Some More Thought on What Apple Should Do Next

I hasten to point out that the thoughts are other people’s. I wouldn’t presume to tell Apple what to do. Oh, no. What we have here is Gene ‘Mac Night Owl’ Steinberg’s thoughts, as spurred by an article entitles “Apple: A Product Plateau?” by Arik Hesseldahl in Business Week. Each tackle the malaise which often effects the Mac community: that we are in unequal parts spoiled and neglected by Apple. There comes the occasional game-changing product announcement which makes the more usual announcements of product evolutions seem dull and lifeless by comparison. And the lows between insanely great fixes just seem to get lower.

I’ll get Gene out of the way first. He makes the case for the HTPC AppleTV replacement, comparing the current state of the market to that of the media player market pre-iPod. I don’t doubt that Apple could shake things up, but I don’t think that this is how they would chose to do it. As I’ve written elsewhere, TiVo functionality and DVD/Blu-Ray players would eat into iTunes Store revenue.

Arik Hesseldahl reprieves the idea of the iPhone Nano, saying:

“The iPhone nano, for example, might appeal to those who think the current model is too big or too expensive.”

While I’d agree that that market exists, I doubt that Apple will choose to tackle it. Arik mentions the many iPod iterations as an example of Apple cornering different niches of the same market. I’d point out that Apple keeps moving forward. Why is this important? The original iPod was a simple device: basically just a music player. As it evolved new features were added. And new products were added to the line, but with the exception of the shuffle’s screen, none of them did less than the original. When the mainline got photo and then movie playback, the Mini and Nano lagged a little behind.

The iPhone is a smart phone. It is indivisible from the Touch OS and the large screen you need to run it. If Apple were to introduce an iPhone Touch — maybe modelling it after the new iPod Nanos, with a similar click-wheel driven interface — it would be a step backwards for the line. And perhaps more importantly, it would be just another music-playing mobile phone.

Arik then returns to a rumour which hasn’t been heard from for a while: the all-in-one AppleTV.

“Apple could take the features of AppleTV and pack them into an actual TV set—but that’s unlikely. Selling TVs is a cutthroat, low-margin business better left to the likes of Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp.”

While I agree that, yes, this is unlikely, I’d argue with Arik’s reasoning. Sure, the TV business is cutthroat, but so is the PC business, and Apple seems to be doing okay there. They sell PCs at good margins by having a differentiated product. A TV set + AppleTV would be another such product. If consumers are only going to buy one TV then why not favour the set with the unique extra features, especially if they were already considering an AppleTV and the price of the combined unit was the same or less.

It’s just a shame it’s not going to happen. I’d certainly buy one.

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