Few companies have managed to create such a religious interest in their products in past and none have managed to do it consistently. It is precisely Apple’s unprecedented success of past that makes it a perfect target of criticism. There is some merit behind it. It still remains to be seen how much of Apple’s brilliance stemmed from Steve Jobbs. Until now, Tim Cook, the current CEO, has largely maintained the status quo as Apple has not brought in any fundamentally new products since he took over. The pressure on company to do something is growing everyday. With the cash reserve of $160bn, the question is not whether Apple can invest or develop new products, but instead what product would be “big” enough not to disappoint the mounting expectations.
It remains to be seen what will Apple unveil as part of its June’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Speculations about Apple’s iWatch, a form of intelligent watch dates back to when first such a product was introduced by Pebble. Although Samsung has failed miserably with its Galaxy Gear, this should not put Apple off. Like with mp3 players, Apple has a reputation for transforming failure into brilliance (iPod). In the age when we are all switching to internet to watch TV, Apple is expected to bring a form of connected TV. And let us not forget iPhone 6, perhaps the biggest contributor to Apple’s sales generation from the lot. Lastly, it would be a mistake not to mention Apple’s latest introduction – CarPlay. In the age when the tech companies have begun to realize that cars are “tabula rasa” – an ideal platform to extend their reach, Apple’s CarPlay will be an intelligent integration of all its products in cars and another step to encroach us with its product ecosystem.
Is that all?
None of these products alone explain where Apple is heading. A much more fundamental change is underway and Apple will be in the lead. There are trends we all keep hearing about – wearables, big data, internet of things. To an extent they are all the same.
Wearables is the trend to make the ever better smaller and cheaper technologies part of our bodies. Big data is the promise that as software and techniques to analyse information improve, patterns, problems and solutions which have been before sunk within data will now become observable and of informative value. Internet of things combines the two and goes beyond as it is the expectation that as information about every object and being in the real world is tracked and stored on the internet, this will help achieve exceptional efficiencies. A business will never again produce waste, or run out of stock. Through constant inter-connectedness between the manufacturer, supplier and consumer, each party will always know what products are required and in what quantities.
Apple is in the middle of this happening and ahead of its rivals. The obsession with iPads, iPhones and Macs has allowed Apple to create an ecosystem of products and services which we are faithful to. It is unimportant what Apple’s next product will be. We will all be disappointed since the expectations are too high. Most of us will then go and buy it because the product will be genuinely good, but we may no longer be prepared to pay too high a price tag since the “premiumness” of Apple’s products is no longer revolutionary. The company is changing to adapt to this. The next big thing will not be about product, but the layer built on top of it. Whether it is iWatch, CarPlay or the latest and (even) cheaper iPhone 5c, these products will all just be means to immerse customers deeper into the Apple’s ecosystem.
In the world where gadgets will be cheaper and plentiful, the value will lie in ‘operating’ the internet of things. Intelligent wearables, home appliances of next generation and cars with advanced digital features will all be connected and inter-changing massive amount of information to help us through the day, ensuring that we stay more healthy, always on time and well informed. If Apple becomes operator of most of these devices, it will have a licence to access our attention at all times. It will become the perfect marketer and seller of anything and everything.
Other technological giants are not sitting with their hands in the lap. Amazon has announced introduction of its own smartphone. Facebook is fighting the concerns about its loss of relevance among younger users by introducing online payment system. Both companies have the same aim – to develop an ecosystem of products and services, so that they become the “gateways” for all our buying. Faced with ever-less time, we will be increasingly doing all our transactions online.
Meanwhile, Apple stands in an unparalleled position in comparison to its rivals. Unlike in Europe, the U.S. still uses magnetic swipe-and-sign cards, which due to security concerns are ripe for change. It is very likely that Americans will skip a step in the technological development and (rather than switching to safer chip cards proved in Europe) start using payments system based on biometrics verification. Apple’s iPhone 5s already incorporates touch ID button. Leveraging its technology and the millions of credit cards on file through iTunes, Apple is in a perfect place to become the dominant mobile payment operator.
To adapt means to thrive. It is America once again that is the source of change as its tech companies change to become providers of “everything”. Apple of the future will continue to be giant cash machine, but in a different form.