Apple has already radically altered a few different markets in its time. The company changed the way music is sold and distributed, for instance, and few could argue that Apple was not the driving force behind the smartphone market as it is today.

The company, under Steve Jobs’ leadership, also completely changed the netbook market by completely killing it off with the iPad. Apple not only changes existing markets, but it creates whole new ones. Now, every major tech force is trying to jump onto the iPad bandwagon, and with limited success.

Apple logo metallica

But where will Apple set its laser-like focus next? With Steve Jobs no-longer around to steer the ship, what will Apple do next? We all know the company will not be content to simply churn out new iPhones and iPads each year while refreshing its Mac lines every 18 months or so. Apple needs a challenge, but what will it be?

All the smart money these days appears to be on Apple entering the television game, with rumors suggesting we could see an Apple branded television with a built-in Apple TV sooner rather than later. It’s a rumor that has been doing the rounds for over three years now, and one that we all assumed was a joke. Now it appears the joke may turn into reality.

Whether an Apple television is a good idea for the company or not, we’re not really sure. But what if all the rumors are wrong? What if Apple’s next big thing is not television at all, but rather something completely different?

What would that look like?

The thing is, if Apple is going to change the world again, then we’ll probably not be able to guess where. The most recent thing to come out of Apple is textbook publishing for its iBooks platform, and the Apple exec. team seem super stoked about it. That in itself could change the way kids learn, and while it may not grab the headlines for those of us that haven’t been to school in a while, digital textbooks have the potential to be a game-changer.

Those of us old enough to remember Jobs coming back to Apple in the late 90s will also remember that he culled much of the company’s products, deeming them to be causing confusion and taking attention away from what is important. If Apple deems it necessary to enter another big market, it runs the risk of falling into the same hole once again.

Apple’s current portfolio includes a smartphone, a tablet, a music store, a video store, a TV set-top box, a range of desktop Macs and a range of portable ones. Throw in iBooks and that’s a lot of plates to keep spinning at once. Does Apple need another one to add to its collection?

I would argue not, though the lure of more money will always be a strong one to resist for Apple. We all know how the people in Cupertino like to stockpile it!

AppleProducts 2011

Of course, Apple could always kill the Mac for once and for all, giving it precious resources to move elsewhere. But that brings us back to the original question I set out with at the beginning of this post.

What will Apple do next?

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