Looking ahead to Apple's next big product innovation

As Apple readies new product and software releases, is there a surprise on the horizon? Wil Limoges looks ahead and makes some predictions about a new product line.

September is upon us, and with the eminent release of iOS 5, a new iPhone, iCloud, iTunes Match, and hopefully, “One More Thing,” right around the corner, I thought I would take a look ahead at what’s next for Apple, especially in the wake of Steve Jobs' departure. So, what is it that we can expect from Apple in the future?

Post-PC era?

I ask “what is next for Apple” because we've been hearing so much about living in a post-PC era. It's significant when you think about what it means for Apple in the enterprise. We've already seen Mac OS X Server lose emphasis in Apple’s product line up by having both it’s pricing slashed and its dedicated hardware, the Xserve axed. Does this mean that the desktop is dead? Possibly, although, I don’t see it happening for several more years. To better understand where Apple may be headed we need to consider where it draws its direction, rather, what its DNA is composed of. First, as a technology company, Apple loves to innovate and revolutionize in markets that are stale. We’ve seen this with the iPod, the iPhone, and iTunes, to name a few. Second, Apple is now more than ever a consumer-driven company. It doesn't mean that they are shedding off the enterprise completely, but as far as their products are concerned, the consumer seems to be is its primary focus. Apple offers a myriad of consumer-oriented services and support; there has been a lack of updates to a significant portion of Pro Apps; and again, Apple has essentially demoted Mac OS X Server to little more than a consumer-obtainable product. Finally, Apple is dedicated only to making best-in-class products. Arguably there is much more that makes up Apple’s DNA but these are the major strands for much of Apple’s motives. With this mapping in mind, it's easier to see a path emerge that I think hints at what Apple’s next steps may be. It is highly unlikely that Apple will develop products outside of the realm of consumer electronics. Furthermore, it is unlikely for Apple to enter into a market until they know they have a proven product and one that is likely to change the way we live and think.

Let’s have some fun

Armed with the knowledge that I’ve laid out, lets have a little fun. It’s rumored that Apple will be launching a radical new device soon and that it will be a significant departure from it’s current product line up. Apple has also expressed in their earnings report that there will be a “Product Transition” in the fall. What do you think this all means? What could this radical new device be or are we just going to see the iPod and it’s brethren finally be put out to pasture? My thoughts? The obvious choice would be the transition away from iPods to all touch devices, however, more and more I find myself leaning toward the idea of an HDTV coming out of Cupertino. It fits all the aforementioned prerequisites: it’s a consumer device; it’s a market that needs revitalization; it can easily be improved upon; and it can change the way we live and think. Consider if you will what is wrong with televisions today: They are complicated and home systems are increasingly difficult to set up and interact with. The non-standard resolutions of today's HDTVs leave consumers perplexed. We’ve been told for over a decade that video conferencing was coming to our homes, and although the technology certainly exists, few if any manufacturers have successfully brought it to market. Lastly, it’s a perfect way for Apple to sneak right on into that first input of your HDTV instead of settling for number two. If you ask me, the HDTV has Apple opportunity all over it, and although I was once on the fence about the idea, I’m all but on the wagon at this point. If Apple believes that we live in a post-PC world, then Apple must be considering other markets to invade where its devices can live and integrate while its PC market will slowly kneel to the tablet.

Personally, I see this as a boon for both consumers and for businesses with products that simplify communication and can still perform important work functions -- an Apple HDTV would be welcome in our office, for sure.

So what new products do you think are on the horizon and how do see Apple’s persistent push into the consumer market affecting your business, if at all?