Updated: Aug 21, 2020
You and your two kids, ages eight and twelve, enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park and head straight to Galaxy’s Edge. (The kids have been begging for a trip to Disney World since they started watching The Mandalorian, now in its fifth season, on Apple+.) Your two kiddies are on the hunt for Baby Yoda, a character exclusive to Apple’s Star Wars AR app. If they manage to find him — a manageable task made even easier for your twelve year old who owns a limited-edition Baby Yoda Apple watch — new content is unlocked for the kids, including a selection of Star Wars character voices for Siri, and you are alerted to special on-premises discounts at the park and access to an advance screening of the next Star Wars or Marvel film of your choice at any Apple theater (previously AMC).
The above is a tiny taste of what could be on the menu if Apple purchased Disney, a long rumored possibility that bubbled to the surface earlier this spring following Disney’s stock dive due to economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Given the recent announcement that Apple has become the first US company to reach a $2 trillion valuation, doubling its valuation in just two years, the company has the financial strength to make such a purchase.) Global calamity introduces deep uncertainty about every aspect of the present, which inevitably leads to wild speculation about the future; so, improbabilities aside, let’s speculate: What would happen if Apple ate the Mouse and swallowed AMC as well?
Apple has thrived while others have withered.
The benefits of brand loyalty, even in the most depressed economy, become clear to everyone except those who have staked their reputations on engineering-optimization being the singular panacea for all marketing woes. Apple still has an abundance of cash. Hardware sales are good but not great. The recession has been severe and its aftershocks will be felt for some time. For the remainder of the decade, early adoption will be a definitive status symbol for the elite as people upgrade phones, servers, monitors, tablets, and computers less often. App purchases and Apple Pay transactions have seen a sharp decline, and this trend shows no signs of abating. Apple’s lack of stable, recurring revenue streams is taking its toll.
But a merger with Disney, which had been in the works since late 2020 following a complete collapse of its market share due to Disney Parks falling victim to the same forces that decimated much of the travel industry, is set to be finalized.
May 13th, 2021 (6:03pm PDT)
Apple eats Disney and moves to Florida.
After four months of preparations, Apple’s hostile takeover of Disney is complete via a whopping $140 billion cash buy (plus remittance of debt and sealed buy-outs of lucky C-Suite folks and Disney family members with Key Man provisions).
Lower tax revenue from COVID-19 combined with constitutionally required expenditures drowns California in oceans of unpayable municipal bonds. CA is forced to raise taxes on businesses and watches as companies leave in droves to Nevada and Texas. Apple, on the other hand, leverages its purchase of Disney to pull off a complex tax inversion and moves both the Disney and Apple HQs from California to Florida. Conservative elites hail the move as vindication of the movement’s pro-business, low-tax ideology; the liberal press questions the move due to Florida’s lack of cultural cachet as well as its dearth of first-rate engineers and designers.
But the move is actually one of the most elaborate long-term PR plays ever undertaken, as confidential polling done by third-party research firms shows that average consumers, surveyed across five continents, feel the move makes Apple/Disney “better” for the common person.
Further alterations enable Apple to better embody the diverse values of the US as opposed to the narrowly defined interests of Silicon Valley.
One Infinity Loop in Cupertino is labeled TECH NORTH
Former Disney HQ in Curbank is renamed MEDIA WEST
Disney’s vast ABC/ESPN holdings in NYC and CT are renamed TV EAST
Florida HQ is named HQ SOUTH. The massive complex under construction is 350% larger and more audacious than One Infinity Loop.
The vaccine rollout begins, and the AMC buyout is completed.
Weeks before the wider dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has proven safe and effective in early trials among high-risk groups, Apple buys AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. (AMC) on the 101st anniversary of its founding. The bittersweet day is made even more acrid by the purchase price: $1.88 per stock — a shocking 1/11th of what the company was worth just two and half years prior.
Instead of new tech, Apple highlights variants and benefits.
Apple’s return to CES in 2020, after a 28-year absence, set the stage for 2022.
Apple uses CES to announce a series of non-technical announcements, which incenses Apple fanboys and tech journalists alike.
The company unveils a cornucopia of licensed Disney products available only through Apple and Apple-licensed products: Avengers iPhone, Baby Yoda Apple watch, Disney-licensed Siri voices, soundtracks pre-loaded on all Apple Products, free Disney+ subscription for one year with the purchase of new Apple product, etc.
Apple promotes Giant Moth and backbenches hardware.
