Let’s start by looking back at the most highly-visible* changes in technology from previous years:
- Smartphones: Apple reinvigorates the market by introducing a responsive, capacitive-touch device with the iPhone. Google follows, then Microsoft. Google gets great market share, but no one makes more profit than Apple. Microsoft currently languishes, despite Nokia’s heft. RIM? LOL.
- Apps: Apple effectively invents the segment, others follow. No one else makes more money off apps than Apple.
- Tablets: Apple invents the capacitive-touch tablet segment (yes rah rah Microsoft Tablet PC puh-lease), others follow. No one makes a dent in Apple’s 90+% market share. Windows 8 shows promise, but I genuinely think Microsoft needs to build the hardware themselves to make it truly shine.
- Ultrabooks: Apple invents the segment with the Macbook Air. Intel is “not paying” OEMs to create alternatives. Personally I just can’t help feeling like this is some kind of horrible Netbook flashback.
So, my prediction for 2012? Apple invents. Everyone copies Apple. Poorly.
There are rumours swirling that Apple is readying a push into TV. Whether that is in the form of an actual large-panel display (unlikely) or a re-jig of the AppleTV (more likely) is irrelevant. What is more relevant is that when Apple enters the TV game, things will change. I could outline why, but fuck it: Apps and Content.
Competition? The current efforts to revolutionise TV are a joke. Google TV has had more mis-starts than a 1970’s Valiant. Samsung’s “Smart TV” might as well be bullshit smeared across your flat panel. Microsoft’s XBox is perhaps the closest alternative, but it needs to be smaller, easier, and frictionless.
Fanboy Defence Disclaimer
Yes, in many cases Apple are standing on the shoulders of giants, riffing on what already existed. You say “anyone could do that”. So why is it that Apple’s product in a particular segment stands above all others in quality, user experience, and profit?
Do I like this state of affairs? Not really. I’d love it if there were more than one company capable of creating new, profitable consumer market segments with devices that are wonderful to use. There just isn’t.
* Outside of the consumer market, there is a ton of really interesting innovation happening (cloud, open source, web, office). Maybe I’ll cover that in a separate post.