The future of Apple in CI

posted on Wednesday, 21st September 2011 by Jane Scotland



Apple's Future in the Custom Install market


Unbelievably, the first iPod was launched 10 years ago, in October 2001. Custom installers have been looking for ways to incorporate Apple devices into installations ever since.


It started with iPod docks in a myriad of shapes and sizes, progressed to the Apple TV and reached its zenith with iPad becoming a fixture in Crestron, Control4, AMX and other CI installs. Savant has gone further; its entire system is based on adapting Apple's technology for CI. 


CES (admittedly a more consumer oriented show) now has whole halls purely dedicated to iPod and iPad accessories. And CES is a show where Apple never exhibits; the company even turned its back on the controlled, cultish environment of MAC World.


The appeal of Apple products to consumers is obvious. The billions that the brand spends on R&D results in products that have an indefinable, yet utterly compelling appeal, combined with technology that's easy to use. For mass market products they aren't cheap, and amazingly for consumer electronics, never discounted. It also briefly made Apple the most valuable company on the planet.


For CIs, Apple is more problematic. The first issue is that Apple reset the entire consumer expectation of how a touch screen should behave. How many times have you seen a user try and enlarge the display on an in-wall panel using two fingers?  All of a sudden all our £3000 touch screens looked a bit dated and worse, poor value. Integrators responded in the only way they could, by incorporating iPads into projects. This then created the second issue, the cannibalisation of nice profitable touch screens with zero margin iPads. Even worse, CIs then had a support headache. iPad won't connect to the wireless network? App accidently deleted?  Won't start? Great, no margin and more calls!


Control4 showed its new wireless touch panel at CEDIA last week. Its point is that once you added the cost of the app to an iPad then it isn't quite so cheap. By using a dedicated panel, other CI specific features can be included such as door entry and intercom.


So what is the future for Apple in the Custom Install market?  

The first point is that Apple isn't remotely interested. This is something that can't be ignored. Apple produces products for the mass market and changes, adapts and drops those that don't work. The best example was the Apple TV V1, a great install product, but not something that Apple regarded as core. It was dropped and replaced with the Apple TV V2, which was cheaper, but no longer had any storage. The iPad changed shape earlier this year, and dock manufacturers will have to factor in yet more re-tooling costs for the iPhone 5. To put it bluntly, this is something we have to deal with, Apple simply isn't interested.  


Any company staking their future on Apple has to be very mindful of the risks. Apple has and will make bold moves to maintain its market position. Products will be dropped or radically changed, sometimes at very short notice.  

There is an upside to all this. By making whole categories of products better and cheaper, Apple enables CIs to offer better solutions to their customers at lower price points. However much money a client has to spend, most are looking for exceptional value. Apple products provide the means to do just that.


Jane Scotland (Director of Extra Vegetables)

Jane Scotland

Jane Scotland has worked in the CI industry since 2003 , Janes writing has featured in many CI publications

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