Apple invests heavily in hyping the Disney-owned National Geographic show Giant Moth, about a giant moth colony in Madagascar, which has proven wildly popular in South East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. This coincides with the release of Disney+ in those markets and explodes Disney+ subscriptions to nearly 180 million households by year’s end.
Rabid fans travel to Madagascar and nearly wipe the species off the planet trying to nab collectables and take selfies. The onslaught of people overwhelms local resources, creating an ecological and PR nightmare, reminiscent of California’s crush of Super Bloom seekers in 2019. To preserve their cash cow, Apple donates $600 million to a moth preserve. None of the funds are used to address the concerns of the local human population, which trades one PR disaster for another.
An employee at a Hon Hai Precision Industry iPhone plant in China hacks three of her bosses to death with a machete in protest, as the donation represents 120,000 years of annual wages for the workers assembling the phones. In combination with the Biden Administration’s reassertion of the importance of human rights in the face of China’s abuses, the isolationist tendencies still percolating on both sides of the American political divide, and increasing tensions in the South China Sea, the “Apple Hackathon” (as it is morbidly referred to by uglier elements in the Twitterverse) marks the end of Apple envisioning itself first and foremost as a hardware manufacturer for consumer devices.
Hardware sales become secondary as Apple realizes that recurring revenue from streaming is far more stable than episodic device sales. Disney’s margin on nostalgic content is nearly infinite, yet the ceiling on luxury-hardware margins may be soon approaching. Apple/Disney’s focus turns to vigorously defending their stable revenue streams.
Apple’s multi-year effort to meld Disney’s creative spirit with Apple’s left-of-center ingenuity takes tangible form.
Disney Parks are now, in essence, experiential Apple parks. Exclusive AR experiences are available using Apple hardware. Social media experiential films are encouraged with special features on location.
Anyone using Apple Pay receives a 15% discount for all theme park purchases: park gates, hotels, merchandise, food, etc. These expenses add up quickly, and the 15% discount is significant enough to tabulate into saving thousands of dollars for a five-day vacation for a family of four. It forces non-Apple households to buy Apple products simply to access the discount, and it incentivizes non-adherent Apple households to sign into their payment system.
Apple Pay is omnipresent for billions of users. The tiny fractional fees that Apple accrues on every purchase add up — Apple Pay now accounts for over a quarter of all Apple revenue. If Apple Pay were spun off to its own entity, it would be the third largest bank on Earth, just eclipsing Bank of America in both market cap and revenue.
Apple/Disney is now the definitive lifestyle brand.
Tim Cook announces his retirement
Becoming increasingly frustrated with the company’s media-centricity, Tim Cook announces he will step down as Apple’s CEO in January 2028. During the multi-year vetting process for the Apple throne, none of the logical heirs (Katherine Adams, Sabih Khan, Bob Chapek) emerge as clear favorites. Tim Cook dies tragically in a plane crash in late 2026, giving rise to the Apple CEO Curse and adding one more data point to the QAnon conspiracy. The board eventually appoints venture financier Riddhi Nadkarni as CEO.
Disney+ pulls people in; Apple goes to the movies.
Disney-owned ABC, Hulu and ESPN are merged with the failing AMC App and Apple TV into one gargantuan addressable TV audience with nearly 1 billion daily advertising consumers. Additionally, Disney’s 250 million Disney+ households across the globe are now a captured Apple audience.
AMC is reinvigorated under Apple as the movie-going experience once again becomes a communal event — albeit a more exclusive one — now that COVID-19 has receded.
AMCs become destination locations: Apple closes 75% of current AMC locations and re-imagines remaining theaters as Apple/Disney hybrids (part huge Apple store and part tiny Disney Park). Under the moniker Apple World, these remaining locations (24–60 locations across the US) are mini-resorts for family day trips that provide movies, speciality foods and merchandise, immersive 3-D rides, and expanded Apple stores with increased repair capability and classrooms. It's destination retail on a scale never seen before.
For the first time ever, iPhone sales drop.
Apple’s C-Suite, still struggling with the nuts and bolts of managing a media company, subjects Disney to an increasing array of agile software development processes.
Reversing their stance taken less than three years prior, Disney begins a five-year plan to severely curtail all third-party licenses as Apple begins building a line of high-end Adaptive Neurofunctional collectables. 2025 marks a completely new revenue stream when third-party Disney licenses are sold to the highest bidder via proprietary Dutch Auctions. Hype abounds, and, afraid to lose out, third parties pay more for rights to the second Silver Surfer film than television networks pay for MLB.
