, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With the iPhone and iPod, Apple has already found its way into the pockets of the consumer and chances are pretty high that it would remain there for quite some time. The success of the iPod and iPhone has spurred the sales of Apple’s laptop and desktop systems. Today, Apple appears to be the sole beacon of light in the otherwise dark global economic situation.

So what’s next for Apple? Where is the company headed? Difficult questions to answer. And even if we could it would be more of an educated guess. From a computer making company Apple has evolved to a consumer electronic powerhouse, thanks to the genius of Steve Jobs. But there is only that much that you can do with a mobile phone or a portable music player. The more interesting question would be which segment would Apple target next?

There are quite a few of them that could be considered. GPS navigation systems would be one where Apple can make applelogoan impact. Imagine a GPS system with the grace and elegance of an iPod or iPhone. Apple already has the pieces, its just a question of putting them all together in an appealing package. Handheld gaming consoles can be another area for them to explore. They can even take on Sony and Microsoft on the gaming console business.

There is another space where Apple could play a potentially game-changing role. That space is nothing else but the flat panel television arena. Dominated by companies like Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG, the flat panel television business has almost hit a saturation level with respect to innovation. If you go to buy a flat panel TV today, most of the models offer similar features. It’s really left to the consumer to decide based on their budgets and their impressions of the TVs in the showroom (maybe some online reviews can influence that decision a bit). But imagine an Apple television (no not the Apple TV but a an actual plasma/LCD TV). Apple has the required competence to produce a world class television that would probably knock the wind out of the sails of the established players. With Apple’s expertise in software and hardware the product could actually become as pervasive as the iPod. And Apple can gain a very firm foothold in the digital living rooms world over. Once they are there, there is virtually no stopping Apple. The next in line would be a music server, stereo system, A/V receiver, specialized speakers, surround sound systems, and the list goes on. With one single stroke Apple can conquer this last bastion that has been eluding even the best of the best.

Even though Apple strongly denies any such inclination, chances are high that they are already eyeing it. Such a move has the potential of establishing Apple as the dominant player in the digital living room space – a position that the company can then consolidate upon to mount a serious threat to Microsoft’s dominance on the desktop. After all an Apple eco-system for the living room that harmoniously co-exists with iMacs and Mac Books offering unparalleled interoperability and legendary user friendliness, is something that would be very very hard to ignore.

Would all this be good for the end-user? That’s a totally different question. I for one believe that monopolies are seldom beneficial towards the consumers.