A few years ago, a good friend of mine sent me an email asking what Apple might be up to in the next few years. At the time of the email, I’d been an OS X user for about 3 years, I’d owned every iPhone they ever made, and was getting ready to purchase the new iPad, which may or may not have been more than a “Big iPhone”. Spoiler alert, the critics were wrong.

Being an avid reader of tech blogs, and having successfully navigated the 2007 iPhone announcement, and making quite a bit of money off Apple stock options while I was at it, I guess I was the go to Apple guy in my circle of close friends.

March 2, 2010

Friend: Btw…any speculation on what Apple is saving it’s $40 Billion in cash reserves for (investment, R&D-wise, etc.)?

Me: They’re saving up to buy the company I’m starting. Too bad I’m not selling 😉 I kid.

Actually, I don’t know. Google and Apple have been buying up startups like there’s no tomorrow though.

Apple will eventually fully compete with Microsoft in the Enterprise markets with office suites, email, calendar. MobileMe is just the beginning of Apple’s version of Exchange.1

Apple will probably make a video game/TV entertainment console in the next 5 years.2 Think of the Apple TV being nixed, and replaced with the Mac Mini, or the Mac Mini becoming something like an Xbox 360, with Apple using the Game development relationships its made with the iPhone and soon the iPad, and translating that into full fledged games. Windows may alway have 70% upwards market share of Computer OS, but Video games are a different story completely. I think Apple could enter the next-gen console war. When will that be? We’ll wait for Sony and Microsoft to announce new consoles somewhere in the next 5 years, then I believe an announcement from Apple will come shortly thereafter.3 Sony is losing badly in the console war, PS3 was all but a failure, so that provides room for a new competitor. I have a PS3 that I never really use except for blu-rays because my 360 (which is older, slower, and hotter) has the best user interface ever, I watch netflix on it, and I can actually play a decent online multiplayer (with people I know) when I have the time.

Apple will probably try to compete with Netflix eventually with a subscription based movie service (notice Netflix is on 360, and is its “killer” app). Cable, DVD, iTunes Movie sales aren’t so great, whereas Netflix is skyrocketing.4 TV is moving to the internet, so eventually, our subscriptions should move as well.5 Blu-ray may be short-lived because of HD streaming over the web, (Apple’s reluctance to put blu-ray in their devices).6 Apple also has TV console device patents aplenty.

Its pretty easy to see where a company is going if you look at what they release now. Example: Google released Gmail, then Calendar, then google docs over the years and built up a huge user base. Next thing you know they come out with an OS that integrates all those features. Now they have a phone “Nexus One” that integrates all those features as well.

So here’s my master theory on Apple. Apple wants us to have an integrated experience. Others have eked out moderate success on this: Microsoft and Sony (think PS3 & PSP, Windows Media Center). Your desktop is tied to your laptop tied to your iPhone tied to your iPad tied to your TV tied to your Music services tied to your TV/Movie Services tied to your gaming services. They want a world with all movies on their server, and you can stream any of them you want to your TV. Same with video games. They want you to be able to control your TV from your iPhone or iPad, and watch your iTunes subscription anywhere. Imagine paying $30 bucks a month for being able to watch TV, your entire movie library everywhere. Imagine using your iPhone to control a video game, or your TV. Imagine not having to store gigabytes of data on your devices because you “own” the videos, but they are stored with Apple. Imagine the negative effect on bootlegging.7

For ALL of that, wait 5-10 years, but I could be wrong.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Apple eventually got involved with Maps, GPS, Internet Search, thought its not really on my radar.8 But expect our future to be shaped by the big three: Microsoft, Google, Apple.

How’d I do?

They say hindsight is 20/20 and it looks like I was spot on for most of what I said, and that one of my guesses could be right around the corner.

If you’ve been following along with the footnotes, that looks like a hard 5.5/7 and a tentative 6/7. Not bad. Why fish out this old email? Because I’ve got a hunch about a direction Apple could take over the next decade that could change an entire industry for the better.

  1. Correct: MobileMe has now become iCloud and is fully competing with not only Exchange, but Google in a two pronged attack via the OS X Server app (enterprise) and iCloud (consumer). Apple went full throttle by making OS X and the iWork suite free with the purchase of any Mac. Business people love their iPads, and now they can upgrade to the latest OS and Office suites for free.

  2. TBD: This is only half fulfilled, with the other half just around the corner. My 5 year clock hasn’t run out yet! The Xbox One and PS4 will be exactly one year old come this November, and they haven’t done as well as expected, especially Xbox One. There aren’t many games out yet for either, but PS4 came out ahead of Xbox as a big surprise to anyone who owned both a PS3 and an Xbox 360. A beefed up AppleTV with app store and game controller should be announced by March 2015, just in time for my deadline.  Apple surprised us by not announcing an AppleTV in the fall, which points to a Spring 2015 release. The longer wait and stiff competition from Amazon and Google all point to a Siri powered AppleTV game console.

  3. Same as #2 footnote.

  4. Incorrect: My time’s not up, but I think I’ll have to concede defeat for the 5 year portion of my prediction. I don’t think Apple will have a Netflix competitor by March 2015. The catch all movie/TV subscription idea may never pan out, especially because film and TV production companies wouldn’t have it for fresh new content, and rightly so. For example, last year I paid $42.99 for the season pass of the 4th season of The Walking Dead. At 16 episodes total, it came to $2.69 per episode. For 45 minutes of content per episode, plus behind the scenes content, that’s more than fair. When Downton Abbey season 5 comes on iTunes, we’ll buy that season pass too. Buying a season pass is the same as buying a DVD box set, except that for many shows, you can get each episode just hours after they air on television. AppleTV has really caught on and movie rentals are doing really well. RedBox is cheaper, but it’s much easier to pay the extra $3 to not get off your couch. Some movies have even begun direct to iTunes releases at the same time as their theater releases, for the same price as a theater movie ticket.

  5. Correct: Just days ago, HBO announced an HBO GO! cable-free subscription available online and on AppleTV in 2015. Netflix is doing better than ever, releasing it’s own super successful original series like House of Cards, streaming in 1080p on Apple TV.

  6. Correct: The combinations of Netflix, Amazon Fire, Roku, Youtube, Hulu, iTunes Store, and the advent of 4k content has all but killed Blu-ray and DVD sales. The days of physical media are numbered and the writing is on the wall.

  7. Correct: I made this prediction before the 2nd generation AppleTV came out with many of the features I predicted, being debuted in things like Airplay and the Apple Remote App. Over the summer, Apple announced OS X Yosemite with Continuity, so you can continue your computing experience on whatever device you choose to use. iCloud has spent years unifying the Apple experience between your devices. What I didn’t realize was rather than a subscription service, Apple would give you the same “everywhere access” to your Movies and Music via your iCloud/iTunes account. So long as you’re logged in on your device, you can download or stream any content you’ve purchased and consume it anywhere.

  8. Correct: In 2012 Apple got involved in Maps and GPS. In 2013 they announced CarPlay, which brought Maps, Music, Messages, and Podcasts to your car. In 2014, they got lightly involved with Internet Search through Yosemite and iOS 8.