Disney Parks and AMCs become testbeds for R&D.
New equipment and new ideas are exposed to huge, diverse global audiences. People are monitored passively for their responses to physical products, interfaces, calls-to-action, ads, etc.
Returning to its roots, and coinciding with the start of the fall semester, Apple launches Apple Ed.
Consumer spending on devices continues to decrease. Apple’s response is the launch of Apple Ed. The face of the company’s foray into education is, of course, a wizened Yoda.
Phase one is utilitarian yet comprehensive: the soft launch of a remote learning system that ties content creators to educational consumers, utilizing the best aspects of YouTube, Zearn, Google Classroom and other resources that were leveraged at scale during and immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phase two is more ambitious: Apple begins its first large scale neurofunctional trials with disabled children who could not be mainstreamed and have always relied on tutors or remote learning.
The first device is iBall, which allows disabled children to play soccer with other children in synchronous remote locations. (Dr. Deborah Shear from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research spearheads the project. Some of her work leads to contracts with the VA to help replace the limbs of veterans with neuro-cognitive arms and legs — a vast improvement on standard brain-computer limbs. She leaves Apple to form Membrum, backed by Peter Thiel.)
The merging of data creates a no-tracking, yet all-knowing, environment.
Data across properties and products are integrated (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, ABC are merged with AppleTV, Apple music, beats music, etc.), yet Apple’s long-standing commitment to safeguarding customer privacy assuages consumers.
Apple embraces a cookie-less pro-consumer privacy stance. The company promises not to track consumers (primarily because the value of tracked learnings pales in comparison to the information Apple can harness from consumers whom, in essence, never leave the platform):
Full content consumption allows Apple/Disney to accurately predict usage and emotional states. Device data gives location and physical attributions (heart rate, et al).
Apple Pay's Point of purchase data gives in-depth insight into buying patterns — even elasticity for individual price mark-ups.
All content streaming through Apple products/platforms can be merged with point-of-sale data and sold as addressable one-to-one premium advertising inventory.
The most valuable dynamic consumer research and segmentation ever envisioned is given away simply as additive to the buy.
As Facebook crumbles, becoming the “poverty platform” for 3.5 billion lower income individuals, Apple’s new massive scale of 1.6 billion higher-income users is the de facto one-stop-shop for buyers across the planet.
Apple existed for 46 years and never made money from advertising. Now, in their 48th year, Apple is the undisputed king of ad sales, out-grossing Google, Microsoft, and the failing Facebook.
Apple gets sporty.
Apple/Disney forms a new entity named “Mighty Mighties,” which purchases fifteen different sports franchises in the US, thirteen in Europe, and a whooping forty throughout MENA. This further augments ApplePay and provides new platforms to showcase the company’s experiential offerings. (In addition, it’s a powerful way to connect with local communities directly and persuade local politicians to keep regulations and taxes light.)
Apple Cloud takes shape.
Disney+, Apple, and Hulu servers are merged into one giant cloud infrastructure, creating massive efficiencies. Apple Cloud is promoted as the first carbon negative cloud service due to the various carbon capture technologies utilized at Apple’s facilities.
6G cellular networks begin to pop up. With transfer rates in excess of 400 GB per second, users can transfer the equivalent of the entire 1995 internet in one second, which puts tremendous pressure on data centers and sends Apple searching for more dynamic solutions to its power needs.
Apple, Comic-Con, and cosplay co-mingle.
Apple Release events, which have grown anti-climactic, are given new life as they now double as Disney Events. Comic-Con is now a roving device-release party, spread across the 13 weeks of Q2 in eight locations in North America.
The Gamora/Adam Warlock interactive film takes cosplay to a new level as attendees use Apple devices to engage with their urban surroundings.
