Over the years, Apple’s naysayers have come up with a similar argument whenever another company comes out with a new tech gadget: Apple needs to deal with this competition and do something better real fast! You hear that meme playing out over and over again.
So we know, for example, that Samsung is coming out with a new line of smartwatches real soon now. Commentators are egging Apple on to deliver their own solution. Of course, it’s also true that there aren’t a whole lot of buyers, at least not yet, for such a gadget. Sony has been selling smartwatches for several years, with sales reported in the hundreds of thousands. By sheer numbers alone, it’s hard to believe Apple is going to care, at least when it comes to the current generation of such gear. It doesn’t matter if there are 100 companies making smartwatches, or a thousand.
This doesn’t mean Apple won’t get on board a product segment that seems to have potential if given the proper treatment. So Apple TV remains a hobby, even though they have sold over 13 million of them. How many companies have sold 13 million smartwatches?
When it comes to wearable devices of some sort, it’s clear, based on what CEO Tim Cook has already said, that Apple is interested, but that doesn’t explain the direction that they will take. Sure, there was a published report a while back that Apple had hired 100 engineers for an alleged iWatch development project. But with tens of thousands of employees, Apple certainly has the resources to allocate a fair number of people to look into a new product category, but it doesn’t necessarily mean something will come of it.
Of course, if Apple doesn’t deliver an iWatch this year, some will suggest Apple is falling behind the curve yet again. Others might claim that there were production and/or development problems; anything to avoid admitting that they were dead wrong. We’ll just have to see how this plays out, but Apple won’t make an iWatch because tech and financial pundits tell them it must happen.
With the Apple TV, clearly development is continuing. There’s even a story this week that Apple is, once again, trying to strike deals with contact providers for an Apple branded TV set. The report specifically mentions a smart TV, although any new content deals ought to work just fine on the set top box. It doesn’t seem to justify building the whole widget. Another story has it that Apple is, once again, looking build a TV subscription service of some sort, which would put the company in direct competition with cable and satellite systems. But that’s nothing new. Claims of that sort have been published for several years, and it’s still clear that getting the major content providers on board is proving to be difficult.
That may explain yet another story that had it that Apple was trying to make a deal with Time Warner Cable to put that service’s content on Apple TV. So instead of using TWC’s own DVR and interface, you’d manage your service in an Apple TV environment. I suppose that’s entering TiVo territory, but a TiVo set top box has its own storage. Apple’s solution would be cloud-based, and that raises the question of how you’d deal with your ISP’s bandwidth caps, and most have them, if you’re streaming HD signals all day long on one or more sets. So if Apple introduces such a service, they might very well have to make an accommodation with the broadband providers to handle bandwidth issues.
Of course, the media doesn’t always deal with such complexities. They merely want to tell Apple what to do, and why the company’s well-paid executives are clearly not smart enough to see what’s really going on.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate markets that Apple has yet to tap, markets that suit their particular capabilities. The TV arena is one, wearable devices another, and what about the post-tablet or post-smartphone space? More and more people are buying smartphones, and the time will soon come when sales will mostly go to existing customers looking to upgrade; in other words, the same situation you see in the TV business these days. It’s still early in the game for tablets, but you get the picture.
So where does the market turn next? Or are the tablet and smartphone form factors sufficient to carry any company through the next 10 or 20 years? I suppose, by building more and more features formerly the province of a personal computer, and perfecting a voice recognition system that actually works, these two markets can sustain themselves for a long time. Even if the chips themselves are fabricated with new technologies, sporting new ways to crunch numbers, the basic form factors can survive.
It’s a sure thing that Apple and loads of other companies are looking at the future. But how they get there will probably not be determined by today’s tech and financial bloggers. Maybe a sci-fi writer.