(Story updated to include Apple iPhone 4 information from WWDC 2010.)
NEW YORK (
) -- On Monday,
introduced the world to the
, which features video chat capabilities, a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and a 3-axis gyro. There were also other upgrades that current iPhone users were asking for -- longer battery life, HD video capture and an improved screen.
But despite these welcome refreshes and the media frenzy that surrounded the company's annual
, there seemed to be little about the iPhone 4 that made it seem as truly magical as Jobs wanted it to be. In fact, there's been some grumbling that the tech giant and its CEO are running low on innovation.
Apple shares seem to always lose ground during one of Jobs' keynote presentations, and Monday proved to be no exception as shares fell 2%. But in the aftermath of the launch of
, which some detractors have called a bigger iPhone without the phone, the stock slid 8% from its all-time high of $272.42, which it reached on April 26.
The lackluster response from investors may be telling Apple that they want to know where the next revolution -- and revenue stream -- will come from. Sure, consumers will continue to snatch up iPads and will no doubt queue up in lines outside of Apple and
retail shops on the June 24 launch of the iPhone 4, but investors want to see Apple demonstrate what it's best known for: innovation.
Apple has already done a terrific job carving out its niche in the entertainment space: Its iPod and iTunes platforms revolutionized the way people listen to music, and the iPhone is still the de facto leader in the handset space.
With $40 billion in the bank, no debt and
or buybacks, Apple can put money to work on research and development.
said in February that the company needs to do something "big and bold" with its cash in the bank, which offers security to take risks.
For a company that has said it wants to own the entertainment experience in the living room, Apple still has a long way to go.
Read on for the top five products we're still waiting for Apple to tackle in its quest to become the leading innovator of the entertainment experience.
If Apple truly wants to dominate the home entertainment experience, it needs to address the centerpiece of most living rooms: the television.
An Apple-made high-definition TV set doesn't require a lot of imagination; Apple already offers a
for $1,799, as well as a smaller 24" LED display for $899. An Apple HDTV could be competitively priced at $2,000 for a model bigger than 30" potentially.
Of course, Apple evangelists will eagerly open their wallets for an Apple-branded HDTV. As for skeptics, they could be sold on Internet connectivity that syncs up with iTunes libraries on other home computers, allowing for streaming of music and video and the ability to buy or rent media through the iTunes store.
In March, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said he anticipates a $2,000 Internet- and content-connected
to be launched in the next two to four years.
Munster hypothesized that Apple could deliver a premium all-in-one service with an iTunes TV subscription plan, priced between $50 and $90 a month, allowing Apple HDTV users to ditch their cable or satellite service.
In addition to iTunes pairing, our wish list includes digital-video recorder (DVR) capability and Blu-Ray support -- even though Apple has repeatedly said it has no plans to include the technology in its products.
Apple All-In-One Set-Top Box
Even Jobs didn't sound too enthusiastic about
when he admitted that the idea was a "hobby." Apple TV was a great but poorly executed idea: It offers the ability to stream TV shows and movies, music and photos, but the wish list of features far outweighs what the device actually does.
Apple can't win them all, right?
Thankfully, not all hope is lost with the Apple TV. In order to be a true media center, the device simply needs a few tweaks.
One of the simplest remedies would be to marry the Apple TV to the Mac Mini computer. Internet message boards are littered with stories of Mac Mini users who have connected the small computer to their HDTV for access to more media content (such as Hulu and
streaming), a Web browser, DVD playback and other features.
We'd like to see Apple TV taken a step further, with Blu-Ray support, DVR capability, increased hard drive space and cable/satellite set-top box functionality, similar to what
manufacture for cable operators.
Apple Video Game Console
Apple has thoroughly embraced the image of a mobile gaming pioneer with its TV commercials for the iPod Touch, where the device is dubbed the "funnest iPod ever" amid a series of clips of games being played through touch and movement sensors. With a bevy of games available for download in its App Store, Apple has helped proliferate mobile gaming beyond
DS handheld gaming systems.
In addition, the new iPhone 4 now includes a 3-axis gyro, which improves the devices gaming abilities beyond what the accelerometer alone could accomplish in the iPhone 3GS.
That success raises a question: Why hasn't Apple produced its own home gaming console? The truth is that Apple already has. The
was designed by Apple and brought to market by Bandai in 1995, only to become a major flop.
Because of that failure, Apple is probably not too anxious to re-enter the market, although it would offer a new opportunity to go toe-to-toe with one of its biggest rivals:
and the Xbox 360.
Rather than running software off a DVD or Blu-Ray disc like the Wii, Playstation and Xbox, Apple could offer games through an online App Store, similar to the way developers distribute their creations on the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad.
Fan boys' hearts have long been set aflutter by the dream of Apple-created video-game hardware running Mac or iPhone/iPad software. Apple uses accelerometers in its handheld devices to measure movement and positioning, so we'd be curious to see how Apple would revolutionize the home-gaming experience, especially considering the success of the Wii's waggle-like controls.
Recall that rumors circulated in mid-2009 that Apple was considering a buyout of game maker
, although it's hard to imagine Apple in control of the Madden NFL and Sims franchises.
Apple Digital Camera
Nearly every device in Apple's product line-up comes with a built-in camera. Although the quality each affords can't match that of a Canon or Nikon, Apple could certainly find a niche in the crowded market.
Given that the company revolutionized the way consumers consume music and video at home and on the go, it seems natural that Apple would take a stab at photography and video recording. Then again, it already has.
Back in 1994, the company ventured into the world of digital cameras with the QuickTake, which took photos at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and retailed for more than $599. The QuickTake would eventually go the way of the Apple Lisa computer -- the camera was discontinued in 1997.
Apple is clearly excited about photo technology, as evident with its Mac iPhoto program, which offers geo-tagging, facial recognition and syncing to Facebook. Apple also incorporated an enhanced version of the program onto the iPad, despite the device's lack of a built-in camera.
Earlier this week, Jobs touted the ability to record HD video on the new iPhone 4. The company also introduced iMovie for mobile devices, allowing users to edit HD video directly on their iPhone 4 and then post it to the Internet.
For a new Apple digital camera, we'd like to see a touch-screen display that uses the same gestures the iPhone and iPad use. An embedded GPS chip would geo-tag photos, and built-in facial recognition would aid in photo taking. Apple could also sync up faces with its Address Book program and offer direct uploads to Facebook through a wireless Internet connection.
And naturally, we'd like to see the camera take better quality photos than even the new 5-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4. We're thinking more in the range of 10-megapixels, please.
Apple In-Dash Automobile System
While Apple has focused on the living room, what about the entertainment experience in the automobile?
In 2007, Steve Jobs reportedly talked with the head of Volkswagen about a possible
, which sparked the wild imaginations of Apple fans.
We're hesitant to wish for a full-blown iCar, though. Apple may know how to design an accelerometer, but we're not sure the company wants to wade into the world of accelerators, given
What we want to see is an Apple-designed dashboard interface, installed by OEMs, with a large touch-screen, GPS-enabled mapping and the ability to sync an iPhone so we can talk, hands free, while driving.
The wish list could be expanded to include other features, like a
option that could be powered via an iPhone-like menu. We'd also like to see a hard drive with the ability to store MP3 files and movies, which would be viewed in the back seat (for driver safety, of course).
Apple also knows a thing or two about routers, so it'd be interesting to see the company incorporate its AirPort technology to create wireless Internet access in the car.
Simple car functions could be controlled through an Apple interface, too, such as A/C and heat, defrosters, and a way to measure gas mileage and fuel efficiency.
-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston
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