January 2, 2011

What Is Next For Apple? iPhone, iPad, …

The big question, after iPhone and iPad, what is next for Apple? 

The iPhone & iPad have been phenomenal hits for Apple and their momentum will continue into 2011. They have helped drive Apple’s stock up 60% in 2010. However, in 2011, will Apple introduce new industry-transforming products of the caliber of the iPhone & iPad? Or will it keep busy making incremental improvements to existing products.

The iPad 2 and iPhone 5 will, no doubt, be solid moneymakers for Apple in 2011 and the iOS ecosystem that includes Apps will continue to show huge growth. But, these are incremental improvements to existing cash cows. If this is all Apple does it will be boring.

Certainly Apple could rest on its laurels in 2011 and be content with delivering – sleeker hardware, more features for iPhone & iPad, a 4G iPhone, a GSM-CDMA iPhone, better FaceTime, better iAds, Mac Appstore, better Apple TV, a video subscription service like NetFlix etc. All of these while useful and solid moneymakers are just incremental improvements and will make Apple unexciting.

Apple is not one to rest. Apple has shown the foresight, creativity, desire to innovate, speed and execution. And, there are plenty of consumer categories that are waiting for the disruptive hand of Internet to open them up to growth. Which one will Apple tackle next?

Meanwhile, the rest of the industry is busy trying to catch up to Apple. There will be many announcements at CES 2011 this week – over 50 tablets, many flavors of phones, etc. The industry would love nothing more than a static Apple, which gives them time to catch up. Semiconductor makers like Intel would like the software for the new devices to be static, which allows them to optimize it in silicon and compete with manufacturing. Will Apple give the rest of the industry this luxury of time?