Forget the iPhone, the future is the iHome

By Angela Dorizas

SYDNEY: Apple is set to become the ‘hub’ of the digital home by 2013, according to the latest report by Forrester Research. But the company was criticised for its policy of locking iPhones.

The Future of Apple Inc report by Forrester Research predicts that the consumer-centric company will bridge the divide between AV and IT within the home.

“Apple intends to reinvent itself as a digital home provider over the next five years. Its goal, we believe, is to provide hardware, software, and installation services to create an integrated digital experience,” Forrester Research said.

The report was prompted by growing interest from product strategists competing with Apple or developing complementary products, seeking to keep ahead with the global trendsetter.

Forrester Research developed and evaluated a range of possible scenarios for Apple’s five year future, grounding predictions in the company’s recent history.

According to Forrester Research, Apple has set the bar for computing without being a market leader in computing, altered consumer listening habits with the launch of the iPod, become one of the largest music retailers in the world with the release of iTunes and had successfully entering the mobile phone market with the iPhone.

“Consumer product strategists everywhere should recognise just how radical Apple’s transformation through its product strategy has been. Apple had remade itself, moving from a niche PC maker to a consumer devices and digital music leader,” the report stated.

Forrester Research outlined what Apple would not be in five years, dismissing industry speculation. According to the report, Apple will not become a media pure play company, a CE giant expanding across all hardware markets, an enterprise IT firm, a software company or PC vendor per se, nor an end-to-end mobile device company.

“With Apple’s history of innovation and, more recently, of entering entirely new markets, sticking with the status quo looks like the least likely scenario of all,” Forrester Research said.

If their predictions prove correct, consumers can expect to see Apple as the heart of the digital home.

According to Forrester Research, the Apple digital home will be built around Macintosh computers; a home server product equivalent to Time Capsule, Final Cut Pro and Airport Extreme; AppleSound universal music controller operating as a standalone iPod and AV controller; network enabled clock radio and wireless digital photo frames; and the Apple TV media extender for HDTV.

The Apple digital home will be supported by in-home installation services, the Apple Store and iTunes successors, Forrester Research predicted.

The new product offering is likely to be a success among brand loyal consumers.

“Forrester believes that this digital home solution will appeal to the same top 10 per cent of the market to which Apple pitches the Mac — and that Apple will principally succeed with this traditional ‘Mac 10 per cent’.”

However, the report also warned: “this isn’t a one-player market, and other types of firms will go after the digital home as well.”

Competition is expected to come from in-home installation service providers, Microsoft and HP. Another challenge identified in the report was Apple’s ongoing commitment to closed systems — locking iPhones to outside applications and refusing to licence Mac OS X to other vendors.

“This inclination toward closed systems would inhibit mass-market success in the digital home, where a wide variety of manufacturers’ products must be tied together,” the report stated.

Apple declined to comment on the report.

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