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Apple to tackle consumer electronics; iPod "boombox" planned

post #1 of 61
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Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod division is preparing to extend its reach into the consumer electronics market with the release of several iPod-related digital audio products early next year, AppleInsider has learned.

Sources familiar with the company's plans describe the new products as "iPod companions" rather than "accessories," and say Apple appears ripe to announce the first of the gadgets as early as the second week of January at the annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Calif.

One such product described to AppleInsider is an iPod boombox "unlike anything seen in boombox world" and strikingly different from "anything Apple has released in the past."

Details of the device are few and far between, but one source called the gadget an oversized iPod with boombox-type speakers. "It's ideal for use on a bookshelf or on the go," the source said.

The device is rumored to include wireless audio streaming capabilities, but could also rely on a built-in hard drive, iPod dock, or a combination of the three technologies. Nevertheless, the Cupertino, Calif-based iPod maker is expected to market the device as "plug and play music for your home."

Some earlier reports had referred to the boombox as an "iPod radio," suggesting Apple may have considered integrating satellite radio capabilities into the device. Apple is known to have been in talks with Sirius Satellite Radio over the past year, but even the most recent reports on the subject imply a partnership between the two companies has yet to materialize.

In releasing a slew of new iPod companion products, sources say Apple hopes to expand its foray into the lucrative consumer electronics and digital audio accessory markets, where the company has realized some of the heftiest profit margins.

With Apple reportedly preparing to announce sales of over 40 million iPods early next year, consumers have shown a willingness to purchase add-ons at an expanding rate, catapulting the iPod accessory market into a $300 million business. This is due largely in part to Apple's marketing, a vast increase in the number of world-wide iPod distribution points and rising iPod accessory attach rates over the last couple of years.

Gavin Downey, a director of product management at accessory maker Belkin Corp, recently told the Boston Globe that during the early days of the iPod consumers were purchasing one accessory for every 15 to 20 iPods sold. Today, it's almost a one-to-one ratio, he said.

Sources say Apple hopes to leverage the booming iPod business and its strengths in distribution by aggressively marketing the upcoming iPod companion products alongside its digital music players at big box retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, and Radio Shack.

The forthcoming iPod companion products have been under development inside Apple's iPod division for the better part of the year, with the origins of at least one product dating back to 2003, according to sources.

Since its inception in May of 2004, the iPod division has operated under the direction of Apple senior vice president Jon Rubinstein and the watchful eye of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs. Apple's vice president of iPod engineering, Tony Fadell, is currently shadowing Rubinstein in preparing for next April when he will take over the reigns following Rubinstein's retirement.

With now less than a month to the kick-off of Macworld Expo, Apple enthusiasts have begun to speculate wildly over what Jobs may have up his sleeve. Several reports have pointed to Apple releasing the first Intel Macs, while others highlight expected iPod and audio/video service announcements.

One analyst believes the company, along with Jobs, is gearing up to put on a heck of a show in January

"Macworld could be a circus," said UBS analyst Ben Reitzes. The analyst expects a slew of new products that could include Intel Macs, and other new hardware, content and services.
post #2 of 61
A "boombox"? This had better be something radically different (and I wouldn't doubt that it would be...) or it should be left to the other add-on companies to manufacture.

Anyone have any solid evidence of this? Because as a concept, it falls short of expectations.

I'd much rather they focus on a home media center ala the iMac minus the computing platform, acting as server for movie downloads, streaming music, possibly even as a VoIP box?

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post #3 of 61
Yeah, BLEH!

How about an improved Airport Express more like Slim Device's Squeezebox. And add video out like on Linksys's Media Center Extender. There are so many better things Apple could do than "Hey, let's make an iPod with speakers!"

- Jasen.
post #4 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
Since its inception in May of 2004, the iPod division has operated under the direction of Apple senior vice president Jon Rubenstein and the watchful eye of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs. Apple's vice president of iPod engineering, Tony Fadell, is currently shadowing Rubenstein in preparing for next April when he will take over the reigns following Rubenstein's retirement.

