Can Apple crack the living-room conundrum before Microsoft?

“Phenomenal as it may be, the success of the iPod will not suffice on its own to pull Apple out of the ‘über-stylish, niche innovator’ role the industry has typecast the company in. It is also quite clear that the Macintosh platform on its own will not be able to grow significantly if it continues its course at the current rhythm of market penetration,” Andreas Pfeiffer writes for ExtremeTech. “Sure, iPods may drive iMac sales, and growing concerns about security also may erode confidence in the Windows platform, but the chances for the Macintosh to go from current levels of market penetration to double-digit numbers remain fairly slim.”

“These days, the key area of interest for Apple is… the most coveted spot of consumer technology today, what one might call ‘The Great Living-Room Conundrum’: the convergence of digital media with lifestyle and entertainment. The company that ends up dominating this space will be very enviable indeed,” Pfeiffer writes. “Yet Apple may have a better chance than others at cracking the way in which entertainment, the Internet and computing come together. There’s one simple reason: Unlike most other players in this field, Apple is not fueled by technology, but it is clearly vision-driven.”

“The company owes its biggest successes to the capacity of spotting an emerging need and then delivering a superior product to cover it. (And conversely, Apple’s failures often can be traced back to its incapacity to act like the ‘normal’ technology provider.) In particular, Apple manages to succeed in one area where most technology-centric companies (and Microsoft in particular) almost systematically fail: in making products desirable,” Pfeiffer writes.

“Whatever comes next from Apple will probably resemble the iPod in terms of approach rather than in terms of product… Any future foray into the consumer space needs to be sufficiently close to Apple’s core business to avoid alienating the extremely loyal Macintosh user base,” Pfeiffer writes. “So, to get back at our initial question: Yes, Apple could well crack the living-room conundrum. But don’t expect Steve Jobs to do it in a predictable way.”

The very interesting full article with much more is here.

16 Comments

  1. NoMacForYou..

    WHAT ALOAD OF CRAP!

    How many people do YOU know that use the ‘windblowzzzz media pc’??

    I bet you can count them on one hand (if you can count that is!).

    For the record I asked everyone I know and not one person uses a windows media pc and 2/3rds of the had never even heard of the product!

    Shows how successful Microshit is at the great ‘living room conundrum’!

    There IS only one company that can solve this – and believe me IT AINT MICROSOFT!

    This ‘one comany’ will also solve the mobile convergergance conundrum too!

  2. If Micorsoft lives by the sword, then it will die by it too. What I mean is, Microsoft (particulary the Windows OS) is so ubiquitous, that people won’t neccesarily associate a “cool living room entertainment setup” with Microsoft. People see the word “Microsoft” and think computers, and most people don’t think anything special about those either. When in the market for a “Media Center”, would people really think that a Media PC from Microsoft will be the answer? No. I think that even Apple-bashers would agree that there is nothing that makes Microsoft “special” enough for people to want anything more than an operating system from them. I think enough people who use Windows would probably look at Microsoft’s offering and say “great, another version of Windows to fight with”. Now, with Apple proving ease of use, and “invading” the PC with iPod+iTunes, people would tend to not just see Apple as a “computer company”, but a company that makes entertainment easy and fun. I bet Sony would have a better chance than Microsoft. So I think Apple is in great field position on the “living room conundrum”. Heck, AirPort Express has made my living room much more enjoyable. I’m looking at eyeTV, and if Apple could do something like that, with DVR, the sky would be the limit. Oh, and it would all work together, like it should.

  3. Think outside the box. Think outside the PC. Apple is in line to deliver mega-media convergence (even if they don’t know it). How? Easy.
    Do you know that the Airport Express comes with an audio out port? Do you know they also sell an “AirPort Express Stereo Connection Kit with Monster Cables” for $40? Do you know how easy it would be to create a video out port on the device as well?
    The thing I’m getting at is that Apple can easily integrate the newest technology in modular pieces. Sure, wireless bandwidth is nowhere near the required to deliver high-res video, but there are standards coming down the way that are trying to achieve this. And as we all know, Apple is usually the first adopter/implementer of new technology standards. Imagine, for example, a PowerMac in your home office connected to a broadband link (nay, fiber optic… Verizon is currently fielding FTTH). Within your home you have a high speed wireless network (because putting in new wiring is a pain) that enable your computer to talk to an Airport Express-type box. From this little box (with a wireless keyboard and touchpad) you can do everything you can do from your PC but on your HDTV. All the components would act like one seamless system. This is the stuff people have been dreaming for years. Apple is ready to tackle this, but people must wait a few more years to really benefit from it (HDTV adoption, high-speed broadband, high-speed wireless, a change in FCC policy, a reform in copyright laws).

