Apple's next ground-breaking product could be an Apple Television in 2012, but with Steve Jobs gone, all bets are off in the future.
Most high-tech analysts agree the late Steve Jobs left
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) well positioned for the next few years, backed by an
all-star bench of seasoned technology executives.
It's tough to find fault with the operational savoir
of new CEO Tim Cook, the design chops of Jonathan Ive, the marketing and
presentation skills of Phil Schiller, or the slick software know-how of Scott
Led by Jobs, these men helped sell 128 million iPhones and 30 million
iPads over the last three-plus years,
giving Apple a market capitalization rivaling oil power Exxon and $76 billion
in cash and securities. $76 billion
, or nearly double that of Google's $39
Apple is humming like a well-oiled machine. It's launching the iPhone 4S in a week
and Piper Jaffray expects the company will
sell 25 million iPhones in this coming holiday quarter, and 111 million for
2012, which is when the iPad 3 is expected to vault the next explosion in
And yet now that Jobs is gone, investors and diehard
consumers are left to wonder what the future holds, and whether Apple
continue its fantastic run in the face of Internet rivals such as
Google and Amazon, which are gunning for more mobile market share.
"Navigating big shifts in technology and consumer
behavior over the long term is always a challenge," Current Analysis
analyst Avi Greengart told eWEEK
"Although Steve Jobs had an unmatched
track record in this regard, there is no guarantee that his streak would have
continued unbroken. At least the people he relied on to help make these
decisions are still at Apple - people like Tim Cook, Scott Forstall, Jonathan
Ive, Greg Joswiak, Phil Schiller, and others. They have certainly internalized
Jobs' process, and given Apple's strong platforms, they will be well positioned
for any future challenges. Beyond that, nobody knows."
Yet Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle believes that
because Apple was redesigned around Jobs' unique skills and designing a
consumer electronics product and bringing it to market, the company will
experience a degradation within 24 months or sooner.
No one knows for sure, indeed. Looking into the crystal
ball, Apple could produce that unicorn-like Apple Television the high-tech
world has been speculating about for at least 5 years now. Unlike the current
Netflix and YouTube video-streaming box that sells for $99, the full Apple
Television would resemble the Google TV Web TV service.
Such a service would include a Safari Web browser and sync content and services
through iCloud across users'
iPhones, iPads and Macs, and provide a gateway to
the 425,000-plus applications in Apple's App Store. This offering would compete
with not only Google TV, but services such as Netflix and Amazon's Instant
"We continue to believe that Apple is developing a
television that will succeed its current Apple TV set-top-box, likely in late
[calendar year] 2012"Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, wrote in a June 23 research note.
strong iOS developer community would likely jump at the chance to build apps
for an Apple Television, and Apple's iOS users would likely jump at the chance
to buy one."
It could be, in Jobs' parlance, the next Insanely Great
thing. At the least, it could be one of the next "one more thing" launches
capping a future Apple product event.
Yet Enderle doubts Apple would play here, owning to the
traditionally low margins TV yields.
"TV is a thin margin commodity
business as both HP and Pioneer discovered," Enderle said. "I doubt
even Jobs would try to enter a space already so aggressively defined by price
and saturated with product. Now if they
could come up with something to replace the TV then..."
"They'd have to position this as enough different
than a TV for them to hold margin. Jobs
might be able to do this (and I say might given the Google TV belly flop may
have already soured the market) but Cook isn't up to this level of problem at
all. But we'll see, they've never tried
a saturated market in current years. Saturated markets are a bitch. "
So is not knowing what direction Apple is going to go in
next. But then knowing would spoil some of the fun of trying to figure it out.