So, what is Apple's next big thing going to be?

So, what is Apple's next big thing going to be?

Summary: New products are vital for any company wanting to remain relevant -- and Apple is no different. What are the new markets that Apple could break into?

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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There's been a lot of chatter lately -- chatter subsequently dismissed by Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, although there seems to be confusion surround this story -- that Apple has been planning to tweak the iPhone in some way -- size, price -- in order to take sales to the next level.

But let's face it, a rejigged iPhone is still an iPhone, and won't bring with it the same sort of hype that a new product would generate.

New products are vital for any company wanting to remain relevant -- and that's no different for Apple. New products take advantage of changing technology and consumer habits, and can also be used to create markets that previously never existed.

Just to be clear, this isn't one of those "what Apple should do next" or "what Apple needs to do to survive" pieces. A look at the company's financials suggests that it is doing very well. This is an exploration of where Apple might go over the coming months and years.

So, what is Apple's next big thing going to be?

Television

There's been endless speculation that Apple is (or has) been planning to make an assault on the living room with its own television set. According to analyst speculation, Apple's TV would either look like a scaled-up iPad, or a scaled-up iMac. I have yet to read anything from a pundit or analyst that suggests Apple could bring any new innovation to a television.

See alsoWhy Apple doesn't need a cheaper iPhone

Every Apple TV postulated by analysts and pundits is essentially a high-definition television from any other vendor -- Samsung, LG, Sony, and so on -- with an integrated Apple TV set-top box.

Since the television set is the focus of most living rooms, it might make sense to think that Apple would want to make a grab for this prominent position in people's homes. The problem is, the television market isn't strong enough for a company like Apple to enter into. The market is crowded, profit margins are tight, people seem uninterested in new technologies such as 3D, and people don't buy new television sets regularly.

Television content

While Apple would see significant headwinds if it tried to enter the TV market, television content would be a different matter. After all, the problem with current TVs is not the hardware, but what's being displayed on the actual screen.

See also: Apple television: Where others failed, content could hold the key

While it seems clear that the broadcast networks are resistant to Apple getting a foothold in this market -- otherwise they'd be falling over themselves to partner with Apple already -- television is the last of the media that remains mostly untouched by the pervasive influence of Apple and iTunes.

Apple has changed the way that we watch television -- substituting the television for the iPhone and iPad -- and if it got into the television broadcast market, the way that we watch television could change forever. This, assuming that the networks play ball -- has the potential to be huge.

Games console

If Apple weren't interested in center stage in the living room, then maybe it would be happy taking on a supporting role. One way the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant could do this is to come out with a games console that attaches to any high-definition television using a free HDMI port, just like the Apple TV set-top box does.

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An Apple-branded gaming console sounds far more compelling than an Apple TV does for a number of reasons.

First, it would be a lot cheaper -- both for Apple to produce and for consumers to buy -- than an entire TV. 

A games console is also a device with a limited lifespan based on factors such as storage and processing power, so the upgrade cycle is going to be much shorter than that of a TV. This is a proven market that the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo rely on.

A games console could also leverage Apple's massive iOS user base not only by running the iOS games that people love to play on their iPhones and iPads, but also by allowing iPhone and iPad owners to use their smartphones and tablets are controllers.

A games console could take iOS gaming to a new level, adding features such as multiplayer support, and larger, more immersive games. This could be a massive money-spinner for Apple and developers alike.

This could work, partly because many of the required and necessary pieces to make this work are already in place.

iWatch

We carry the iPhone and iPad -- we don't wear it -- so wearable computing is a market that's pretty much open for Apple if it wants to take it. Question is: is there a real market there?

I've been reading about wearable gadgets for almost as long as I've been able to read. They are a staple of the sci-fi and spy genre, and it is surprising that it hasn't taken off.

I view wearable computing pretty much as I saw the tablet market pre the iPad. It's a good idea waiting for someone to make it work. That "someone" could undoubtedly be Apple. The question is, where would Apple take this. A watch? Glasses? Something completely new? This market space certainly has potential.

Home automation

Want to control your lights, heating, TV, and so on from your iPhone or iPad? You can already do this using third-party devices, but how about adding that Apple logo to the equation?

Read more: Apple: What you need to do in mobile in 2013 

While the idea that Apple could leverage the huge iOS user base to push its own home automation products, this feels too nebulous to me.

Not only is it unclear as to how big the market is for such devices, but it is a fragmented market where Apple would need to manufacture dozens of different devices to cater for everyone. 

Nest came to the market with an intelligent thermostat that grabbed headlines, but it's still a niche product that's light-years away from going mainstream. I'm not convinced that Apple would want to wade into such a niche market.

In-car entertainment

Cars are probably the most expensive accessory that we hook up our iDevices to, so why shouldn't Apple horn in on this market?

While the market for in-car entertainment -- both factory-fitted and third party -- is big, it feels like an odd match for Apple. If Apple were interested in getting into the accessories market, then it could enter it in a smaller, safer way with Apple-branded docks or speakers.

