March 27, 2006
NEXT MOVE COULD BE FORAYS INTO MOVIES, TV
Written by John Boudreau – Mercury News
In the ’80s, Apple Computer brought the personal computer to the masses.
And in the first few years of the 21st century, the Cupertino company’s iPod digital music player has revolutionized how we listen to, buy and tote around our music.
So, what’s next?
As Apple’s 30th anniversary approaches Saturday, it is no doubt working on the next innovation it hopes can repeat the staggering success of the iPod.
The company that set out to build computers that, as co-founder Steve Wozniak says, “I would want to use,” finds itself in a position to revolutionize digital video, too.
Apple’s chic and minimalist iPods define tech fashion and dominate the digital music player market. The legal music download market, meanwhile, has exploded since Apple launched its online iTunes Music Store in 2003.
Still, in looking forward, the question looms: Does Apple still want to be a computer company, or is it morphing into an entertainment and consumer electronics company?
Apple seems poised to make such a leap. It sells a gadget that tens of millions of people use daily to listen to music and, increasingly, to watch TV shows and movies. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has sold his digital animation company, Pixar, to Walt Disney and will serve on the entertainment giant’s board as its largest individual shareholder. And Apple’s computers are evolving into digital entertainment centers, seamlessly organizing and connecting people’s music, video, photos and online lives.
After all, the iPod frenzy won’t last forever. Like the law of gravity, the Law of Silicon Valley demands that there be a “next generation.” An “upgrade.” Something shiny and new that we can’t live without.
“The risk is the iPod business they have built is a fad,” says American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. “All empires don’t last.”
At the center of the Apple empire is its iconic co-founder and chief executive. The darkest era in Apple’s history began when he was forced out in 1985, and while the 51-year-old shows no signs of slowing down, can Apple groom a successor and survive without him?
Apple is renowned for its ability to keep secrets, and closely guards its product strategy. The company’s campus on Infinite Loop in Cupertino is a cross between sleek tech campus and Area 51-like top-secret military base, both of which make speculating what the company will do next just that — speculation.