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Apple Expected To Target Digital Home

Forrester Research expects Apple to focus on the Mac, a home server, a universal music controller, a network-enabled "clock radio" and digital photo frame, and a more capable Apple TV.

Apple over the next five years will focus much of its resources on becoming the supplier of hardware, software, and installation services for delivering digital entertainment to every room in a home, a market research firm predicted Thursday.

Forrester Research, the latest analyst firm to stare into the crystal ball to predict the next moves of the secretive Apple, believes the company by 2013 will reinvent itself as a digital home provider, building its offerings around several key products: the Macintosh computer, a home server, a universal music controller, a network-enabled "clock radio" and digital photo frame, and a more capable Apple TV. In addition to products, Apple will provide in-home services to help consumers deal with the technical complexity of a networked home.

In making its forecast, Forrester used Apple's recent product history as a guide. While the company has been highly successful in the mobile market with the iPod media player and iPhone smartphone, Apple is unlikely to become a full-fledged media company or an "end-to-end mobile device company," Forrester said. Apple does not show any interest in launching an entertainment production company or in purchasing a mobile operator or leasing bandwidth on a major carrier's network.

Instead, Apple will continue to do what it does best, which is make innovative hardware and software for the higher end of the consumer market, Forrester said.

In terms of products, Apple's Macintosh computers will evolve into the focal point for activities like editing video, managing music, downloading and purchasing content, editing and sharing photos, and accessing Internet and communication activities. "One, or more likely several, Macs will find their way into these Apple digital homes," Forrester said.

The "hub" of an Apple-powered digital home will be a server. The computer will be the center of the network, sharing and streaming video, music, and photos throughout the home, Forrester said. But don't expect Apple to use the word server like Microsoft does in its Windows Home Server. The company is more likely to use a naming strategy much like it did in choosing "Time Capsule" for network attached storage backup within Leopard, the latest version of the Mac OS X operating system.

To help people control media while walking about the home, Apple will offer the "AppleSound" universal music controller, Forrester predicts. With its access to the Apple home server product, the device would act as a handy control for networked music and video players. It would also be a standalone iPod and have a touch-screen interface.

For new end devices in the home network, Apple will offer digital photo frames with high-definition touch screens. These devices would show video or photos streaming from home computers and play music through high-quality speakers, Forrester said. The frames, along with Apple clock radio-like devices, would go in any room in the home and be controlled by the AppleSound device.

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