Cupertino (CA) - Apple’s Wi-Fi business was launched two years before the iPod, with the introduction of the Airport base station in 1999. Although it is generally perceived as an insignificant market for Apple, the latest market share figures rank Apple fourth in the U.S. Wi-Fi retail sales. Analysts are beginning to recognize Apple’s position in this space, suggesting that the Wi-Fi product category could become Apple’s fourth main business pillar.
Apple’s growing market share in the desktop and notebook market have been widely reported, but we are now learning that the company’s share in the 801.11n WiFi base station market is even higher. NPD analyst Stephen Baker told AppleInsider that Apple claimed 10.6% of the segment terms of unit volume last month, adding that Apple’s revenue and profit share on sales of the routers are even higher. Apparently, Apple is now in position four in overall 802.11n base station sales. Cisco-Linksys, D-Link and Netgear lead the ranking. Baker recently told Macworld that Time Capsule has emerged as the most popular Network Attached Storage device, with AirPort Extreme becoming the top-selling router in U.S. retail in April.
According to the analyst, Apple’s retail and online stores are driving the sales of AirPorts. "This stuff is just flying off the shelf in the Apple stores. They don’t get nearly enough credit for the value proposition that the stores bring," Baker told Macworld. Sales of Apple’s Wi-Fi products may actually contribute to Apple’s bottom line more than anybody thought possible, with AppleInsider suggesting that "base station sales suggest that Apple’s ’fourth leg’ behind its Mac, iPod and iTunes business, and the iPhone is not the emerging Apple TV but rather AirPort."
Apple’s wireless strategy appears to be also focusing on the emerging WiMax and Ultra-wideband standards. As the Senior RF System Engineer job post reveals, Apple is looking for an expert specifically experienced with WiMax, Ultra-Wideband (UWB), GPS, 3G, Bluetooth and Mobile TV technologies. The company may be especially interested in media delivery capabilities and if the "Mobile TV" requirement is any indication, we are looking towards iTunes movie rentals and purchases beamed over WiMax to Apple TV, computers, iPhone and other WiMax equipped devices.
At least, we now know that Apple is working on bringing WiMax into its range of products. "The Senior Wireless system Engineer will be responsible for designing/integrating Apple wireless products, and exploring new wireless technologies. He/she will work in a technology group on next generation wireless communications products as well as the integration of wireless technology within Apple products," the job description says.