Apple is hunting for the next big thing — or things.
Years after the individual successes of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Apple is still reportedly working on several more revolutionary products that change the way we live.
While only one of these technologies is truly "mobile," they all have the propensity to change the way we live, work, play, and travel.
These are the three groundbreaking products we're expecting to see from Apple over the next decade.
A virtual reality or augmented reality product
Over the last year or so, Apple has been dropping hints that it's interested in building some kind of virtual or augmented reality product — either a headset, or software, or both.
Virtual reality is when you can only see and hear what's in a virtual world (thanks to goggles, headphones, and other tech you wear on your body); augmented reality is when you can see and hear the real world around you but you can see digital, 3D elements layered on top of your field of view.
It's unclear which technology Apple is more interested in, but the company's been making moves in both spheres. Just last week, Apple reportedly hired a prominent virtual reality researcher who taught at Virginia Tech. In November, Apple acquired a computer vision startup that helped produce some of the visual effects in the last "Star Wars" film.
But Apple has also been making moves around augmented reality as well. Last May, Apple acquired an augmented reality company called Metaio, which built mobile augmented reality applications that let you, for example, see what it's like to have different pieces of Ikea furniture in your home. And last year, Apple hired one of the enginering leads on Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset.
Apple could use AR and VR for so many different things: It could help Apple Store customers experience new products before buying them, or Apple could simply be working on AR or VR apps that would work on iPhones or iPads.
An electric car
Last February, The Wall Street Journal was first to report on Apple's plans to build an electric car.
Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer.comSince then, we've learned a lot about "Project Titan," Apple's internal name for its electric car project. We learned that hundreds of people have been working on this project for more than a year, with lots of recruiting from within the automotive industry, from companies like Ford and Mercedes. One Bloomberg report last year mentioned that Apple was making highly competitive job offers to Tesla engineers, which in turn attracted over 50 former Tesla employees to "Project Titan."
The first-generation Apple Car, which could ship as soon as 2019, still faces plenty of obstacles. Apple might be building its own self-driving technology, but that won't be easy: Vans registered to Apple were spotted on the road last year decked out with high-tech camera rigs, but it's unclear if that technology is part of an unrelated experiment, or if it's to help Apple's electric car efforts. Still, as Tesla, Google and other companies are quickly learning, it's really hard to build a truly autonomous vehicle that doesn't need human intervention.
Also, Apple last week lost the leader of this secretive car project, Steve Zadesky, who'd previously worked at Ford and helped Apple build the iPod and iPhone, according to The Wall Street Journal. There might be internal turmoil surrounding the project, as the same report also said Apple's car team "has encountered some problems in laying out clear goals for the project... Apple has urged the team to push ahead with ambitious deadlines even though some on the team felt that those targets weren't attainable."
We still don't know what Apple has in mind for its car, but reports say Apple wants to make a high-end, sustainable car that doesn't use gas or emit pollutants. We also expect it to be pretty high tech, which might explain why Apple's so interested in augmented and virtual reality: Augmented reality could potentially project information right on the car's windshield so passengers can learn more real-time information about the car, and virtual reality could let prospective customers see what it's like to drive an Apple Car without ever needing to visit a dealership or an Apple Store.
A live TV service
Apple founder Steve Jobs once told The New York Times that if he had more energy, he would've liked to build an Apple Car. But shortly before his death, he also told his biographer that he wanted to revolutionize the television set.
AppleLast October, Apple released its latest Apple TV, which featured a new user interface, a new touch-sensitive remote control powered by Siri, a new App Store for TV apps, and even the ability to play games.
But the new Apple TV lacked one feature everyone wanted: live TV.
For years, reports said Apple was working on a way to deliver live TV to the Apple TV via the internet. And, as Jobs promised, it would "have the simplest user interface you could imagine."
Unfortunately, the discussions around introducing this solution have stalled. For years, Apple has been in talks with networks like 21st Century Fox, Disney and CBS to license those companies' programming, but these talks continue to fall through. Just last week, ESPN president John Skipper told The Wall Street Journal that Apple's "been frustrated" by these discussions.
According to reports, Apple's live TV offering would initially offer over a dozen channels and cost $30 to $40 a month. But it sounds like Apple will continue tweaking this plan until cable companies and networks agree to license their programming. It sounds like an extremely difficult task, to try and persuade cable companies to let Apple disrupt the status quo of TV-watching habits, but Apple did it once before with the music industry and the iTunes Store. Now that more people are cutting the cord on cable and watching more TV over the internet, it's possible Apple's live TV effort could have the same global impact on the way we consume live TV once that product is finally available.