Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm.

10 new industries Apple could go into (but probably won’t)

Many speculate that Apple will eventually start making TVs: It’s a not-too-crazy extension of several Apple products, including the Apple TV software platform, the big-screen iMac, and the iTunes app and media stores.

Apple doesn’t frequently enter new markets, but when it does, it’s usually one that’s adjacent to something it already does. For example: It went into phones after it was good at making portable media players, and it went into advertising after it had millions of people using its apps on a daily basis.

For fun, I ran through ten new potential industries that Apple could enter, ranging widely in probability:

  Industry Why Apple would Why Apple wouldn’t
Larry David Producing original movies or TV shows With exclusive access to a few key series or films, Apple’s TV gadgets and iTunes store could get a boost and stronger lock-in. Hits-driven business outside of Apple’s competency, there are probably easier and cheaper ways to sell devices, with higher ROI.
Apple XServe RAID Servers Apple makes the best consumer computers, why not make the best servers? Already tried, didn’t really work. Servers are a cheap commodity with high failure rates, not a luxury good.
Aluminum chair Furniture Don’t you think that Jony Ive could design a nicer chair than the one you’re sitting on? Distraction to core gadget business, infrequent consumer purchases, annoying logistics shipping huge, heavy boxes.
iOS search Web search Huge market. Apple users generate millions (billions?) of search queries per day. Why help Google strengthen its lead? Huge undertaking. Would have to build a better search engine than Google, which is unlikely. Monetizing through ads is not an Apple strength.
iPod Hi-Fi Home audio equipment A logical extension of iPhone and iPod brand. People want to buy speaker docks to use at home, work, etc. Apple tried this before (iPod Hi-Fi) and failed. Others doing a much better job.
Blank check Venture capital Apple has billions of cash. Why not invest into startups and make it more billions? High-touch industry, not ideal for secretive, hands-off companies. Better for Apple to invest in VC firms or partner, like it did for iFund.
Wireless/broadband service The carriers have bad taste and often lousy service. Apple could potentially offer a better experience and add recurring revenue to the mix. Channel conflict that could hurt sales during battle with Android. Huge costs. Better to speed up their dumb-pipe transformation.
Assembly line Manufacturing Apple outsources manufacturing for almost everything. With demand increasing, could Apple do a better job if it were in charge? As an American company, may not have as easy a time operating in Asia as local companies like Foxconn. Outsourcing has usually done the job.
The Bobs Management consulting Apple has built a phenomenal organization, and others would probably pay a lot to learn its secrets. Why would Apple — one of the most secretive companies ever — want to share its hard-learned secrets? Consultants stink!
Sashimi Sushi bars The perfect dining experience, inside or next door to the Apple store. The equivalent of IKEA meatball shop. Lousy business. Even tougher supply chain to crack. Harder to convince Americans to eat raw fish than to dump Windows.

Also: What’s on my iPhone?