Investors have watched in delight over the years as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) unveiled new iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and, of course, iCloud to tie them all together.
But what about a new category that even more effectively hits home? Your home, to be exact.
If a Financial Times report from Monday afternoon proves accurate, Apple will use its upcoming Worldwide Developers' Conference to unveil a software platform to turn its iDevices into a remote control for smart homes.
Then again, FT also notes the move isn't exactly a surprise considering Apple outlined such a platform in a patent filing last November. And the pressure was already on after Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) (NASDAQ: GOOG ) spent $3.2 billion to acquire home automation specialist Nest Labs -- which is best known for its smart thermostats -- while Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF ) officially launched its own Smart Home service in the U.S. and Korea early last month.
You likely already own your iHome remote
The report specifically names the iPhone as Apple's primary smart home remote of choice, which makes sense as it would enable tens of millions of consumers who already carry their iPhones to remotely control dozens of aspects of their dwelling places. Think stuff like opening garage doors or turning on lights upon your arrival or even remotely preheating the oven as you're reaching for that frozen pizza at the store.
Moreover, it's not even all that significant a leap from today's tech. Heck, even now if I leave home the night before garbage day, location-based alerts on my iPhone automatically remind me to drag the cans out to the street the moment our car pulls back into the driveway.
There's also no reason to believe Apple's other mobile products couldn't enter the iHome fray. While I don't generally carry my iPad everywhere I go, for example, it's generally within reach in the living room or kitchen. And its larger display would lend itself well to controlling a home entertainment or security system. That's also not to mention the increasing possibility Apple will introduce an iWatch at its conference next month, which could stand to even further simplify home automation tasks.
Another key to Apple's iHome success
But Apple also knows the iHome isn't a done deal yet. So what does it need to do to win the smart home race?
Look no further than the third-party device makers with which Apple is currently chatting. They'll have an opportunity to certify their respective products for Apple's new platform. Of utmost importance will be both who these third-party developers are and the speed at which they can work to bring their iHome-compatible products to stores. Of course, ease of use for developers will come into play, but I shouldn't think that'll be too much of a problem given Apple's near-fanatic focus on usability.
At the same time, I'll admit this is just as important to achieving widespread adoption for everyone in the market. For example, while Samsung's initial Smart Home service launch focuses on Samsung's own connected appliances and electronics, the South Korean conglomerate has already insisted it intends to expand its smart home service's reach to other amiable brands.
Meanwhile, Google maintains a more device-agnostic view given its built-in advantage with the existing widespread adoption of its Android OS. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week, Google even revealed both it "and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities." To Apple's and Samsung's credit, however, it remains to be seen how consumers will react to Google's expanded ad-centric notion of our connected future.
But who knows? Maybe there's room for everyone to win a piece of the impending smart home market. If one thing is sure, it's that smart homes are on the way, and you can bet we'll be watching closely for the best way for you to profit.
Speaking of Apple's next smart device...
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