His name is Rubinstein.
post #5 of 61
PLEASE STEVE, don't turn MACworld into iPodWorld like it was last year with the shuffle. I want my intel powerbook!
Thanks,
lx-88
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post #6 of 61
I've always thought a boombox would be a great idea. The docking speakers from x, y, and z are huge sellers... so why not do it in a boombox formfactor, throw in a few huge @ss lion batteries to shut the whiners up, and you still have space for a couple of killer features: built-in Airport Express, A CD-player/burner, a radio (to shtu up those whiners), and/or wi-fi. Make these other features modular and it's even better, but that's dreaming. Anyway, bring back the oldschool iBook rubberized surface, and you instantly have the best dock/speaker system imaginable. It could be sweet.
post #7 of 61
I want decent quality speakers - or an audio-out please Apple.
post #8 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by lx-88
PLEASE STEVE, don't turn MACworld into iPodWorld like it was last year with the shuffle. I want my intel powerbook!

I have to echo that sentiment.

I appreciate that the iPod is really boosting Apple at the moment, particularly during the move to Intel, but there's only so far that you can take the portable media player idea (video, wireless, radio, phone etc.) - sooner or later the competition will catch up, even with iTunes locking out other players.

It's Macs that will drive the longterm growth of Apple. 40 million iPods sold is great news. If only it was 40 million Macs - what would that do to the share price?
post #9 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by Gates_of_Hell
I have to echo that sentiment.

I appreciate that the iPod is really boosting Apple at the moment, particularly during the move to Intel, but there's only so far that you can take the portable media player idea (video, wireless, radio, phone etc.) - sooner or later the competition will catch up, even with iTunes locking out other players.

It's Macs that will drive the longterm growth of Apple. 40 million iPods sold is great news. If only it was 40 million Macs - what would that do to the share price?

MacWorld is for consumers - it is where they announce the products for the average Joe! Last year was on recap of iMac and retail, Tiger, iLife, iWork, Mac mini and the iPod shuffle - and the iPod shuffle was at the very end. Most of it was about Macs.

I expect the same this time, half on iLife '06 and iWork '06 then new Mac hardware, maybe new software, and then iPod/iTunes announcement in the last quarter.

Only 27 days to go!
post #10 of 61
Whatever they bring out at MacWorld, whether it is Mac or iPod or something else, I trust Apple to create something new and different
post #11 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by SpamSandwich
I'd much rather they focus on a home media center ala the iMac minus the computing platform, acting as server for movie downloads, streaming music, possibly even as a VoIP box?

What do you mean "minus the computing platform"?

I'm thinking Apple might be approaching it's products as 2 lines
- OSX related
- iPod and related (non-OSX) media products ("iPod companions")

So imagine if Apple released a media centre that didn't have OSX - instead it runs FrontRow & Dashboard-Widgets, and can record and/or download TV shows... that, to me, would gel more with this rumour than the "Intel Mac Mini PVR" rumour.

Just my thoughts.
post #12 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by GregAlexander
What do you mean "minus the computing platform"?

I'm thinking Apple might be approaching it's products as 2 lines
- OSX related
- iPod and related (non-OSX) media products ("iPod companions")

So imagine if Apple released a media centre that didn't have OSX - instead it runs FrontRow & Dashboard-Widgets, and can record and/or download TV shows... that, to me, would gel more with this rumour than the "Intel Mac Mini PVR" rumour.

Just my thoughts.

I agree, a media center should be OS independant to attract as many conusmers as possible and expand the "halo effect" that is attributed to the iPod helping to expand the Mac market within the past year.
post #13 of 61
The new Sony.
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post #14 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by Gates_of_Hell
It's Macs that will drive the longterm growth of Apple.

It hasn't for 21 years, why should we expect it to all of a sudden? Yes, there will be some "halo effect"...but that's it.
post #15 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by ricksbrain
The new Sony.

I actually think that is exactly right. Only, hopefully, even better. Sony plays in a lot of markets, Apple is just getting started. I'd like to see them diversify even more.
post #16 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
I actually think that is exactly right. Only, hopefully, even better. Sony plays in a lot of markets, Apple is just getting started. I'd like to see them diversify even more.

I'm on board with this comment. They need to keep capitalizing on the strength of iPod, but the gap is closing very quickly with the competition. Granted, the competition doesn't have the end-to-end consumer experience down yet, nor do they have the world-beating marketing to support their johnny-come-lately offerings, BUT I would sleep much easier at night with Apple extending the branch into new markets... for example, an Apple branded LCD HDTV offering (heck, Dell and HP offer these), Apple digital cameras... I dunno, Steve has all the cards, but I wish they'd start playing some more interesting hands.

Fin!

