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Apple Eyes Connected Home Platform

Apple will unveil a new "smart home" platform next week, an architecture that  could pose strong competition to the "Internet of Things" projects now underway at Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and othercable operators, as demonstrated in the large IoT exhibit at last month's Cable Show in Los Angeles.

The connected home software platform, expected to debut at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, would rely on hardware made by other companies, rather than Apple's normal vertical integration ecosystem, according to the Financial Times, which first broke the story. The system would likely be initially focused on controlling connected products such as  thermostats, lights and door locks as well as entertainment devices.

Since secretive Apple does not comment on - or even acknowledge - such speculation,  we'll have to wait until next week for specific details, possibly as early as the June 2 keynote.  Analysts who follow Apple expect the smart home software will integrate with the iOS operating system, which means it could be run through an iPhone, iPad or other widely available Apple wireless devices, with apps distributed via the company's App Store.  The global Developers Conference is a powerful venue in Apple's effort to recruit technology partners to adapt their systems for the smart home ecosystem.

Although it is unclear whether Apple will update its Apple TV set-top box during next week's WWDC, many analysts expect that entertainment delivery - already an Apple strength - will play a big role in the smart home environment. By plunging into the smart home market via a connected home platform approach, Apple is creating a new series of relationships with consumers' lives as well as boosting sales of existing hardware. 

At the same time Apple may believe it can stave off ventures such as those underway within the cable and broadband industry.  

Apple's smart home agenda could pose a sizeable challenges to MSOs that hope to expand their current home security and automation services into full smart home and Internet of Things features.  It is not yet known how Apple's agenda could be integrated into other systems, especially with Apple's track record of closely-integrated systems.  Moreover, the marketplace - including systems that Samsung, LG Electronics and others are developing - may create even more competition for Apple and for MSOs.

Google's recent $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest home thermostat system - and its potential extensibility into home management systems - poses yet another challenge to the Apple plan.

Critics have already voiced concern that Apple and especially Google could use the connected home capability to gather even more data about consumer behaviors, which would be funneled to their ad-serving and service provisioning operations.  That would pose yet another challenge to cable or independent smart home service providers.

in suburban Washington, D.C.