Apple is poised to become the hub of the digital home by 2013, according to a new study from Forrester Research.
The analyst firm's 'Future of Apple' report examines how Apple's product strategy will evolve over the next five years.
Forrester predicts that Apple will offer eight key products and services to connect PCs and digital content to the TV-stereo infrastructure in consumers' homes.
A "re-engineered" Apple Store will expand into in-home installation services to deliver what Forrester describes as a "fully integrated digital experience".
Companies likely to be hardest hit by Apple's consolidated drive are PC makers like Microsoft and HP, which are going after the same consumer markets.
Apple's predicted dominance will also affect service providers that deliver broadcast content and broadband, retailers that provide in-home installation services and consumer electronics device makers like Sony and LG.
"Consumer product strategists frequently ask Forrester how Apple's product strategy will evolve," said J P Gownder, principal analyst for Forrester Research, and lead author of the report.
"We do not possess any secret knowledge of Apple's product roadmap, but we want consumer product strategists to consider this highly likely vision of the Apple digital home offering."
To back up its claims, Forrester highlights a "mishmash" of audio-visual and IT technologies and products, including TVs, stereos, set-top boxes, DVD players, PCs, home networks and game consoles, which remain isolated products in most homes.
Gownder believes that, although a few 'bridge' products exist, the AV/IT divide remains and that there is a clear gap for an industry player to unite these systems and make in-home installation easier for consumers.
The eight essential pillars on which Apple will deliver this platform, based on four existing offerings and four new product concepts, are expected to be:
- Apple Macintosh home PC
- Apple TV digital media extender
- Apple Store
- iTunes and its successors
- Apple home server product
- AppleSound universal music controller
- Network-enabled gadgets
- In-home installation services
However, the analyst warned that the move into the completely connected digital home will not be plain sailing for Apple.
Forrester predicts that Apple will succeed with the 10 per cent of the market that currently considers or owns a Mac, but faces strong challenges from other players in the market.
Tough competition is expected from rivals such as Microsoft and HP, which are going after many of the same consumers as Apple and have the benefit of Windows machines installed in most mass-market consumer homes.
Finally, Forrester foresees problems with Apple's commitment to closed systems, and its inclination to exert tight control over the entire user experience.
This could inhibit mass-market success in the digital home, where a wide variety of manufacturers' products must be tied together.
The report concluded that, regardless of whether other vendors currently compete with or complement Apple products, they need to be aware that Apple may be making a play for their markets over the next five years.
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