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post #17 of 61
macworld is gonna be a circus for real! i'd really like to hear what kormac has to say nowadays. the timing is finally right!
post #18 of 61
Apple has to spread out. Every computer company is doing this.

Look at Dell. You wouldn't think that they would need this, but they do.

When one product line slows down because of business slowdown, then consumer goods generally keep steady, and the other way around.

The other reason why computer manufacturers are doing this is because their computer margins are constantly being eroded. Many consumer electronics items have greater margins, so it helps to make up for it.

Don't forget that many computer companies are rooted in consumer and industrial electronics. Toshiba, Sony, Phillips, Samsung, to name a few.

If Apple can sustain a large profitable consumer business, then perhaps they can afford to lower their computer prices to better compete with the constantly lowered PC prices.

Look at what we're seeing with laptops. They can be had for as little as $450 on sale. It's thought that even that price will be broken in 2006. Apple doesn't have to match that, but they do have to track. If we expect to see an Intel Mac iBook for $800, or even a bit lower, then if boomboxes and other fluff will help to allow it, that's fine by me.

I'm hoping that Apple puts some brains on their monitor frontline. I would very much like to get a 30", but not without an HDMI connector. We are going to see that all hi def formats will not play through a monitor without HDMI. So if you buy a BR or HD disk, you will get the SD signal, but not the hi def signal.

The same will be true for cable and satellite. As Apple is selling a LOT of the 30's (to pc gamers), people will be disappointed if it doesn't do hi def.

Also, where is Apple's large flat screen monitor for the living room? I can practically guarantee that Apple would sell a lot of those .

So, iPod enhancements, Large flat HDMI screens, a multimedia box of some sort, totally new design Intel boxes.

Can anyone here say that it would NOT be a winning lineup?
post #19 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
...while others highlight expected iPod and audio/video service announcements.

I hope this is right, because I've been waiting for the new voice recorder for a long time. Hopefully, I'll get the new iTrip for my birthday...
post #20 of 61
I'm actually expecting to be rather disappointed by the releases at this year's MacWorld. If as many products as expected are released, I reckon it'll be at the expense of quality.

My PC laptop has two broken hinges, and at the cost of repairing it and buying a new battery so it can be portable for another two years I'd have more than half the amount needed to buy the iBook I've been threatening to buy for so long. I'm waiting for the Intel titanium notebooks. On the one hand, I'd love the new year to start with a new computer, on the other, I'd rather have a quality product in June than a marketing tool in January.

I think I'll play this one by ear, but either Apple won't live up to the ridiculous expectations of these 'market analysis professionals' or we'll be seeing some very shoddy products bearing the Apple logo. I don't want either of these to happen, but I worry.
post #21 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by jdbartlett
I'm actually expecting to be rather disappointed by the releases at this year's MacWorld. If as many products as expected are released, I reckon it'll be at the expense of quality.

My PC laptop has two broken hinges, and at the cost of repairing it and buying a new battery so it can be portable for another two years I'd have more than half the amount needed to buy the iBook I've been threatening to buy for so long. I'm waiting for the Intel titanium notebooks. On the one hand, I'd love the new year to start with a new computer, on the other, I'd rather have a quality product in June than a marketing tool in January.

I think I'll play this one by ear, but either Apple won't live up to the ridiculous expectations of these 'market analysis professionals' or we'll be seeing some very shoddy products bearing the Apple logo. I don't want either of these to happen, but I worry.

One doesn't have to have anything to do with the other. Engineering errors occur whether a company introduces one product or twenty. Each product has its own engineering team, and is subject to its own QC processes.

Apple is a bigger company now, they can afford to come out with more products at once, and they have the profits so as not to have to do them on a shoestring.
post #22 of 61
I like the Ipod the way it is.... but for people who want more this is cool,Even it it seems like a backstep,I was glad to get rid of my sony boombox when the Ipod came out.

as long as the current ipod stays available as well,their already are ipod boomdocks available so apple will have to really do somthing different here.

great sound but sleek an not bulky........ that tubular one i saw at the apple store is cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 0.2 cents
post #23 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
I actually think that is exactly right. Only, hopefully, even better. Sony plays in a lot of markets, Apple is just getting started. I'd like to see them diversify even more.

Problem Apple has is unlike Sony and a lot of other CEs companies they need to outsource their components. In the end that'll effect their ability to get the margins they need and make it very difficult to compete in mature markets.

