The battle for home digital entertainment supremacy may well boil down to a contest between Apple and Sony, but “truly reinventing the consumer electronics market may require a combination of their approaches,” Erick Schonfeld writes in his latest
“Future Boy” column
for Business 2.0.
As Apple CEO Steve Jobs has repeatedly said, the company believes Macs will serve as a “hub” that serves as a central control unit for a plethora of digital devices, such as MP3 players, digital cameras, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). This makes sense as Apple ” excels in combining software, hardware, and industrial design to create elegant products that make digital entertainment seem fun — instead of daunting,” Schonfeld says. He uses the iPod as a shining example.
On the other hand, Sony is a “master at creating cool hardware interfaces that require buttons, dials, and pleasing physical forms,” but not so hot at building user-friendly software interfaces, Schonfeld says. But their vision of controlling digital entertainment is different than Apple’s — Schonfeld cites Sony’s plans to create “intelligent” devices that can exchange info wirelessly through Bluetooth, WiFi, and embedded IP addresses.
Schonfeld imagines Apple extending its own digital hub philosophy into other “iAnything” endeavors. “Some of them could be produced by Apple and some by other electronics companies, but if they’re cool enough, it’s not hard to imagine people buying Apple computers merely for the devices those computers let you use,” Schonfeld says. “At least, that’s what Apple hopes.”
However, he finds some faults with both companies’ approaches. Apple’s small marketshare in personal computers, and Sony’s user interface and decentralized non-computer based approach. Schonfeld thinks Apple and Sony’s approaches should be combined. His solution? Having each device acting as its own hub with the mini-network resembling a peer-to-peer environment. Put together digital components that can act as a hard drive, a screen, a powerful processor, and an input device, then what you’ve actually built is a personal computer, he says.
To read the column in its entirety, vote in an online survey pitting Apple against Sony and Microsoft, or see the voting results go to the Business 2.0 “Future Boy” site.