The Future Apple Home

Apple, at it’s core (Ha!), sells a very simple concept.  If you buy into the Apple Eco-System, everything will work.  Of course, there are other benefits to the Apple Eco-System.  There’s the sleek interoperability provided by this “Just Work” environment along with the general sleekness that comes will all Apple products.  It still seems as though Apple are falling a little short.  If I am to give over to the Apple way, I’d like some more benefits.  If I’m living the Apple Life, I want to be Living The Apple Life.  So just what do I expect from this Apple Life?

Apple Home of the Future

My Network

In my mind a home network is less about connectivity and more about availability.  The devices I can and can’t connect to is rather irrelevant, I just want to know what information I can access.  In my home of the future, I’d really like to be taken a level above the simple networking we have now.  When I turn on any machine connected to my network, I want to be able to seamlessly access my music, videos, photos, bookmarks and documents.  I don’t want to worry about searching for these things.  They should just be there.  And my network shouldn’t be bound by physical constraints.  If I’m in Starbucks, on my laptop, I want easy, secure and fast access to all my stuff.

To be fair to Apple, they currently do the best job of making networking simple.  Plug in a network cable to a computer running OSX and it will be aware of the network and connect to it, regardless of protocols or other boring technical things. Recent .mac features, like Back To My Mac, are heading in the right direction.

In My Living Room

The Apple TV is a really interesting concept.  The idea of having a box that very easily gets all the content from your computer and displays it through your TV should be a winner.  But it’s not, and the Apple TV isn’t doing to well.  There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is the availability of alternatives that do more for less.  Features like those found in the Location Free TV are really tempting, and there are others out there.  This is a feature missing from Apple TV, and it could be hurting it.  What’s strange is that the infrastructure is already there, iTunes provides a conduit through which content can be delivered, at the moment it’s a one-way street.  I’ll cover this in a moment.

What’s more important is the availability of my content on devices that aren’t traditionally connected to computers.  I want my videos on my TV and my music on my Hi-Fi.  The Apple TV already covers the TV and the Airport Express will do the Hi-Fi.  But neither are as elegant as they should be.  For example, I still have to use a computer to control iTunes for the Airport Express to work and I can’t download content directly to either.  Which seems a major oversight.  I’d also like both to be capable of pulling content directly from a disk connected to my network, with no fussing about with codecs or formats.  I want it all to just work.

In My Home Office

The Home Office is a key market for Apple.  While large organisations can by shy of anything other than Windows XP, home offices have a fair greater amount of Apple Machines.  When people are free to choose, more people choose Macs.  So obviously, I want my home Mac to interoperate seemlessly with my work PC.  Apple are part way there, but how about an abstraction layer than allows for Windows apps to run within OSX?

So now I’ve got seamless integration, what’s next?  Well, most people who buy Macs buy laptops, to obviously I’ll have a laptop.  All my content will be available to my laptop everywhere I go through wireless internet or, if none is available, a super-fast data connection (think 3g but faster and available everywhere).  When I get home, I’ll slide my laptop into its’ dock where I can utilise a full keyboard, mouse and touchscreen.  And waiting for me when I get back to my office are the documents I sent to print while I was out of the house.  Handy.

In My Pocket

We will all, of course, be rocking iPhones in the future.  With the superfast, always on connection that comes with the future iPhone, it will need very little storage and will effectively be a “slim” device.  If I want to watch a movie, I can stream it over the air from my giant storage disk back in my house.  I don’t need to carry it all around with me.  The beauty of this always connected world is that I don’t have to sync or transfer anything.  If I buy something from iTunes, it’s immediately available to all my devices, if I’ve been working on a document at home, it’s available to my iPhone, my Calendar is always up to date, and so are my contacts.  Extending on the idea in the “My Home” section, the new iPhone will allow me to watch any content that’s available to my home network, including full access to my satellite box, pink-ray player and PVR.

This go-anywhere, do-anything device is “passively smart“.  It knows where I am and can provide directions, or allow me to retrace my steps.  I can automatically add my location to text messages, emails, websites.  If I meet someone new, it automatically gets their contact information and adds it to a pending list for later assessment.  if I’m in their house, I can tell the device that and it will know their address.  If i walk into a shop, it gets added to my personal history, along with it’s location, website and contact details.

The information sharing concepts may sound frightening, so would have to be strictly and tightly controlled through privacy options.  In practice, you could put the iPhone into a “Discovery & Share” mode, which would allow this free exchange of information with other users.  The best scenario for this type of facility would be your average meeting.  You switch your iPhone into this mode, and when you leave the meeting you have the contact details, along with photos, of everyone in the room.

Is this view of the future a dream or a nightmare?  What are your predictions for the next decade of Apple products?

Photo by sbntwrk