The Next Big Thing

We’ve now had the iPad a few months and people are already asking, “What’s next?” While the rumors of a touchscreen iMac make me giggle, I don’t give them much stock. Apple is not in the habit of releasing products simply because they can. Everything is part of the big story. I was reminded of this when Steve introduced the iPad and spent so much time talking about exactly where it fits in the product line.

After the iPhone was released, we knew in our guts a tablet was coming and had our fun speculating when it would arrive and how it would work. There is no obvious next big thing now. Some may argue the next big thing is a fresh crack at the AppleTV. While that may be in the works, I don’t see it as the next big thing.

Indeed, I don’t think the next big thing is hardware related at all. Apple’s next big move needs to be the cloud. They have now loaded our bags and homes with Apple devices. They need to come up with a way to glue them together. That glue is cloud-based content.

While Apple has toyed with cloud storage and synchronization, they haven’t really taken the problem on. Times are changing though. Storage and bandwidth are increasingly available and inexpensive. The general population is becoming more comfortable with cloud based data storage. The corker is that Apple is now less willing to sit back and let Google control online data storage and synchronization.

Granted Google is ahead of Apple, it not as far ahead as some may think. The Google lifestyle is, currently, the domain of geeks. The Google online interfaces feel clunky and cryptic to mere mortals. Google has no experience delivering products to consumers and it shows.

In short, the time is right for Apple to step in. Apple’s genius is its ability to take an existing technology and make it stupid easy for everyone. Forget about anyone reading this blog. I’m talking about people who don’t even know what the term “cloud storage” means. The other 95%.

Apple’s next big thing needs to be a dead simple online storage solution. Something where all of your iTunes media, documents, pictures, and data exist in the cloud. A solution that allows you to go into the Apple store, buy an iPad, log into the Apple servers and have all of your data. Implementation will be so easy that typical users will not even realize exactly what is going on. They’ll just know it works.

Apple already has most of the pieces to make this work. They can build a user friendly interface. They can deliver it to the masses. The only missing piece is the ability to push the data. MobileMe certainly hasn’t proven this ability. There is a lot of talk about mystery server farms that may be the missing piece.

I have no idea what Steve will announce tomorrow but if Apple is going to stay in this game, the next big thing needs to be in the cloud.