They've made some attempt to change that with the touch pads and touch wheels but they still have a lot of work to do and that's a massive shift to make.
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post #24 of 61
That's an interesting point. Apple seems to thrive though, on creating "new" or tangential markets that keep people and other businesses guessing...
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post #25 of 61
Apple needs to keep their offerings simple. They can't be a Sony with hundreds of different products which do similar things. When Jobs came back in the late 90s one of the first thing he did was to simplify the line-up. This may be frustrating for professionals who know exactly what they want but for the average consumer an easy-to-pick computer is just as important as an easy -to-use computer.

Incidentally, Apple has learned not to venture into busy markets unless they have a very good solution. A camera would not be a good move - your phone has one and hundreds of companies make digi cams. Apple made a digital camera around 10 years ago and I think that's where it should stay.

Apple should concentrate on doing what it always has, innovating and creating new products for new markets, or creating a simple solution which wows where others have under-performed.
post #26 of 61
I think if we talk about something like "Apple becoming the next Sony" we need to understand a couple of things:

1. Never exactly like Sony -- This is really just a short-hand descriptive statement to convey the idea of a larger company, more diversified into a variety of markets, with good style and a good sense of technology.

2. It isn't assumed to happen tomorrow, it would be considered a strategic direction.
post #27 of 61
I've been pining for an airport enabled boom box for quite some time. I could use one in my woodshop and one for outside parties. If Apple builds it, I'll buy two.
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post #28 of 61
Living room: I agree with the statement about a dumbed-down computer that really just does front-row with video on demand, and dashboard, maybe some other stuff like voip.

Segment the market! a living room box is a lower functionality, lower price-point hardware market. If a fully functional mac mini were apple's candidate to storm the living room, the price would devastate desktop sales. Too much for too little. Remember how we were all waiting for the set-top box when the airport express came out? and how the APEx did like 80% of what we were hoping for a fifth of the price? Think "dumbly" and segment.

Such a device MUST have a killer app or two. Who's going to buy one of these apple boxes if it's just an xbox 360/ps3 with no power and inferior/no games?

One: VOIP is such a killer app I can't even believe it. Could you imagine if apple sold a little, dumb wifi-enabled hunk of white plastic that talked to the set-top thing, plugged into the wall and into your phone jack, and talked to your set-top box (which is always on, unlike most computers), wiring the house for VOIP. That would totally bring people onboard.
Killer app two is of course the media on demand thing we've all been awaiting. Because the iBox thing isn't running osx, getting those precious movies off of it to pirate would be a harder hack.
Three: DVR (killer only if no monthly fee! A new tivo is 20 bucks!)
Four: Voice mail and fax repository (sorry, most people don't keep their computers on as much as their answering machines)

Don't try to make a camera better than nikon or canon. Don't try to make a game console to compete with the big boys.

Segment. Dumb. Beloved, convenient ecosystem from the people who brought you the iPod.

Oh, and a car stereo I could stuff my ipod into would kick butt!!
post #29 of 61
Exactly. I envision a car stereo similar to an 8-track of old...just slide it in baby.
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post #30 of 61
This is a great thread.

The iPod division is a year and half old. Given the existing staff, resources and technologies they are able to leverage, I think it's reasonable that a team could develop a solid product to market in this time. Perhaps not from scratch, but I imagine new concepts have existed since the iPod first started to look like a winner.

I think it's quite reasonable to suggest that Apple will expand their pressence in the consumer electronics industry, and for mind, the intelligent application of Apple's design ideology to consumer electronics would be positive for the entire industry. Whether it would be profitable for Apple remains to be seen.

Suffice to say it's going to be an interesting month.
post #31 of 61
I am hoping that they continue to merge their overall product line by leveraging the success of the iPod. Or rather, integrate the product line with communication between products, much like the software. If new devices are released that help bridge the iPod, the Mac, or even PCs, they will have a winner. And in my book, ANY successes Apple has is a good thing because they can take that many more tech risks in the future.

On a related, but slightly different note-- this mountain of cash that they've accumulated has to be playing into this "Sony-like" strategy, doesn't it? Maybe it's just an insurance policy for them, but it seems to me that Apple has demonstrated themselves to be extraordinarily calculating lately-- Marklar, music store, videos, Intel... It just makes me wonder.
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post #32 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by Telomar
Problem Apple has is unlike Sony and a lot of other CEs companies they need to outsource their components. In the end that'll effect their ability to get the margins they need and make it very difficult to compete in mature markets.

