Apple Can Learn Some Lessons From Sony

In most markets it competes in, Apple easily defeats all others. In the mobile space, for example, the company's iPhone 4 and iPad 2, are easily besting all others in total sales, due mainly to their strong features.

However, there is one space that Apple is lagging far behind: the living room. Currently, the company is trying to cement itself in the living room with the help of the Apple TV, a set-top box that, for years, has been called a hobby by Apple itself.

[Image credit: Takayuki Nakagawa]

Last year, Apple unveiled a new version of the Apple TV that it said, shed the hobby tag. That device, which features a small, black design, offers only streaming. So, if folks want to watch a Netflix film, they'll need to stream it. The same can be said for music, photo viewing, and the other features the device offers.

While the Apple TV initially caught on with consumers, it has lost some of its market appeal as devices elsewhere in the industry have stolen attention away. Now, not even Apple is discussing the future of the device, making some wonder if it has one.

As an Apple TV owner, I know first-hand just how much of a disappointment the Apple TV has been. Even worse, I know first-hand just how much of a disappointment Apple has been in the living room. I've long believed that it was a space that Apple could capitalize heavily on, and yet so far, it hasn't done so.

Realizing that, I think I have a plan for Apple that it should consider: examine what Sony is doing in the living room.

The way I see it, Sony is one of the most capable companies in the industry when it comes to offering value to consumers in the living room. The company offers a range of products, including televisions and home-theater systems, that folks around the globe buy without thinking twice. And in some cases, those products have received high marks from critics.

Plus, all that fails to mention the company's PlayStation 3. That console, while trailing the Wii and Xbox 360 in sales, is arguably the most capable device anyone can have in the living room. It allows users to play video games, stream multimedia content, surf the Web, and watch Blu-ray films. And it does so at a price — $249 — that consumers looking for an all-in-one product would be happy to pay.

Apple, on the other hand, has been content to just offer a single set-top box that most would agree, is quite underpowered. And at $99, the Apple TV is somewhat expensive, considering all that the PlayStation 3 offers for $150 more.

Why Apple has allowed companies like Sony to dominate the living room without even responding on its own is anyone's guess. Perhaps it's content to stick with the mobile space. Or perhaps it doesn't see any value in the living room. In either case, it's wrong. And over the long-term, those thoughts could come back to haunt Apple.

So, maybe it's time the iPhone maker starts to think twice about the living room. It might not be the cash cow that smartphones and tablets are, but it could eventually be. And the best way for Apple to capitalize on that would be to look at Sony — a company that excels in the living room — and find inspiration.

Yes, believe it or not, Apple needs some inspiration.