Pundits and analysts are all trying to figure out: What will happen to Apple now? Without Steve Jobs as CEO, will it go downhill or, as some analysts have noted, continue developing on its technology roadmap for years to come?
My Japanese friend asked me while we were walking along San Francisco’s Crissy Field overlooking the bay and it occurred to me: Steve isn’t gone, only from the corporate suite and daily commute. He’s still chairman and can easily work at home to spend more time with his family. He can brainstorm new product and service ideas, talk with Apple managers via videoconferencing on the iMac or iPad, and plan totally new business ideas 24×7. Now he has the time to contemplate and invent the future. What could that be? Here’s my best guess:
Personal Learning - Steve has children so education is probably high on his agenda. American schools perform largely along wealth lines; poor kids attending bad schools tend to perform poorly, which is dragging down the U.S. Apple could leverage its iPad as a personal learning platform so all kids could get a top-flight education. That means encouraging educators and others to develop a torrent of new learning apps. With iStore for learning apps, Apple could revolutionize education and sell billions of iPads. Perhaps that’s one reason why Apple is cutting a deal with China Mobile; China cannot afford thousands of universities to educate it young people so the iPad could become the next-gen schools. Stanford is #1 in online learning so Apple has access to a huge group of tech-savvy educators. I think the future of Silicon Valley is Personal Learning (PL), which will dwarf the PC revolution since there will be billions of iPads and tablets sold annually in the future.
Apple Academies – Apple stores have become learning centers, but with cloud-based learning systems and software, they could become Apple Academies to train educators, mid-career professionals, small business people, families and creatives to develop exciting new iPad apps, complete with contests, showcases, galleries, award ceremonies and other savvy events. The global education and training market is enormous so Apple has major growth potential as an educational business. Being a dropout, Steve could target people unable to pay for college or disaffected with schools. Remember the famous Apple Genius Ad? It could be the rallying cry for new mobile apps.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.”
Apple Theme Parks — When Steve bought Pixar and turned it into one of the most successful studios in history, it was apparent that he wanted to become the next Walt Disney, perhaps the most beloved of all American chairmen. Now that the iPod, iPhone and iPad are successful, Steve’s next logical step could be an Apple version of Disneyland and Disney World. Not just costly brick-and-mortar, but a cloud-based virtual theme park based on the iPad and new devices that Apple hasn’t even announced it (to be saved for Steve’s future “One More Thing” announcements) filled with thrill rides, learning games, 3D simulated worlds, musical extravaganzas, and sports specials. With virtual theme parks, he would become Uncle Steve, complete with characters from Pixar and Apple’s creative staff and followers.
Apple Studios – With Silicon Valley companies dominating, Apple could buy a Hollywood studio so Apple could showcase its future 3D and virtual movies in big screens around the world. Like Disney, Apple would become a mega franchise controlling transmedia brands across all types of platforms, both online and offline, more like CBS and ABC than Pixar. Going beyond roller coaster blockbusters, Apple could produce artistic “long tail” movies with soul that are now ignored by Hollywood.
Apple TV - Nobody has figured out how to make a great Internet TV box, but Apple will keep trying. Perhaps the iPad will become the new Apple TV. Perhaps the iPhone will be the controller for big HDTV screens. In any case, Apple will want to control all the media boxes in homes and eventually offices.
So this is my forecast: Steve’s “One More Thing” will end up being a series of surprising, breakthrough announcements that totally change or overturn entire industries, as he has already done with music, PCs, and mobile phones. Like the Daruma, Steve gets knocked down, but always manages to bounce back bigger and stronger than before, in spirit if not in body. Frankly, I think he loves being a Comeback Kid. Right now, I bet he’s crafting his “One More Thing” strategy that will take us into the next few decades, which will long outlive many of us here today. All I know is that he’s like a magician who keeps pulling rabbits out of hats and the rabbits keep multiplying and popping out.
Sheridan Tatsuno, August 28, 2011