By Richard Menta 7/27/13
Last month I wrote an article on based on an observation of mine regarding the tech press, which I want to make clear includes the savvy and the not so savvy pundits of anything that comes out of Cupertino. Every Spring Apple holds the most anticipated press event any corporation has ever held in the history of modern communications. The headlines that germinate from this event sell papers, draw readers and viewers, and keep the advertisers who pay the bills happy. That makes the editors happy.
Unfortunately, there was no Spring event this year from Apple. Not only did it leave a lot of the tech set dangling over the rumors that floated around the first couple of months of this year, but it exposed how reliable many the reliable sources the press turns to for leaks are. In response, the press began to create it's own Apple stories by taking shots at the very entity that feeds it with readers and web traffic... because those articles bring readers and web traffic. Articles with titles like "Has Apple Lost it's Cool?" and "Apple is Desperate for New Products" have become over-proliferate.
My wife turned to me the other day and asked me what I thought was the next new hot product or service to come from Apple. I told her I honestly had no idea and this is coming from someone who on more than a few occasions correctly "guessed" at what is in the Apple pipeline. I achieved this not from sources, but looking at the ebb and flow of existing products, and not just Apple's. I then placed this against the backdrop of a vibrant and mercurial market to see if this pointed to a direction, even an oblique one, that made compelling business sense. For example, in my 2005 review of the Sony PSP, which merged media, gaming and the Internet before the Apple iPod could even play video, I saw the germination of the smart device, sans phone. With this in my pocket, when the iPod Touch and the iPhone came along I recognized right away that were the children of the PSP, a point that came full circle with the opening of the Apple App store when apps made them major mobile gaming/Internet devices.
My wife then asked me to think of a product they should make. We were in the living room at the time and my first reaction was to look at the five remote controls I am forced to display always-at-the-ready to properly work my TV, cable box, DVR, DVD, and surround system.
I told her that if Steve Job's declaration that Apple has finally solved the TV problem is a true sign of where Apple is headed, then ending our indentured existence to multiple remotes is a great first start (I bet Steve had double the remotes I did). Too many remote controls is a problem that needs to be solved. Apple makes a lot of money when they solve such problems. The tool that Apple presently has that offers the best potential for to do that is Siri. If an Apple branded TV is truly in the works then making it Siri-capable allows the user to verbally command it. Design it well (the biggest challenge) and you can pack away those remotes and eschew their confusing arrays of tiny buttons.
Do I have proof of such a concept? No, it strictly falls under the "things I would like to see" category. Is it compelling? I think so. Can it actually happen? Siri is technology that exists today and is one that Apple looks to expand upon. There is corporate pressure to find more uses for Siri and the company seems to be making significant investment towards its evolution. Will it happen? Who the hell knows? As I have said in the past if I had a crystal ball I'd be at the track placing bets.
My point is this; during these times it ain't the best move to risk getting fired from a good job at Apple just to feed a couple of anonymous tips to the digerati. Genuine "reliable sources" are scarce as hen's teeth today, particularly after the changes Apple made when one of its young engineers lost a prototype iPhone in a bar. That prototype eventually found it's way into the hands of Gizmodo. The best of what is coming out these past few years are the musings drawn by the product pipeline analysts, like Piper Jaffrays Gene Munster, who look at the electronic parts circulating in the Apple supply chain to draw their inferences. In other words they do what I do, but with a more concrete set of data points mixed in with the gut observation we both tend to turn to.
If in the end we are wrong more often then we are right it is still fun to take a stab at what's coming down the road. We want to at least be close. I would never use the word reliable.
So there is my quick prognostication. Can astute observation followed by a certain weathered omniscience outperform a seriously degraded rumor mill?
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