I've been thinking recently about Apple's position in the consumer market and I realized just how close Apple are to creating Bill Gate's vision of a digital home. They are 2/3 products short of a viable claim to the home.
Firstly lets look at what they have in place at this time. The iMac is an aesthetically pleasing piece of technology that will look well in any office or bedroom. I'm going to ignore the functionality of the software installed on the device because OSX certainly has some shortcomings but lets assume for a moment that the software is at a level to compete with Microsoft Office etc. On the iMac you can have your music, pictures, video and documents all managed by the ilife and iWorks suites.
That's all good on one machine but no internet isn't much use so we turn to the AirPort Extreme Base Station. This will give you wired and wireless network access along with the ability to share a USB printer or USB hard drive which can be plugged into the unit. But what if your rooms do not have the room or the look to take an iMac. Well that's OK because the AirPort Express can be plugged into a wall socket and will extend your wireless network. All you need to do is plug in a set of speakers and you can stream your music to this room too. But what good that's if you have to go to the room with the iMac to play and change songs? Well you don't. Buy an iPod Touch or iPhone and you can download the Apple Remote app. This gives you control of any iTunes library on your wireless network so you can play, stop and change any song you want from the comfort of any room.
Want something more impressive well if you have a Widescreen television with enhanced or high definition then you can add the Apple TV. From this little white box you can access and play your music, video, TV Shows, films or pictures stored on any iTunes directly on your TV over the wireless network. Even better you can access the iTunes store and buy a new film etc anytime you wish.
To round it all off lets just add Time Capsule to back up your Macs to so you don't lose any of your files and photos and a Macbook to allow you to work or surf the Internet from where ever you're sitting. This, my friends, is the Apple home and if price isn't an issue it's a pretty impressive situation.
Now the missing pieces. We need a photo frame in order for us to display our images for visitors to see without having to switch on the television. Connecting over wireless the minimal white or black look could be very impressive and non-obtrusive. Secondly we need a silent media server along the lines of Windows Home Server offering much the same functionality and being cross platform. Thirdly and finally a partnership with Sega or Nintendo where Apple could get a foot into the computer game/media machine market. While the Apple TV is nice it can't compete with the Xbox 360 0r the Playstation 3. If Apple could add these three devices to it's portfolio then it would only be the price that would be in their way. Apple is high end and the people who could afford this vision would have to have a lot of disposable income. The main point is however that Apple have brought themselves within touching distance of Bill Gate's vision to have the digital home leaving Microsoft with the less exciting but more lucrative digital office.