What will Apple Do Next?

Whenever I hear this question, my curmudgeonly inclination is to answer, “Who cares?” Perhaps a better question is “What revolutionary new product would allow Apple to continue earning profit margins far larger than the industry average?”

In fact, it’s very hard to imagine Apple coming up with such a product.

iWatch, iBust. The financial analyst class, with very few exceptions, entered into group hysteria, predicting iWatch sales of many tens (or even hundreds) of millions in the first year. It didn’t happen, of course, with smart watches in general remaining a solution in search of a problem. The problem for which some people do want a solution is being solved very well and far less expensively by “fitness bands.” You can see how this could have looked tempting to Apple, which has had great success in the past refining existing products to the point that they became attractive to large numbers of consumers. This worked very well with the iPod, the tablet, and the smart phone. But there was no Apple magic that could make people want a product that they didn’t find useful.

Apple TV?The new Apple TV streaming box. (Photo: Apple)?

Apple TV (the TV). There is recurring speculation about what a wonderful TV set Apple could make. Really? What can Apple do that Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp are not doing or developing right now? It certainly isn’t the display. The only potentially revolutionary display technology is micro LED, and that is years away from large-screen applications. For those who suspect that Apple could revolutionize television with its software expertise, we need look no farther than the new Apple TV (the streaming box). This is a good high-end product. It contains all of the up-to-date features it should have and is very likely to be a success. But there’s nothing revolutionary here, which is not surprising.

The Apple Car. Give me a break. Why would Apple want to get into the automobile business, an area in which it has no expertise? There has been only one successful new car company formed in the U.S. since World War II. That’s Tesla, and it was based on filling a completely empty niche: the high-performance, long-range, fully electric car. At that, it’s something of a miracle that Tesla is succeeding, and Elon Musk deserves a lot of credit.

It has been noted that Apple is hiring car people. I strongly suspect that is not to make an Apple car, but to work on iOS versions for connected cars. This is an area where Apple has a lot to contribute, but it’s not a consumer product. Apple would not be the first company to use expertise gained in the consumer electronics world to enter the industrial market. Panasonic has been doing it for years, with highly successful businesses in airline entertainment, automotive electronics, and industrial batteries, including those that power the Tesla.

So what is the revolutionary new product that Apple will do next? There isn’t one.

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications, including mobile devices and television. He consults for attorneys, investment analysts, and companies using displays in their products. You can reach him at [email protected].