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Apple desperately needs something magical again – so what’s next?

by Brandon Russell | April 28, 2016April 28, 2016 8:00 am PST

For the first time since 2003, Apple reported a quarterly decline in revenue, highlighted by a big drop in iPhone sales year-over-year. Apple warned a period of decline was on the horizon, but we still weren’t braced for yesterday’s earnings report, which revealed shrinking interest in its products across the board—that includes the iPhone, iPad and Mac; no Apple Watch figures were revealed.

Some analysts believe Apple’s best days are behind it, with no big products on its immediate roadmap capable of carrying on the company’s history of introducing innovative products. First it was the iPod, then the iPhone, and then the iPad. Now, Apple is on the ropes, dazed and seemingly in a position to lose its place as the top tech titan.

It’s clear Apple can’t rely on the iPhone forever, and with no major upgrades on the horizon—we can expect the usual fare of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac upgrades this year—has the company people know and love really lost its luster?

“This, too, shall pass,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during a call immediately following yesterday’s earnings. “The future of Apple is very bright.”

Beyond the iPhone 7 and an Apple Watch 2, what can we expect from Apple down the road? What’s the next product coming capable of propelling the company back up into the stratosphere? Apple set incredibly high standards for itself over the past decade, but that momentum is finally coming to a crawl.

So, everyone wants to know, what’s next?

VR

VR is already here, with devices from HTC, Oculus and even Samsung leading the charge. So where does that leave Apple in an industry that Tim Cook merely brushed off as “cool?”

Apple reportedly has “hundreds” of staffers working on VR and augmented reality prototypes said to rival that of Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

According to a report from the Financial Times, Apple has used its recent acquisitions of FlyBy, PrimeSense, Faceshift and Metaio as the jumping off point for these projects, with the Wall Street Journal also saying Apple is ready to get aggressive about its VR and AR pursuits.

Unfortunately, even with VR set for a breakout year in 2016, one analyst predicted Apple VR is still a few years away.

Original movies and TV

This rumor is as old as dirt, stemming back to the days of Steve Jobs. Apple has dipped its toes into original content with Beats 1, but multiple reports suggest the company wants to join the likes of Netflix and Amazon in creating its own TV shows and movies. What was once a mere hobby could soon become an area where Apple brushes up against some of the best in the business.

A report from January claimed Apple was actively courting TV producers and Hollywood bigshots, and a recent rumor said the Cupertino company was working on a show about Dr. Dre’s life. Here’s what the Hollywood Reporter said about the alleged show, which still hasn’t been officially acknowledged by Apple:

While technically a half-hour, the show is not a comedy. Instead, it is described as a dark drama with no shortage of violence and sex.

That’s certainly one way to announce yourself as a force to be reckoned with in the original content game. Compared to the likes of Netflix and Amazon, Apple is way, way behind in its efforts to create original movies and TV shows, but it certainly has the cash pile to make it happen.

Cars

One of the more puzzling rumors that refuses to go away. Despite being an “open secret,” there is very little evidence proving Apple has plans to release a car. There has been no shortage of reports about what such a car may or may not have, but nothing with indisputable proof about its existence.

Be that as it may, there’s a new report seemingly every few weeks, each citing “people in the know.” Earlier this month, the Silicon Valley Business Journal said Apple had opened new offices in Germany where there is “reportedly a lot of noise,” whatever that means. Maybe it’s a fight club? Documents said to be tied to the offices apparently reference automotive technology, which may or may not point to a car project.

In February, Apple vaguely acknowledged the Apple Car rumors, saying waiting for it is like waiting to open presents on Christmas Eve. “Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while,” Cook said, suggesting if something is indeed in the works, we won’t see it anytime soon.

If Apple does decide to pursue something in the automotive market, it probably won’t be cheap, though I’m sure it won’t be lacking in tech.

Hybrid devices

This isn’t a rumor so much as it’s something fans have been begging Apple to do. With iPad sales on the decline, Apple tried to stop the bleeding by releasing the iPad Pro, a prosumer device that’s more tailored for designers and content creators. However, what fans really want is something akin to Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Surface Book, which can be both a tablet and laptop.

Apple has already said it has no real plans to offer such a device, and has in fact talked plenty of smack on Microsoft’s hybrid lineup, calling the Surface Book deluded. “It’s trying to be a tablet and a notebook and it really success at being neither,” Cook said. That’s some harsh criticism and, to be fair, Apple’s iPad Pro did reportedly outsell Microsoft’s entire Surface lineup during last year’s crucial holiday period.

While it’s unlikely Apple will ever release a Surface-like device, its iPad Pro still needs plenty of improvement before it’s capable of completely replacing a laptop; for some people it’s already there, but not for everyone. Aside from the thinner, smaller MacBook, we haven’t seen a significant upgrade in Apple’s Mac lineup for years. With Apple securing no shortage of patents, perhaps we’ll see something big soon.

Wrap-up

These are just a few of the potential areas where Apple could expand its portfolio. With the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac, there isn’t really room to grow anymore, and yesterday’s earnings proved that. No, Apple is not doomed—its Services are doing tremendously well—and neither is the iPhone. But there are plenty of opportunities for Apple to do something new.

So many other companies are releasing fun, exciting products right now, while Apple is just kind of existing, content to expand its devices into other markets. While that’s all well and good for Apple’s business, fans expect the company to be on the cutting edge. So what’s next for a company known for changing industries?


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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