Monday, December 13th, 2027, 12:01am (Google News Network)
To avoid unnecessary government oversight in the staunchly anti-tech European Union, and to appease regulators in the newly formed Latin League, Google purchases minor media company IBT. Google reconfigures IBT and merges it into the Google News Network, forming a new entity named ZIYO (a Zulu word for awareness). Much more than a stand-alone product leveraging an enhanced Google News Algorithm, ZIYO launches a few weeks before Christmas with 560 simultaneous 24-hour news networks in 242 languages across five dozen platforms. The local ZIYO networks cover specialty topics from science to celebrities and offer hyper-personalized professional-grade content to each user. The breakthrough feature of ZIYO is its news-collection capabilities: using multiple data streams, ZIYO is able to detect anomalies in weather, sporting events, financial transactions, transportation usage, purchasing behavior, educational performance and crime statistics to generate stories on its own. Hazel Hopkins, Google’s twenty-six-year-old SVP of Future Events, helms the ZIYO project. “The most exciting feature of ZIYO is its ability to free our intrepid reporters from the mundane aspects of journalism so they can investigate more serious stories. ZIYO encourages a new form of creative exploration for both journalists and citizens.” Her promise hearkens back to the erstwhile claims made by Big Tech in the 1990s, an era before Hazel was born. It is a shockingly tone-deaf promise that, like Big Tech’s earliest commitments, goes unfulfilled.
Initially anchored by a roster of hosts — some human and some artificial — consumers quickly gravitate to artificial anchors. Men over 45 prefer news reported by “Kite,” an AI teddy bear with Walter Kronkite's voice and David Letterman’s dry wit; tweens prefer a ghostly ball of light named “Zomboy” that speaks in autotuned, anglicized Twi.
ZIYO is a big win for Google and one of the few outright misses for Apple in the 2020s.
The industry makes pledges; Apple takes action.
Following Apple’s lead, a global pledge is made by all cloud providers to become carbon negative (mocked by journalists as being about twenty years too late).
To deal with the growth of 6G networks, and to maintain its industry-leading commitment to keep its server farms carbon-negative, Apple begins moving beyond the ubiquitous silicon metal-on-metal server rooms.
Apple moves 33% of its R&D budget to its Event Horizon group, an internal R&D division specializing in amalgamated tech, to create a biological storage unit. Word leaks of this enigmatical group’s “biological experiments,” a shocking, albeit wildly inaccurate, portrayal of Apple’s efforts, which generates misinformation on the right about rampant fetal experimentation and on the left about corporate-sponsored eugenics projects.
“Cyborg Chic” starts trending.
To enhance its adaptive neurofunctional product suite, Apple has invested heavily in biological data storage. It has made great strides and unveils the world’s first “living server” prototype in Viborg, Denmark. Working in conjunction with ETH Zurich, Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is the first human-generated cultural data ever encoded in a biological unit (like DNA).
This opens the door to the mainstreaming of once-fanciful transhumanist aspirations. The membrane that separates people from the cloud will grow thinner as more and more information is stored in biological server farms or directly on humans themselves.
Yet Apple will not just store your data on you, it will build an array of your data across many different Apple users and vice versa. This will be seen as a massive environmental win because server farms consume enormous amounts of energy. Using humans as storage will reduce half a trillion tons of CO2.
AppleCare is now a health insurance company.
A natural outgrowth of Apple’s pursuit of biological storage and neuro-functionality, AppleCare, once limited to the protection of glass and metal, now also concerns itself with the maintenance of flesh and blood — a weird hybrid of an insurance company and a unified networking system for interconnected Apple users.
A proprietary health and life insurance “emergent multi-modal algorithm” (EMMA) is soon constructed entirely from 7th generation machine-built code (machine learning taught by earlier code taught by earlier code and originating on John Giannandrea’s laptop in his kitchen three weeks prior).
Cameras and Silver Surfer get the 128k treatment.
Following two years of development, Apple makes a foray into Hollywood and opens a new prosumer suite of film-making equipment and software that features 128K cameras, 128K monitors, and, most importantly, multi-layered textual and geo-located data embedded into the video, which links to other video shot previously or subsequently at the same location. This represents the pinnacle of remix culture: tens of millions of users contributing to an ever-expanding multifarious map of the world, overlay upon overlay, creating a community exclusive to Apple users where time and space is fluidic. (This has the added benefit of blunting the influence of DeepFakes.)
Silver Surfer is finally released by the third-party winner of a Dutch Auction licensing agreement. It is the world’s first 128K film. The movie, while moderately successful, is the death rattle for most passive, communal “eventertainment,” as playing in live-streamed segments of other Apple-users’ lives via Apple’s evolving synthetic virtual LARP is an ascendant trend.
Bioskin servers offer the possibility of the “forever life.”
Metal server farms are being replaced by bioskin server farms, which enable a nearly forty-fold increase in information density.
Future generations of these new farms will increase density 1000 fold, allowing people to stream their lives directly to Apple servers and store them indefinitely.
Apple AI is born.