It's hard to see what Apple could bring to in-car entertainment that it hasn’t already done with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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  • So, what is Apple's next big thing going to be?

    How sad. No news of Apple recently so they have to print an article guessing at what Apple might do next just to keep them in the news. Total fanboyism.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • please

      you talk for fanboyism? really??
      Jean-Pierre-
      • Irony at its best!

        Lovey accusing someone of being a fanboy, when he makes the typical fanboy look like someone who couldn't care less!

        Indeed the term "fanboy" is far too mild for someone like Lovey.
        rahbm
    • Apple is the world's largest tech company and, like it or not,

      it has a history of making moves that are disruptive to the industry, and shape it for many years to come. An article speculating about whether the company has such moves in store is entirely appropriate for a tech site.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Are you sure?

        Define "largest"...

        Note that Samsung, that makes things from oil rigs and supertanker ships to tiny chips inside your iPhone ISN'T on NYSE/NASDAQ so if you're going to say "MARKET VALUE!", don't, because you can't compare apples to nothing.
        CarlitosLx
        • Are you sure??

          Samsung Electronics market cap: $215 B, http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/SMSN:LI
          Apple market cap: $489 B, http://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:AAPL

          (Samsung Electronics is a tech company, Samsung Group is a conglomerate, not a tech company)
          woozlewuzzle
          • Which one is it?

            Apple is the biggest profit company. I don't think they are the largest tech company. I cannot imagine that they would have thousands of thousands of engineers/programmers just working on iproducts.
            lares3k
          • If you wanted to know why didn't you do a search?

            I easily found this:

            http://ycharts.com/rankings/market_cap
            Arm A. Geddon
    • Adrian is the Apple Marketing team hidden within ZD

      Didn't you know? I thought you all would have figured that out by now. NO news from Apple, means you gotta start making things up...speculating...starting buzz about NOTHING. AKH...why don't you focus on the amazing things that are Actually IN EXISTENCE RIGHT NOW AT CES! Did you realize that there are other humans out there that are smarter than many at Apple? Well, I have to break it to you kid...there are. great stuff coming out of other silicon companies.
      EDzdnet
      • Which naturally means....

        That any ZDNet blogger speculating about future MS products or approaches (as Mary Jo and Ed are sometimes inclined to do) is the Microsoft Marketing Arm hidden within ZDNet and anyone speculating about the next Nokia products is....and so on... Get real!

        Isn't is just possible that perhaps tech people like to speculate about what's next in general. A harmless game of "what if".

        Please!! If you don't like the message Adrian delivers...criticize the message. Don't attack the messenger with such flimsy approaches. Not if you want to be taken even half seriously!
        UGottaBKidding
        • Now that's quite the post coming from you

          "...criticize the message. Don't attack the messenger with such flimsy approaches"

          You should listen to this guy. He's smart.
          toddbottom3
          • "You should listen to this guy. He's smart."

            If that is your considered opinion based on his post, you must be REALLY dumb - even dumber than I previously thought.
            D.T.Long
    • Apple's next big thing (none of the above)

      Loverock is kind of right. None of the products listed on the article seem to fit Apple. All of these are pretty much been there done that. It is just to easy for any computer company...it just would be lazy of Apple if they jumped into any of those markets.
      lares3k
  • Look

    Apple doesn't care about gaming! This is clearly the area where they lost out last time and they still don't get it.

    Android Devices are going to end up with HDMI Docks, External Hard Drives and Bluetooth Controllers. They will be the entertainment hubs of the living room.

    As for Apple's next big thing... I look for them to continue convergence of their desktops and tablets.
    slickjim
    • Err...

      Geez I wonder how many games there are on the Apple Store?

      Everyone already has the living room covered from a device point. The winner there will be the one who solves the content rights and acquisition piece.

      Converge desktops and tablets...like Microsoft is failing at right now?
      CowLauncher
      • You mean like Microsoft is sucseeding at right now?

        Seem MS solved the problem, not Apple. It's only been a little over 60 days and you can better Apple noticed.

        As for Games from the App store? Nice on a phone, a little less exciting on a big screen with what - iPads as controllers?
        William Farrel
      • Has nothing to do with that...

        It has everything to do with the lack of controller support on iOS among other features.

        I plugged my Asus Tab 300 into the HDMI on my TV and paired a Wiimote to the tablet (No root required) then launched a game... My TV popped into 3D mode and I was playing a console quality Jet ski Racing Game at 1080P on my 50" Plasma...

        The best I could hope for with my iPad was the iCade which only has Crappy Games.

        Don't get me started on the HDMI Situation, either you spend $100 on an Apple TV or $30 on an HDMI Adapter and then buy a cable.
        slickjim
        • Console quality?

          What console? SNES?
          kstap
          • Are you kidding me?

            The Tegra 3 is well beyond SNES. Hell, these games are probably higher quality than The Wii but, not as high as the 360 or Wii U.
            slickjim
      • Oh and

        Apple is doing the same thing as MS with the OS Convergence.

        The difference between the two is that Apple knew the desktop has no place on a Tablet and Microsoft cannot seem to understand that.
        slickjim