Four Industries Apple Can Disrupt in the Near Future

Tim Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

The second industry Apple is poised to disrupt is the auto industry. I have been searching for a new car and one of the major criteria in my search has been the ability to integrate my phone and its content into the navigation and sound system in the car. I want a Bluetooth connection as a speakerphone, but I also want it to use the content in my phone—mostly music and podcasts—and I want it done wirelessly.

In my search I was pleasantly surprised to see how far Microsoft’s Sync system has come. And Toyota’s Entune system already uses a Bluetooth connection to send audio content from a phone to the car’s speaker system.

(MORE: Diabetic? Cloud-Connected Ford Could Someday Save Your Life)

Now imagine if Apple began working with the auto companies directly and, in extreme circumstances, was perhaps able to get a 7-inch iPad into these cars. In this case, it could have a 3G chip inside for direct connection to the internet. And of course, it would have Siri’s smart voice comprehension technology. While most of its greatest features, such as searching for the closest bank or cleaners or pizza place would be restricted to parking mode, many other voice driven features could be part of the user interface and services. It could get and respond to email via voice, do text messages via voice, and more importantly, it would be tied to Apple’s iTunes and iCloud services. That means you would always have access to your content no matter what it is and could call it up on your car’s display whenever you wanted it.

Another way to do this would be to make any regular iPhone or iPad function as host devices while the car’s navigation screen would function as a video terminal that just mirrors their displays. If you’ve ever used the iPad’s Airplay features, you already understand the potential. Using an Apple TV box, I literally mirror the iPad’s content on my big screen TV. And if I use my iPhone 4S, I already have the Siri voice UI—at least for my content. Now imagine having that type of voice UI and content connection in your car.

Sure, there would be restrictions about using certain features while driving, but having the car’s screen running iOS and Siri could make the car’s information system even more useful. Again, Apple could be the big disruptor that brings the auto industry into a century in which information and personalized media become a key part of the auto traveling experience.

The third industry Apple could turn upside down is the watch industry. For centuries, watches have been–for a lack of a better term–dumb watches. Only in the last 30 years have they gotten smarter, with the introduction of things like calculator watches and more recently, chronographs and satellite watches tied to the atomic clock.

But Apple has stumbled onto something interesting with the iPod Nano. Many people have started to use it as a watch. And a whole side industry has popped up that is creating watchbands for iPod Nanos. I don’t believe Apple ever dreamed of the Nano as a watch, but it has become a happy new application for the company’s tiny touchscreen iPod.

(MORE: Apple Tweaks ‘Nano’ and ‘Touch’ iPods, Lowers Starting Prices)

Apple could do some very interesting things to the Nano with a few simple tweaks. What if they put a Bluetooth radio inside and allowed it to become an extension of my iPhone? I normally carry my iPhone in my pocket, so when an alert comes up I have to pull it out to see it. But what if that alert showed up on my Nano watch? Or what if they added a Siri Interface and tied the Nano display to the iPhone? I could just ask my watch to show me the last message or e-mail I received through iMessage and it would pop up on the Nano’s screen.

With voice feedback, Apple could perhaps tie it to the iPhone’s GPS and, when walking, tell a person to turn right or head north to get to the coffee shop you just asked Siri about. Of course, they could put a Wi-Fi radio into the Nano as well, and let it get a direct link to internet data when connected. But it would make more sense for it to use a Bluetooth connection and tie the Nano to the iPhone’s 3G radio so that it would be connected all the time. If Apple used the Nano to mirror some of the functionality of my iPhone in a watch format, the company could potentially redefine the role of the watch.

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