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Is Apple out of ideas?

In an interesting BusinessWeek story, Arik Hesseldahl asks: "Where does Apple go from here?"For a company who has made a reputation of surprising consumers and (re)setting the bar, it's a good question.
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Written by Andrew Nusca, Former editor on

In an interesting BusinessWeek story, Arik Hesseldahl asks: "Where does Apple go from here?"

For a company who has made a reputation of surprising consumers and (re)setting the bar, it's a good question.

Of course, this question is asked on the heels of a mention of a "new product transition" made by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer during a July conference call with analysts. What barnstorming surprise could Apple possibly have left under its sleeve to reveal in the next 6 to 24 months? "There are only so many world-changing moments that even Apple can create," Hesseldahl writes.

So he takes a stab at guessing:

  1. An Apple Netbook or tablet "The Web is rife with rumors that Apple will next introduce a device that bridges the gap between the iPod touch and the Mac—a machine that's one part mini-mobile PC and one part media and entertainment device. The idea seems obvious to anyone who's used the iPod touch for e-mail and Web-browsing but wants a larger screen. While other PC companies like Dell and Asustek build mini-notebooks, Apple could best them all, or so the argument goes."
  2. Apple iPhone family. "Much like the iPod now comes in four flavors—touch, nano, classic, and shuffle—it's fair to expect that the iPhone will come in more than one model. The iPhone nano, for example, might appeal to those who think the current model is too big or too expensive."
  3. Nothing. "I have trouble imagining the next obvious path that Apple might follow in 2009 and 2010. In fact, the company may very well be nearing a product plateau. And here's the real kicker: That may not be a bad thing."

Hesseldahl's reasoning is this: He sees potential for hardware and software enhancements on AppleTV, "including TiVo-like DVR features" and "a DVD player slot," but on the whole he sees Apple relying on its "three-legged stool": the Mac, the iPod (and iTunes) and the iPhone.

"I think Apple can and will do very well to enhance and grow these three legs without the need for building a fourth," he writes. I, for one, am not so sure. In the short-term, I can see Apple's reliance on these product lines. But not over the long-term. iTunes and iPods are almost to the point of saturation in the U.S., in my opinion, so I can only see growth overseas. I like the idea of a diverse family of iPhones -- I'm sure Nokia, Samsung, HTC and the rest sure don't -- so I buy that prospect. And, of course, there's still a lot to be done on the computing front. A lot more market share to be had (sorry, Microsoft).

But, in terms of hardware, I don't see much more than that. I suspect that Apple may get more into the software/licensing/services game, a la Google. A way to link its devices and create an interlinked, interdependent network of monetization.Yet I ask myself: On the other hand, can Apple fight a two front war?

Fact: The launch of the first iPod occurred seven years ago this month. Another fact: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Microsoft is "David" to Google's "Goliath."

Thoughts? Leave 'em in TalkBack.

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