And the fourth industry Apple could possibly impact is the appliance industry. In 1997, I gave a speech at the Agenda Conference where I envisioned a refrigerator of the future that would have a screen on it and would be connected to the internet. I suggested that it would have a bar code reader on it and that as I put items in the fridge, it would automatically put them in inventory. As I took items out and did not return them to the fridge, it would automatically put them on a shopping list on the screen. I even suggested that if I called up a recipe from the internet, it would be smart enough to see what the ingredients were and pop them onto the shopping list. And if programmed properly, it could even order items from Safeway.com—and all of it would be on my doorstep when I came home from work.
Of course, today we do have a couple of refrigerators with screens on them connected to the internet, but that is all they are–internet terminals.
If Apple applied their iOS software to appliances and married it to iCloud, they could turn pretty much any screen integrated into things like refrigerators, ovens or even cabinets into application-specific smart screens. They could all have access to the internet and iOS apps, which could be tailored for their integrated locations. For example, what if I had an iOS screen embedded into the mirror in my bathroom? As I get ready in the morning, it could be programed to fetch weather reports, updated news items and info related to my commute. It could read out my daily appointment schedules and search my iCloud account for anything I want, including music, podcasts or YouTube videos as I prepare for the day. You get the idea.
I have no doubt that we will have many screens in our home and as part of our digital lifestyles, and if Apple can unify them behind iOS, its apps and its iCloud ecosystem, it could have quite an impact on the appliance industry of the future. And believe me, the appliance industry is interested. Besides embedding a screen on a refrigerator, they have also added internet connections to ovens, microwaves, lighting systems, air conditioning systems and heating systems to try and make them smart devices connected to an internet ecosystem. But today, most of them are acting as dumb terminals. For them to reach their potential, they need to have an operating system that is tied to a broader ecosystem that could deliver even greater functionality through connectivity; and Apple’s iOS, apps and iCloud could play an important role in helping this industry deliver smart homes and smart appliances.
Keep in mind that all of this could happen because Apple has created a fundamentally unified platform—one that’s tied to an operating system, apps and the cloud eco system. It’s consistent across screens but it can also be made to be application-specific depending on what a particular screen’s use might be. So it’s not too far of a stretch to see how Apple’s platform, when applied to a TV, automobile, watch or appliance could give those objects a digital intelligence.
I suppose if we think hard enough we could probably come up with some other industries Apple could impact with this platform. But I believe that the TV, auto, watch and appliance industries could be next on Apple’s disruption agenda.
Tim Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.