What it is: Apple acquires other companies and that tells you the direction of future products.
If you want to know the future of Apple, watch the companies that Apple acquires. Way back when Apple needed a new operating system, they looked at BeOS and NeXT. They chose NeXT which evolved into OS X (macOS), which also spawned iOS and all other variations including watchOS and tvOS.
When Apple acquired PA Semi, they were looking to create custom ARM processors. Anyone can buy and use ARM processors but Apple needed expertise in customizing ARM processors, which is why Apple’s ARM processors (A11) currently blows away all competing ARM processor designs from Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
When Apple was designing the touch screen interface for the iPhone and iPad, they acquired a company called FingerWorks, which specialized in user interface interaction using fingers. Later when Apple created the voice assistant called Siri, they acquired the company that pioneered voice recognition technology. When Apple needed a secure way to authenticate users, they acquired Authentec for TouchID. Later Apple acquired PrimeSense, the makers of Kinect, to produce FaceID that authenticates users through facial recognition.
Apple acquired Beats for both its audio hardware and its music streaming service. That’s because iTunes, which relied on digital downloads, was falling behind as people were abandoning digital downloads for streaming content, just like they had earlier abandoned tape cassettes and CDs in favor of digital audio files.
Apple’s latest acquisitions include Turi and Lattice Data, which focuses on artificial intelligence. Apple already plans to create its own artificial intelligence custom processor called the Neural Engine. The idea is that instead of sending data to servers through the Internet, the Neural Engine can process artificial intelligence data directly on the user’s device. This speeds up interaction while maintaining privacy. The Neural Engine combines Apple’s expertise in processor design (from PA Semi) with their latest artificial intelligence acquisitions (Turi and Lattice Data).
Of course, Apple also acquired a host of augmented reality companies a few years back and that’s appeared as ARKit on iOS. To go along with facial recognition (PrimeSense), Apple also acquired a company called Emotient, which can detect emotions using facial recognition technology.
The future points to increased artificial intelligence on Apple devices along with different ways of interacting with computers beyond keyboards and touch screens. (Hint: Think of wearable computers like the Apple Watch and Air Pods, not to mention health products like a glucose monitor and improved sensors on the Apple Watch.)
It’s easy to track Apple’s future by studying the companies they acquire. It’s also easy to track other company’s future by seeing how closely they mimic Apple (Google, Samsung, Microsoft, etc.). The more closely they mimic Apple, the more likely they’ll succeed in the future.