Top Wall Street analyst thinks the next big thing for Apple could be robots

Pepper humanoid emotional robot from japanAP Photo/Koji SasaharaHumanoid Robot ‘Pepper’ is displayed at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo.

Wall Street analysts have been getting excited over various Apple initiatives, from the Apple Watch to brewing hype over the company building cars

One Wall Street firm speculates CEO Tim Cook and head of design Jony Ive are likely spending time on another exciting category: robots. 

Cantor Fitzgerald analysts say robots “could be a longer-term opportunity for Apple.”

They have got a good point. Apple, after succeeding with the laptop, and personal music devices, and the smartphone, is “well positioned to leverage its heritage in the industry developing hardware and software innovations across a vast digital ecosystem.”

There are already funded players in the robot business

Like the electric car or the smart watch, home robotics has its early adopters and startups promising interactive robots for the family are raising millions of dollars.

Early hype has centered on Jibo, which raised more than $US2 million via crowdfunding campaign before taking on more than $US25 million from venture capital firms to accelerate the company’s development.  Check out their vid here:

Other competitors include Softbank’s Pepper, and Robotbase’s personal robot. While pricing structure remains somewhat fluid — Jibo’s crowdfunding campaign ultimately aims to reel in about $US550 per robot — Robotbase advertised a reduced price at its website. 

Cantor Fitzgerald’s global head of technology research, Brian White, expanded on the research a little — he notes that the amount of real estate dedicated to robotics at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month had increased.

“Everything is becoming a computer,” White said in an interview, adding, “it plays into Apple’s sweet spot.” 

The strength of Apple’s trusted brand could carry it past competitors

On a time horizon of five years or less, robots could be performing activities ranging from video conferencing and surveillance insider the home, to more sophisticated tasks like daycare and simple chores, White said.

While the integration of robots into consumers’ daily lives won’t be as rapid as smartphones, between Apple’s more ‘hands-off’ approach to personal data (see: Apple Pay) and its brand’s strength among US consumers, it may have a leg up on competition needing to establish a reputation as a brand.

Still, White acknowledges, while Apple’s Titan car is indeed in the works, “we don’t know if Apple is working on something like this.” 

Cantor has a $US160 price target on AAPL.

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