Apple’s Trojan Horse

Apple's Trojan HorseHere is an excerpt from an article written by Grant McCracken for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Last week, Apple’s Tim Cook made fleeting reference to “new product categories.” Bloomberg West called it “tantalizing.”

There are a couple of candidates in Apple’s “big thing” category. One is an iWatch, but I think the one to monitor is the other, Apple TV.

The current Apple TV, as it stands, is a set top box that enables an end-run around the cable companies and lets us pipe movies and TV into our living rooms. But an Apple-produced television has the potential to be so much more.

As I’ve written in my previous two blog posts, our first inclination is usually to play down the potential impact of a new technology. It’s the safe and emotionally comforting thing to do. But we should be more future-sighted. Let’s imagine, for instance, how Apple TV could change the world.

The new Apple TV will have the form factor of TV but its real and revolutionary purpose will be telecommuting so good it’s going to feel like teleportation. The Apple TV will whisk us to work, to school, to conferences, to the city, to Second Life, to our memory palace and virtual library, to shared worlds like Eve and Halo. The Apple TV will be a portal to worlds now accessible only by planes, trains and automobiles. Apple TV will turn our offices and living rooms into portals.

This Apple TV will give us signal from which virtually all noise has been extracted, a “retina display” with so much pixel density that we are no longer feel we’re taking transmissions from a distant planet, and, probably, another species. We won’t believe our eyes and ears.

The consequences will be something to behold. So let’s behold them. At a minimum, this Apple TV could change education, hospitality, work, and travel. It may even change the city. Now that we’re done, or nearly done, disintermediating old media like the newspaper, and supply chains like the book store, it’s time to solve that vexing problem of having to get ourselves from one place to another. It’s expensive, time consuming, fraught with inefficiencies, and punctured by indignities we put up with because we have no choice. (Have you flown lately?) The moment we do have a choice, it’s good bye to all that.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

McCracken, GrantGrant McCracken is a research affiliate at MIT and the author of Chief Culture Officer. His most recent book is Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas. To check out his HBR articles, please click here.

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