In the past five years, Apple has launched the iPad, lost the leadership of Steve Jobs, become one of the most profitable companies in the world and taken the lead in the smartphone and tablet markets as users have shifted away from traditional computers. What can we expect from the company over the next five years as it tries to stay on top?
Two Tier iPhone and iPad Sales
With smartphones reaching the saturation point in many countries and prices plummeting for competitors, expect Apple to continue the trend they began with the iPhone 5C, offering last generation hardware at a lower price point. The iPad should follow suit as the market becomes saturated in the next two to three years, letting Apple compete with ever-improving low-end tablets. Emphasis will gradually shift towards these low end devices with high end devices serving the very top of the market, akin to the Macintosh Pro models.
Buying New Technology
With almost $160 billion in cash on hand, it’s going to make more sense to buy smaller technology companies to fill in development gaps rather than working on them in-house, much as Microsoft did during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. This begins with the recent purchase of Beats Audio.
Ping may have failed, but that doesn’t mean Apple can stay out of the streaming music business: digital music sales fell for the first time last year largely due to the shift towards services like Pandora, Spotify and Rhapsody, and iTunes will need to become part of that market to stay relevant. Expect Beats Audio’s Beats Music service to serve as the base for an Apple-branded service.
Apple TV Challenges Home Consoles
Apple TV will continue to shift away from media streaming to a wider experience much like current game consoles. Improvements to development tools and the interface will open up the device to better apps optimized for the big screen including games and social media. Thanks to its low price point and access to iTunes, it could be a serious threat to the Xbox One and PS4.
Three Platforms, Three Interfaces, And One Experience
Apple will split its operating systems into three core groups: handheld devices, Apple TV and computers.
OS X and iOS will still share some components, but they will still be separate as Apple thinks that trying to merge the two will mean too many compromises will need to be made to maintain the focus on high power computing and easy use with traditional peripherals. Likewise, Apple TV’s version of iOS will separate itself from the software used on the iPad and iPhone to concentrate on media services and a remote-friendly interface.
For end-users, this means they can move seamlessly between devices, even if the background software is completely different. Services like iCloud will still work with any device, and the interfaces will begin to look the same.
The Next Big (Usable) Thing
Apple may be innovative, but their success rests on reinventing existing niche products in such a way that they become usable to the population at large. The graphical user interface, portable music player, smartphone and tablet were all around before Apple started making them, but they were defined by the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.
Apple may no longer be the underdog, but there is still plenty of space for the company to expand. Over the next few years, their reach will expand to include every part of the computing market from the smallest phone to the biggest TV, filling in the gaps with in-house development and outside purchases.