The Apple iHome?

“Apple Inc. will become the hub of the digital home by 2013.”

So says Forrester Research, according to Darren Waters on the BBC News site. Forrester argues that Apple will build its home-entertainment empire on 8 key pillars:

  • The Mac platform
  • Apple TV
  • The bricks-and-mortar Apple Stores
  • iTunes
  • A home server
  • A universal music controller (whatever that is)
  • Network-aware devices such as music players, photo frames etc
  • Hardware installation services for home users

In fact Darren disagrees with this statement, arguing that many of the above 8 pillars are unlikely to ever make their way out of the Apple factory gates. I agree that some, such as Apple iPhotoFrames, sound a bit far-fetched. Also, why no mention of the iPod or iPhone? Does Forrester think these won’t be part of Apple’s digital media strategy?

There can be little doubt that home digital entertainment is the direction in which Apple is headed. The signs are all there:

  • Its renaming from “Apple Computer, Inc.” to “Apple, Inc.
  • Its stubborn refusal to get seriously into the corporate server market
  • The Apple TV, and Front Row on the Mac
  • iTunes, the iPod range, and AirTunes
  • The way the iTunes Store is going with movie rentals and so on

Sure, Apple will continue to make great inroads into home entertainment, but will it be the “hub of the digital home”? I’d say it’s quite likely for existing Apple users like myself, who already watch and listen to most of their content on the iMac or Apple TV in the living room. But I’d imagine that most families of the future will likely have a mixture of brands making up their digital life, much as they do now.

This assumes that Apple maintains it current stance of using (relatively) open formats and protocols, and doesn’t attempt to seriously lock people into their products. (Some would argue they already locked people in with iTunes’ DRM, but many would say that was pushed on them by the record companies.) If they did attempt full-on lock-in, I for one would drop them like a hot potato and flee back to Linux for my home hub needs!

If not Apple – who?

While Apple may not necessarily become the de-facto standard in digital entertainment, it certainly stands the best chance of getting there. Let’s face it – Apple stuff:

  • Just works” on the whole
  • Works together very nicely (without being too much of a closed system)
  • Is wonderfully easy to use, and
  • Looks great, which is important outside of the office or computer room. (I only half-jokingly said to my wife the other day that when we come to sell our apartment, the iMac in the living room will probably pay for itself in terms of upping the perceived value!)

It’s hard to say all those things about other platforms in the computing or the entertainment world.

I want my digital home, dammit

If you’d have asked me ten years ago whether we’d have a digital home hub by 2008, with internet-aware media servers, music piped to every room, portable devices that auto-sync with nearby servers and so on, I’d have said yes, definitely. I’m starting to get a bit bored of the fact that we’re not really there yet, and frankly, any company that can make serious inroads towards this goal wins a place in my heart. Go Apple.

Bookmark this post:

Comments are closed.