JOBS SPEAKS: WHAT'S NEXT FOR APPLE
(FORTUNE Magazine) – "THERE'S JUST ONE MORE THING," SAYS Steve Jobs, as he does near the end of most Apple product launches. The phrase delights the Mac faithful in the audience in San Jose because they have come to believe that something wonderful, perhaps even magical, is about to be introduced into their lives. There was the iPod, of course, which now owns 75% of the mobile-music-player market, and the iTunes online music store, which now accounts for 84% of all legal sales of downloaded digital music. There have also been triumphant advances in nuts-and-bolts technology--from built-in wireless Internet to optical drives that record CDs and DVDs. No wonder "one more thing" often induces panic, and then a copying frenzy, among Apple's rivals from Seoul to Shanghai to Seattle.
Apple may be just a minor player in the computer and consumer electronics industries in terms of revenue ($14 billion in fiscal 2005) and market share (less than 5% worldwide), but it is now undeniably setting the pace for both of those industries in terms of hardware, software, and industrial design. Jobs' latest surprises, announced in mid-October, include thin, flat-panel computers with built-in video cameras and one-button video teleconferencing to connect as many as four people, and pocket-sized video iPods with the largest color screens in their class.
But the "one more thing" that is sure to have both rivals and consumers in a tizzy is the ability to buy, download, and play not just music videos but also current and past episodes of television programs, including Desperate Housewives and Lost, two of the most popular shows on TV. (Ironically, Jobs himself has never been a fan of broadcast television.) Along with a new Apple software program called Front Row and a new remote control that gives Macintosh users the ability to control everything from digital photos to music to video on the computer screen, Apple is poised to revolutionize the downloadable video market in the same way it has revolutionized music downloads.
In an interview after his grand unveiling, Jobs hinted at what's coming: He isn't done with the mobile-phone business, despite the disappointing reaction to the iTunes phone he launched recently with Motorola and Cingular. Jobs says he's happy with Apple's part of its first telephony experiment. "There are more phones yet to roll out," he says with a sly smile, adding, "Cingular has been great to work with."
As his company moves deeper into music, video, consumer electronics, telephony, software, and services, Jobs is asked, How does he describe Apple Computer Inc. these days? He responds by picking up the new Apple remote control device and placing it against a giant, peanut-shaped remote that comes with a computer running Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition PC operating system. The Apple remote, sleek and white and smaller than an iPod, has six buttons. The Media Center PC remote is a handful, with more than 40 buttons. "Apple is a company that takes complex technology and makes it easier and simpler to use," he says, and seems satisfied with his answer. But moments later he smiles, and refines his definition: "Our goal is to stand at the intersection of technology and the humanities." In other words, Apple has many "one more things" to come.