Apple's Looking Glass

May 23 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

In a paper released yesterday, AJ.P. Gownder and James L. McQuivey at Forrester predict that by 2013 Apple will become the hub of the digital home. They support this contention by imagining eight future Apple products including “wall-mountable digital picture frames with small high-definition screens and speakers that wirelessly play media”, “an Apple ‘clock radio’ that pipes in music and other media across a home network”, and “an ‘AppleSound’ universal remote control, also with a touch-sensitive screen, that lets users browse their music collections and change the songs playing through their stereo as they stroll around the house.”

I tend to concur with the rest of the blogosphere in that this is quite the tame list and that we’ll probably see significantly more advanced products from the likes of Apple circa 2013. With dropping component costs (hi-rez screens, processors, graphics cards, etc.), rising data transfer speeds (Internet2, a possible re-allocation of analog TV spectrum) new competition from proliferating design & interface companies, and the fact that most of these concepts already in prototype, I believe such products are more likely to hit mass-markets inside of 3 years rather than 5 long years away.

In particular I find the “wall-mountable digital picture frames” prediction a bit weak. If former Xerox PARC Director John Seely Brown is accurate in his estimation that Apple CEO Steve Jobs “is positioning himself to take over completely the living room,” then by 2013 I see the company developing radically cooler products such as a slick telepresence interface that future blogger Dick Pelletier expects by 2015 or before .

Being that such devices, albeit clunky and expensive versions, are already being sold by the likes of Cisco and VisBox, and that holographic and projection technologies could eliminate the expensive screen altogether, it’s unlikely that Steve Jobs and his crack team of agile researchers and designers haven’t yet realized the trumping value of rich multi-purpose, telepresence-enabling interfaces. (cont.)

In fact, I’d be quite surprised if the company hasn’t already produced hundreds of sketches of possible 2013 products like Apple Looking Glass, iPortal or iHolo – which, personally, I can’t wait to start using for work, phone calls and recreation, no matter who creates them or their functional, affordable equivalent.

At the same time, Apple must also realize that companies with gaming, software and hardware competencies/interests like Microsoft and Sony will be converging on the same telepresence space as they introduce their next-generation Xbox and PlayStation units. As far as I can see, this could have three different general effects on Apple’s core living room product strategy: 1) it may deter Apple form entering the space, 2) it may accelerate their product development in the space, 3) it may force the company into a middle space where it either partners in a new way or waits to see how the battle will unfold.

This example is fundamentally significant to the Forrester speculations because it illustrates how accelerating change and media/product convergence will change the market dynamics influencing innovation by the likes of Apple and in all likelihood “squeeze” exciting products into existence sooner than expected.

We seem to have arrived at the point where all of the major interface and tech product companies need to be thinking aggressively about what new products they can bring to market and what new innovations can knock them out. As everyone is squeezed through the knee of the curve it might be a good idea to break our the sci-fi literature to help inform the near-term because the new products that we are about to see are going to be more advanced most of us intuitively linear thinkers expect.

Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. “wall-mountable digital picture frames” We already have those. They are called flat screen TVs.

    Posted by: johnfrink   May 23, 2008
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