According to a new report, Apple will be running our homes in five years time. Forrester Research has compiled a document that makes either compelling or depressing reading depending on where your loyalties lie.
The report says that Apple will “offer eight key products and services to connect PCs and digital content to the TV-stereo infrastructure in consumers’ homes.”
Forrester says this will involve the current Apple ecosystem including Apple TV, plus four new product concepts. A home server, an ‘AppleSound universal music controller’ plus more network enabled gadgets, such as digital photo frames. Interesting stuff, though not exactly groundbreaking - a bit like the report itself. Is Apple domination really what’s on the cards? The report is certainly of interest, but numerous analysts have been banging on about the digital home concept for years.
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“Consumer product strategists frequently ask Forrester how Apple’s product strategy will evolve,” says J.P. Gownder, principal analyst and lead author of the report.
”We don’t possess any secret knowledge of Apple’s product roadmap, but we want consumer product strategists to consider this possible - and, in our eyes, highly likely - vision of the Apple digital home offering.”
Likely? We don't think it's as straightforward for Apple as the report appears to suggest. Despite Apple’s dominance of the MP3 player market, there is no evidence to suggest it can manage to solve the problem of the integrated digital home – especially when such a crucial component of it is dependent on content. And providing content means that you need to launch specific services for each territory. You also need to work with a myriad of content and service providers. While Apple has made some strides in this area, things are far from done and dusted.
Forrester states the obvious when it says the AV/IT divide remains and “there’s a clear consumer need for an industry player to help consumers unite these systems and make in-home installation easy.” Such a strategy would also require co-ordination with TV – something Microsoft tried to do with Media Center. How could Apple work with a player such as Sky, for example> This is the kind of divide that would have to be bridged for Forrester's future-gazing to become reality.
Rental model to develop?
One thing's for sure - Apple will surely look to develop the strides it has made with the second generation of Apple TV. We reported in March that Apple may add PVR functionality to the device, for example. It may also look to add more rental content, depending on how much of a success this has been so far.
Forrester admits that Apple faces obstacles to mass-market success in these new markets. The analyst believes it can succeed with the Mac-owning 10 per cent of the market but that others may take some convincing – not least because of choice.
It predicts there will also be significant competition from HP and Microsoft as well as in-home services from providers such as Sky and Virgin Media. Strangely, there's no mention of Sony. Forrester also says Apple’s commitment to closed systems could “inhibit mass-market success in the digital home.” And that could cause it a problem more than anything else.