Will Apple miss the next big thing?

Will Apple be smart enough to capitalise on the next big opportunity in personal computing – turning the smart phone into the CPU for computing anywhere?

I remember back to the time when there was a huge debate about “convergence” – the big question about whether consumers would accept one multi-functional mobile device (the Swiss Army Knife approach) or would want a series of specialized devices such as a phone, camera, GPS. MP3 player and so on. The iPhone settled that debate completely with hardware and software (apps) which cater for just about every need. It now seems incredible that anyone even argued the point.

Well, we are fast approaching a re-run of that debate. Why have a computer and a smartphone when you could use a phone as your CPU, operating system and file store and simply link via Bluetooth to a screen, keyboard and mouse? Any why not make that screen your TV?

Apple is actually very well placed to make this move. It is already converging its operating systems – OS X looks increasingly like IOS especially after Mountain Lion. And they produce a superb range of Bluetooth-enabled peripherals and brilliant screens.

But this is a big leap for a company which makes so much money from computer hardware – $6.3bn in the last quarter of 2011. Risking that is a big bet for any company, let alone one that is riding the wave with its iconic highly designed and desirable computers.

If not Apple, then maybe Android? Already there have been Android phones launched with full versions of Ubuntu Linux loaded on them.  And Android’s makers Google doesn’t have a hardware business to cannibalise. In fact, it would make massive sense for Google to back a move like this – it is trying to push an alternative to Microsoft’s Office Suite (Google Apps) and what better Trojan Horse than consumers determined to carry their computing device with them wherever they go?

Even Microsoft may be better placed to capitalise on this trend than Apple. Microsoft doesn’t actually make computers (although their OEM partners clearly do) so although there would be much painful disruption if Windows 8 became the operating system on choice on the mobile portable computing device of the future, the company could but only profit in the long run.

I may be wrong, but I bet we will see this trend play out; it remains to be seen who will ride the wave.

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