Can augmented reality give Apple the next big growth spurt?"I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone,” said the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, in an interview with the Independent last week.He added: “There are things to discover before [the] technology is good enough for the mainstream.”
That's the key point. Take as an example the moment when Apple was transformed from an interesting company to the one which had the products to make it the world's biggest. Before 2007, Apple was an exciting company. Before the year 2000 there had been moments when people feared for its survival. In 2007 it launched the iPhone, and everything looked different.
But, it was a few years earlier, at the turn of the century, that advances in technology made new things possible for Apple or so said John Scully, a former Apple CEO, in an interview with Cult of the Mac.
Scully said: "In the 1990s with Moore’s Law and other things, the homogenisation of technology, it became possible to begin to see what consumer products would look like but you couldn’t really build them. It really hasn’t been until the turn of the century that you sort of got the crossover between the cost of components, the commoditisation and the miniaturisation that you need for consumer products. The performance suddenly reached the point where you could actually build things that we can call digital consumer products."
To produce products that can change the world, the technology has to be ready first. Before then, Apple was left to fight the good fight, with varying results. Within a few years of the technology being ready, Apple became the largest company in the world.
In the last few years, however, Apple has been at some kind of hiatus. iPhone sales have either peaked or are close to doing so. iPad sales also seem to have plateaued. For the biggest company in the world to carry on growing it needs to find something else, a new wonder product. But first, the technology has to ready.
Returning to the interview with Tim Cook, in the Independent, he said "I'm excited about Augmented Reality because unlike Virtual Reality which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently. Most people don’t want to lock themselves out from the world for a long period of time and today you can’t do that because you get sick from it. With AR you can, not be engrossed in something, but have it be a part of your world, of your conversation. That has resonance.
"The smartphone is for everyone, we don't have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining. I view AR like I view the silicon here in my iPhone, it’s not a product per se, it’s a core technology. But there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream. I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that’s why I get so excited about it."
There are those who think Apple has had its day. That it has peaked. They look at how the company has been unable to find a new true killer product since the iPad, and say that from now on it will struggle to maintain its current size.
But such a critique misunderstands technology, Apple has not been able to find another iPhone or iPad because the technology isn't yet up to the task.
When the technology is ready, there is no guarantee that Apple will be the one to benefit, but that is when the test will occur.
The opportunity may lie with a car, a wearable device that transforms healthcare, education tech or maybe it will be augmented reality, perhaps tying in with education or health tech. Tim Cook seems to be telling us that augmented reality could be the one.