Apple’s Next Battleground isn’t TV; it’s Web Services

Apple does hardware and software well, and it’s at the top of its game when it does them together. But when it comes to Web services, the company is a laggard, with an ever-lengthening conga line of missteps.

There are hands-down fiascos: MobileMe, Ping and Maps. And there are works in progress: Game Center, iTunes Match and iCloud. And all of them speak to a troubling deficiency that Apple just can’t seem to overcome. One that’s garnering increasingly more public scrutiny. One that, at its worst — say with the disastrous Maps debacle — shows up the company that prides itself on building the “magical and revolutionary” as fallible.

So, as the 2013 Apple rumor mill ramps up, and the prognosticators wonder whether the company’s product pipeline includes a television, a watch, or both, consider this: While Apple could likely use another disruptive innovation on which to build its continued success, what it really needs — crucially — is to do Web services well.