They've made some attempt to change that with the touch pads and touch wheels but they still have a lot of work to do and that's a massive shift to make.

Except that you get higher margins by outsourcing your manufacturing. This is why Dell and others do it as well.

Apple isn't manufacturing their own scrollwheels and touchpads, they are just designing them.

You don't have to carry the payload, or spend the billions on plant and structure. you don't have to worry about new capital expenditures on a constant basis. You have your partners worry about that. As they build for several companies, they are in a better position to do so.

The only problem is that they may have capacity problems if one customer needs a quick ramp-up, because of other customer commitments.

But if Apple still did its own manufacturing like it used to do, it would still have these problems, like it used to. Except that then, it couldn't ramp production up at all. Now, with several partners, it can go from one to the other, as needs arise. This is what they are doing now with the scrollwheels. They are going back to Synaptics to help fill demand.

In the old days, they had nowhere to go.

The same thing is true with the actual manufacturing process, they have several companies working for them. In the past, when their factories were at capacity, they were skunked. It takes up to a year to increase plant.
post #33 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
I think if we talk about something like "Apple becoming the next Sony" we need to understand a couple of things:

1. Never exactly like Sony -- This is really just a short-hand descriptive statement to convey the idea of a larger company, more diversified into a variety of markets, with good style and a good sense of technology.

2. It isn't assumed to happen tomorrow, it would be considered a strategic direction.

Right. Apple CANNOT be just like Sony.

Sony is an industrial powerhouse, even though it's been having problems of late. Their sales are upward of$65 billion. They make basic components from resistors to IC's. They also make large industrial equipment. They are a diversified conglomerate. Apple can never duplicate that. And they shouldn't try.

But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't have a diversified product line in the computer and consumer space, with a full line of software to tie it all together.

These are the things that Apple has been excelling in, as of late. It's also what they should continue pushing into.

Even the XServes have been slowly gaining outside of the media company base. If Apple can begin to understand what enterprise customers need, and deliver it, they will have another arm of products. A highly profitable one.
post #34 of 61
MWSF 06 is probably one of the most interesting events for a long time because of all the stuff that COULD be announced. The potential is greater than anything we have seen for a long time.

I think, however, that the time limit of Steve J's Keynote will bring us down to earth a bit. From past Keynotes we know that we will get:

Results - some time spent talking about how good things have been in both the Mac and iPod worlds. It will be interesting, but take up time.

06 versions of iLife and iWork. This becomes important as Apple needs to get the faithful to make annual purchases - meaning they they need to have some new goodies to make it worth it. In iLife I can see Front Row added and some improvements to iPhoto, based on lessons learned from Aperture. On the iWork side I would be surprised if the suite was not filled out to totally replace AppleWorks - mainly because I don't think Apple will want to take AppleWorks to the Mactels because of costs and personnel needs.

That's about it on the hardware side, unless we get Aperture Express, which I doubt - at least for this year.

Then comes the hardware. Anybody's guess (and there are a lot of them) and I hope to see something on the Mactel platform to give us a peek at what is on the way. I tend to agree that it will be the consumer products, and hedge my bet that a dual core G4 PB will hit about April. Expanding the media center concept would be nice, but I'm putting no money on that one, except for Front Row.

I think this all boils down to the belief that Apple will remain what it is today, a computer company that spends more on developing computers than other products. The iPod Division might get another bump, but they are pretty well set after this fall's announcements.

The only other thing I am sure of is that, IF Apple announces consumer level Mactels, there will be masses of complaints about the graphics card used!
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post #35 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by kenaustus
MWSF 06 is probably one of the most interesting events for a long time because of all the stuff that COULD be announced. The potential is greater than anything we have seen for a long time.

