‘Apple to be hub of digital home by 2013’ - really?

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According to new research, Apple will be running our homes in five years time. Forrester Research has compiled a report that makes either compelling or depressing reading depending on where your loyalties lie.
The report says that Apple will “offer eight key products and services to connect PCs and digital content to the TV-stereo infrastructure in consumers’ homes.”
Forrester says this will involve the current Apple ecosystem including Apple TV, plus four new product concepts. A home server, an ‘AppleSound universal music controller’ plus more network enabled gadgets, such as digital photo frames.
It believes Apple will also re-engineer the Apple Store and expand into in-home installation services to deliver a fully integrated digital experience.
But is this really what’s on the cards? It all seems a bit Appleist to us – despite Apple’s dominance of the MP3 player market, there is no evidence to suggest it can manage to solve the problem of the integrated digital home – especially when such a crucial component of it is dependent on content. And content means that you need to launch specific services for each territory.
“Consumer product strategists frequently ask Forrester how Apple’s product strategy will evolve,” says J.P. Gownder, principal analyst and lead author of the report.
”We don’t possess any secret knowledge of Apple’s product roadmap, but we want consumer product strategists to consider this possible - and, in our eyes, highly likely - vision of the Apple digital home offering.”
Forrester says the AV/IT divide remains (you don't say) and “there’s a clear consumer need for an industry player to help consumers unite these systems and make in-home installation easy.” Trouble is, such a strategy would also require co-ordination with TV – something Microsoft tried to do with Media Center.
There are further problems here, of course. Take a UK player – Sky. It’s services and boxes work very well together and it’s just one reason why things might not be as integrated as Forrester seems to believe.
Rental model to develop?
Still, the report makes for interesting reading and Apple will surely look to develop the rental model it has developed with Apple TV. We reported in March that Apple may add PVR functionality to the device.
Forrester admits that Apple faces obstacles to mass-market success. The analyst believes it can succeed with the Mac-owning 10 per cent of the market but that others may take some convincing – not least because of choice.
It predicts there will also be significant competition from HP and Microsoft as well as in-home services from providers such as Sky and Virgin Media. Strangely, there's no mention of Sony. Forrester also says Apple’s commitment to closed systems could “inhibit mass-market success in the digital home.” And that could cause it a problem more than anything else.


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