings it all together. Macs, iPods, accessories, online digital store, future products.
Knowing that Apple goes where the money is and will be, we can more effectively predict where Apple will be; hardware and software.
For example, by looking at the iPod and iTunes trail, the recent past, it was easy to determine the future—TV shows and movies.
By looking at Apple’s success with Airport Express and moving music from a Mac to external devices such as a TV or stereo system, it was easy to see that Tera’s vision of Airport Express Video would arrive.
Isn’t the “iTV” wireless product demonstrated at Apple’s recent Showtime event merely an extension of the popular Airport Express?
What does it do? It moves media from Macs to TV screens and home entertainment centers. It’s a logical extension of the past trail.
Why does Apple go there? It’s another product that’s actually different than Airport Express, so Apple can collect another $299 from the customer base.
It’s more money and another future path on the Apple money trail.
Movies could be predicted as a new path, a logical extension of the future trail because of Apple’s past actions, products, positioning.
Apple’s “iTV” wireless product was predicted, though with few of the details. Even now, little is known about iTV because the software component hasn’t been shown.
Or has it? Have we been privileged to see the future based on Apple’s past trail?
The answer is a resounding yes.
Front Row. If software pulls all the pieces of Apple’s digital life hub together, then future software functionality can be determined in advance.
The four areas most obvious, based on the product trail to date, are Front Row, the combination of iSight camera and iChat software, cell phones, and TV sets.
A future version of Front Row will empower the digital hub components and that line is growing rapidly. It’s not just Macs and iPods.
The iTunes Store is an important component because there’s money on the trail.
Future Front Row versions will control movement of media—music, photos, slideshows, TV shows, movies, home movies—from your Mac to your TV screen.
Isn’t it logical to follow the money trail and determine that Front Row will also allow access to iTunes Store?
Using your Apple Remote Control and a Mac mini or iTV (I’m betting both) in the living room lets you display your digital media on a TV—and lets you buy more media from the iTunes Store.
Humans have a natural predisposition to collecting. We collect things. In the Apple world, we collect music, TV shows, photos, movies, and the toys that pull all those together.
Wait. There’s more. What about iSight and iChat? What about cell phones? What about an Apple-branded wireless TV?
More, and a stunning conclusion on Page 2 »
From what we know, the iTV wireless product has a USB connection. A future version may also have a Firewire connection.
Regardless, USB and a USB-connected iSight camera with built-in iChat software becomes a new money trail.
Think about it. Not only will we be able to use Front Row to display our movies, TV shows, play music, show iPhoto slideshows on a digital TV via iTV’s HDMI interface, we can do something no one else does well.
What’s that, Kate? On screen video and audio iChat to mom and dad or grandma via the TV.
The trail forward is becoming obvious. What a great way to communicate well beyond an iSight camera built in to your Mac.
Have it built in to iTV, add an iSight camera, and Remote Control and Front Row do the rest from the comfort of your living room chair.
I’m not talking just talking. The picture of the future isn’t just digital video of your family talking to you on the TV set, though that’s very cool.
The trail goes on. Why not have iTV play movies and slide shows and display photos on mom and dad’s TV on the other side of the country.
Of course, they’ll need an iTV, too. And perhaps a Mac mini. And Front Row and that remote control. Remember, this is Apple software. It’s so easy your mother can use it.
At the basic level, they won’t even need a Mac or OS X. iTV and a remote control will get it started, an iSight video camera brings the pieces together.
At an extended level even more begins to unfold on Apple’s money trail.
We’re not just collecting music, TV shows, and movies. We’re not just playing them back on our new digital TV set in the living room.
We’re sharing some of our digital media with friends, family, and business associates in an ultra easy way—Mac or Windows (though the Mac experience is substantially greater).
Again, it’s a money trail. Apple sells iTVs to Mac users and Windows users, though there’s greater functionality when connected to a Mac, just as there’s greater interoperability with iTunes which integrates with iLife components.
The future money trail becomes even more obvious with the cell phone. The question isn’t if, but when. When will Apple launch a cell phone product?
What can we expect in Apple’s cell phone? Again, the trail tells us. First, it’ll be an iPod with plenty of memory and not a crippled Motorola RAZR with 100 songs as the limit.
Second, it will sync with your Mac’s AddressBook and Calendar, and probably Microsoft’s Entourage. Finally, there will be video done the Apple way, and it will communicate not only with Macs, but with iTV.
Why iTV? Because that’s where the Windows users will be. Apple cannot afford a Mac-only product these days.
The trail of success with the iPod and iTunes Store is because of market expansion to gather Windows users into the Apple fold. Apple will not abandon that opportunity.
iTV and Front Row, Apple’s cell phone, and Apple digital TVs, will be products aimed at Windows users.
What did I just say? Apple digital TVs? Why not? All Apple needs is three models to cover the market, build in iTV functionality and an iSight camera, all running an updated version of Front Row, just like the stand-alone iTV product.
Apple’s future product trail can be determined by the money trail of recent products. We can also determine products that won’t show up for awhile.
For example, what of TiVo? Haven’t we all screamed for Apple to buy TiVo, do TiVo on a Mac, buy ElGato, do something about TV?
Based on the money trail, Apple won’t do anything like TiVo. Yet. Why? There’s no money on that trail.
Apple doesn’t want to alienate content providers, TV show producers, movie producers, by doing TiVo the Apple way. Doing TiVo means no money for Apple. For now.
The money trail continues when you and I buy Apple products, hardware, software, music, TV shows, movies. There’s no money trail when we use a Mac to record TV shows.
A digital video recorder functionality is a logical extension of a premium product, say an iTV Extreme for $399, but that event is a few years away.
What’s Apple’s future product line? Check the money trail, past and present.
The future money trail is where the products are. Or, is it the other way around?