There are three Mac announcement dates a year. MacWorld, WWDC and AppleExpo in Paris. This year WWDC was Intel (oh and Podcasting in iTunes ) and Paris was nothing. All announcements other than the last MacWorld have been press conferences or special events. I just hope Apple isn't going to disappoint in January by continuing the pattern of putting less emphasis on conferences.

iLife and iWork is certain though. I'll expect talk of Leopard at June and Mactels anytime. Remember Steve said by June 2006. I don't expect any new iPods in Jan - this would be an awful move considering Christmas and Thanksgiving are the biggest buying times. If Apple begin to announce new iPods in Jan people will wait next year for the Jan announcements.
post #36 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by MacCrazy
There are three Mac announcement dates a year. MacWorld, WWDC and AppleExpo in Paris. This year WWDC was Intel (oh and Podcasting in iTunes ) and Paris was nothing. All announcements other than the last MacWorld have been press conferences or special events. I just hope Apple isn't going to disappoint in January by continuing the pattern of putting less emphasis on conferences.

iLife and iWork is certain though. I'll expect talk of Leopard at June and Mactels anytime. Remember Steve said by June 2006. I don't expect any new iPods in Jan - this would be an awful move considering Christmas and Thanksgiving are the biggest buying times. If Apple begin to announce new iPods in Jan people will wait next year for the Jan announcements.

I would expect to hear SOMETHING about Leopard. We would have heard about it last June, if it weren't for the switch. Apple's past conduct was to talk about it at the next conference after the last one was released. That SHOULD have been June. Except that Tiger would likely have been released in June if it weren't for the switch.
post #37 of 61
WAIT JUST A DAMN MINUTE!!!!!

Forget what I said Ive Changed my mind,The current 3rd party Ipod boomboxes and base stations are cool enough,I have to agree with some of you here,they need to get back to the major innovations being with...

THE MACS!!!

The Quad core G5 is Boss,so way ahead of the pack!!!!

But we need the same creative Awesomeness on new Minis Ibooks and Powerbooks people have Waited Frikin Long Enough...
post #38 of 61
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
Except that you get higher margins by outsourcing your manufacturing. This is why Dell and others do it as well.

Sorry we aren't talking about computers here and different principles apply. Every CE company has factories that manufacture key items in house in order to improve margins so they don't pay for designs or manufacture.

CE is dominated by the likes of Samsung, Matsushita, Philips, LG, Pioneer, etc. All do a very large portion of their component manufacturing in house for key components. Again the age old argument of vertical integration.

Apple can try to compete with them and as long as they're innovating they'll even have a decent chance but once the market matures Apple will be competing on a totally different level. Interfaces and features of other products become good enough and to the consumer it comes down to largely price, or name.

The longer other companies take money from them for designs or components, the greater Apple's risk. If I were over at Apple I'd be taking a very long look at what could be redesigned in house to improve margins. I seriously doubt they'll ever become a straight CE company. They might go for new markets and aim to take a lead or create the market early but matured markets would be a very bad idea as different factors are important.
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post #39 of 61
Perhaps it is all about cross hardware integration

Home theatre evolved Intel based mac-mini (ie HTmac-mini)
- Front Row 2.0 interface available for all macs
- Video content download from iTunes store
- Additional content from .mac

Boombox iPod
- built in airport express
- built in flash or hard drive
- streaming audio via airtunes
- can serve as remote speakers for HTmac-mini

As others have said, Apple needs to make that 30" display support HD input.
post #40 of 61
Sony started off with a small transistor radio. Apple doesn't need to be Sony, but they could be something different than what they are right now.

It does not sound so ridiculous to think of Apple as a purveyor of high tech electronica, sort of a Bang and Olufsen or Bose for the rest of us. Now before the snickering Audiophiles come voicing their displeasure at those marques, it should be obvious that 99.9th percentile fidelity is not the goal here. Rather to offer quality and simplicity at a reasonable price and a very high wife acceptance factor.

Plenty of name brands are largely outsourced parts bin creations. The interesting bits of living room technology are not the parts bin pieces, but rather the design -- which is where most are sorely lacking. Wires everywhere, ten thousand converters, too many black and silver boxes, too many menus, poorly implemented selectable inputs, sloppy design touches...

What Apple can do, and what can't be bought out of a parts bin, is design something to work.

If they offered it, would you buy your home theatre, TV, speakers, radio, or set-top from Apple?

This is not to say Apple would or could, or should, make all of these available, but it's an interesting proposition to think about where home electronics are really bad/clumsy, or what areas they just don't really address, and what sort of product could fill that space.

As you start to figure that out, and add products, some more groundbreaking, some more conventional, you end up with a home electronics line-up. It doesn't happen over night, but it can lead to some interesting new paths...
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AppleInsider › Forums › Mobile › iPod + iTunes + AppleTV › Apple to tackle consumer electronics; iPod "boombox" planned