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Saturday, 24 May 2008 16:38

The Forrester Research Apple report few will buy

Forrester Research has put out a US $279 report that few will buy, as it has been dissected across the web and its “important” predictions are now well known. Will Apple actually do any of the things Forrester has specula- er, predicted?

Hey, let’s all become analysts! That way you can make guesses and then charge people US $279 – or even more - for putting them on paper (and PDF documents) with nice formatting!

Seriously, though, analysis is a big business, generating millions per year for the companies analysts work for, and they do need to actually explain their predictions and come out with fancy graphs, charts and reasons for their prognostications.

The latest report from Forrester is entitled “The Future of Apple Inc.” and is sub headed as “by 2013, Apple’s product mix will make it a credible hub of the digital home”.

The executive summary states the following: “Consumer product strategists frequently ask Forrester how Apple's product strategy will evolve: What will Apple's product portfolio look like five years from now, and how is Apple preparing for that future today?”

The summary continues: “Forrester notes that Apple has completely remade itself from a PC maker to a consumer devices and digital music leader over the past eight years — thus setting the precedent for additional radical change over the next five.”

“While there are a number of speculative industry hypotheses for the future of Apple — including scenarios like Apple as a media pure play or Apple as the "American Sony" — Forrester sees a future that ties together many of these hypotheses into a coherent consumer product strategy: Apple will aim to become the hub of the digital home, offering eight key products and services to connect PCs and digital content to the HDTV-stereo audio-visual infrastructure in consumers' homes.”

And the summary ends with: “To fulfill this strategy, we predict that Apple will launch new products, re-engineer the Apple Store, and expand into in-home installation services.”

Making moves into the digital home space is something Apple has been doing now with the iMac itself, iPods, iPhones, and the Apple TV – so it should come as no surprise to think that Apple might well go further down this path – especially as it no longer sees itself as a “computer” company first.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Apple, such prognostication is usually fraught with difficulty, because predicted what Steve Jobs really will do is like try to herd cats: basically impossible - but we all love trying anyway!

Let’s face it, even right up until the iPhone’s pre-launch at Macworld 2007, few on the planet actually knew whether the iPhone would finally launch, or not, even though many expected some kind of iPhone with telephony capabilities. And what we ended up getting blew us all away beyond what we had expected.

So, what does the media say is in Forrester’s research report? Please read on to page 2.

As I haven’t paid the US $279 fee to get my own copy of the research, I’m forced to see what other tech news publications say the research says, as it appears some of them have actually stumped up the cash to take a read, something that is no doubt very pleasing to Forrester’s accountants.

Computerworld is one such news organisation, and they list the following predictions for Apple from the report:

- Crank out a home server that "doesn't contain the word 'server.'"
- Produce an all-in-one super remote -- something Forrester's dubbed "AppleSound" -- that controls everything musical in the house, including iPods, the home stereo and audio-playing computers.
- Sell network-enabled digital photo frames and room-specific "clock radios" that stream images and tunes from the server.
- Extend the AppleTV into Blu-ray territory, or morph it into an Apple HDTV line.
- Offer in-home installation services for all this gear, using its Genius Bars as a starting point.
- Revamp its Apple Stores into retail outlets that push the digital living room/digital lifestyle.
- And amp up iTunes so it ties together digital content with cloud-based updates, remote management and editing.

Computerworld quotes one of the report’s authors as saying: “We haven't fabricated anything out of fantasy. There's nothing from Star Trek here. But Apple clearly has bigger ambitions than just the Mac base, so we started thinking about the ways it could get there, and then how they could do that by going to the next level, and then the next level after that.”

So, it seems that Forrester has just tried to logically map out where Apple might go, something that seems to have eluded most who try to predict Apple’s – and Steve Jobs’ – next move.

Computerworld also says the report predicts Apple won’t go further down the corporate path, nor will become a mobile operator, and that “the home” is where Apple’s heart truly lies.

The report’s authors also state they’re not forgetting about the Mac itself amongst all of these predictions, and they freely admit they’re really just thinking out loud at $279 a pop saying: "We're not pretending to have some kind of crystal ball, but I'd be surprised if we're wrong on the fundamentals, even if we are on the products and the timing. I think the chance is very high, better than 50-50”.

Well, of course Forrester would say that – they want interested parties to buy their report in full to see what other predictions it contains, but I wonder how quickly there’ll be a revision once June 9 rolls around and we hear about Apple’s future from Steve Jobs himself?

Computerworld’s article has plenty more detail, as do lots of other articles on the web, so whether you decide to buy that $279 report is up to you. I’d wait until June 9 first, at the very least.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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