    Microsoft’s solution is to make you buy another computer. Doesn’t this just sound like another brainless idea. There is no innovation in just adding another computer with a few new bells and whistles. Somehow I think Xbox2 is going to be their attempt at convergence.

    (Please note that I currently own an Xbox and I do like the machine. But if MS tries to turn my gaming system into one of their mutated monolithic mega-crap systems, well they have lost my business. Goodbye Xbox, hello Playstation… or Nintendo)

  4. ‘�ber-stylish, niche innovator’

    Oh brother. This morning I’m intalling an Xserve G5 and 2 Xserve/RAID units. The enterprise level quality of these devices goes far beyond uber-stylish crap.

  5. re: TheCrunge

    I TOTALLY AGREE!

    The other factor is that Microsoft HAS to fill all the holes in XP and Longhorn (when it eventually comes out – yyyyyyyaaaaaaawwwwnnnn!).

    Even windows users will not trust Microsoft being the centre of the living room!!

    Microsoft IS GOING TO HAVE TO REASSURE THAT THEIR TECHNOLOGY IS NOT AS BAD AS WHAT IS IS – IF THEY DON’T, THEN THEY WILL NEVER GET CONSUMERS TO BUY ‘THEIR VERSION OF HOME CONVERGANCE’

    The clock is ticking for Microsoft anyway – If they can’t deliver Longhorn, and that it is far superior than XP, then they will be finished…

    The shareholders will be hanging Bill Gates from the ceiling by his balls!

    Ironic that will Microsoft’s billions on R+D and they can’t even create a new operating system and yet Apple CAN.

    You have to ask yourself a question: which of the 2 company’s will be around in 2020??

    Answer: The name of the company starts with an ‘A’ in the name.

  6. All the living room needs is a modular system comprised of devices capable of talking either wirelessly or by cable through a TCP/IP stack and using Rendevous. You would then have a system that can grow to meet any users requirement and future advances. It doesnt need to be a single vendor solution – just a set of standards everyone can converge on. Hell, even start using IPv6.

  7. Apple iEntertainment device would need just a few things to get going
    1) Tiger, for the advanced video
    2) Airport Express, 1000/T networking
    3) Partner w Elgato to include iHome/iTV capabilities DVR
    4) CD/DVD player
    5) 100g HDD
    6) Partner w Nintendo (instead of another cube) for Games
    7) Bluetooth for games pads and remote
    8) Partner with Sirius for satallite radio option.

    Then take the iTMS, and create a version with Nintendo for games like Steam, and a Video store version.

    Now thats REAL CONVERGANCE!

  8. Ed: I agree.

    Its really a question of wether Apple want to get in the middle of the ‘one hub for all’ thing, and wether or not its viable regardless of Wall Streets ‘desires’.

  9. The things that come to mind when I think about traditional consumer electronic products: easy set-up and ease of use.

    This is what Microsoft or Apple will have to master in order to get welcomed into the millions (and millions) of home entertainment centres around the globe.

    Fortunately, for Apple, Microsoft is hedging it’s bets on Windows and the related Xbox. Sony will have something to say about the Xbox – which is an important key in MS strategy.

    Now when it comes to Windows, a few things that come to mind are: work, network problems, security (worms, trojans, virii) and difficulty getting the odd peripheral (drivers problem etc.) to work. I don’t really want to look at a MS logo when I get home and watch TV!

    If Apple can develop a home theatre/entertainment device that is as easy to set-up and use , yet is as powerful as the iPod, MS will be dead in the water. And, if Window’s media centre edition 2005 is all that consumers can expect from MS, Apple has been given a golden, no diamond, opportunity to kick some MS ass in the livingroom. (the sweetest thing will be that this device will work with the iTunes and iMovie stores – whoops).

  10. I don’t think apple’s goal is to enter the “other” areas of peoples homes. The reason apple has sought to expand the usability to the iPod is so that you have more options in listening to your music; being where you are able to play it and how.

    But while we’re on it, if there’s anything I’d like to see is an iPod/Mobile phone combination. With my XDA II from o2 in a sense I’ve combined my mobile phone with my pocketpc pda. It would be quite nice to be able to have PDA+phone+music all in one.

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