The sum total of Apple’s multi-year efforts have resulted in the creation of a passive walled garden: all devices, all content, and all locations are leveraged to enrich data.
Apple creates a quasi-independent DSP. One can now bid on the person rather than the platform. For example, Apple knows where a person is, what apps they use, and what content they watch and read and listen to — and often in what context. Beyond media consumption habits, Apple also knows what clothes said person is wearing (selfies), what food they eat (peripherals), everything they buy, every conversation they have, and even their technical abilities and propensity for career success (Apple reads the code that coders are writing). Ads are targeted to one person across all the relevant platforms: email, TV, streaming, gaming, internet, apps, experiential, AR, OOH, etc. — everything outside of search and the dying Facebook. Creative campaigns are built for one seamless experience with easier implementation, yet the campaigns are totally responsive to platform, device, time of day, etc. Based on consumption and location history, Apple AI will predict total ad slots and curate, or even create from existing assets, one story across the predetermined ad units. Ad serving, risk-assessment modules, audience segmentation, and other information-accumulation efforts are constantly enhancing Apple AI’s capabilities.
In the age of increasing privacy concerns, Apple simply avoids the conversation because it is substituting traditional tracking techniques for a merging of multiple datasets to enrich the experience. No cookies. No walled garden. No single platform story. It is precision targeting that doesn’t break a single privacy law. Combining this approach with adaptive neuro-functional tracking allows Apple to track individuals even if they no longer have any Apple products.
Apple/Disney Releases Apalla: The Sun Queen (or बिगिनिंग in Foreign Markets)
This obscure character from the Marvel Universe, who made a handful of appearances as an ally of Dr Strange during the 1970s, is the main protagonist in Marvel’s first non-English language property, Apalla: The Sun Queen, which takes place at the beginning of the Holocene period. As the Ice Age ebbs, Living Gods — led by Apalla — nurture and protect humanity from a genocidal cabal of sorcerers known as The Creators.
The Bollywood-influenced series is told in Hindi, Telugu, and even ancient Sanskrit. The production schedule is akin to a typical soap opera but on an epic scale — 1100 characters featured across 400 episodes per year — made possible by Apple AI, which decreases editing time, lowers special effect budgets, and augments script writing. Some stand-alone episodes that feature minor characters are created entirely by Apple AI. This breakthrough is lauded as the future of filmmaking and a solution to Hollywood’s financial and creative woes.
Apalla is so successful that Apple Ed incorporates many set pieces and lessons into its curriculum. Now a global entertainment phenomenon and de-facto representative for Apple Ed, Apalla inspires a female- and youth-led global campaign demanding greater access to educational opportunities for girls in areas of the world where they are denied those resources. In response, Apple partners with the United Nations to create the Girls Ed initiative, with the stated goal of providing a grade school education to every girl in the world by the year 2040. This represents the most ambitious single-company, private-public sponsorship in the UN’s history.
First half of 2031
Flagship devices fade.
Disposable devices become the norm, and more and more early adopters are going deviceless.
Because of Apple’s focus on platform development and its supporting infrastructure, as well as peripherals and biological integration, decreasing device sales have minimal effect on Apple’s trajectory.
The globe’s first $1,000,000,000,000 purchase.
Apple buys a Nigerian quantum-chip start-up for an all cash buy of $1 trillion dollars. The quantum chip is 35 million times more stable than previous attempts and presents a quintillion-fold improvement from the most advanced research of the late 20-teens. Quantum chipsets hold the promise of strikingly advanced calculations combined with low power consumption and longer device life. However, Apple will not see fulfillment on the investment for five long years as the African Resource Wars rip the planet apart. Google’s ZIYO has a coverage footprint in conflict areas and sees a tremendous uptick in viewers during the Wars.
Apple Defense Contract
Apple receives a massive 8-year $1.78 trillion defense contract to put biological data trackers into whole populations so they can be monitored. Privacy experts decry this development as the ultimate invasion of privacy. (A trollish petition begins circulating suggesting that Apple’s AMC theaters screen a double feature of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Brazil, with free admission for early adopters of the data-tracker implants.) Good governance watchdogs highlight the disturbing revelation that the RFP, decision-making process, and the disbursement of contract are all Top Secret. Congress itself — even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee — is excluded from the process because none of them has codeword clearance. When Senator Tom Cotton, Ranking Member of both the Armed Services Committee and Artificial Intelligence Committee, is excluded from the conversations, he holds a virtual press conference in his bedroom and states, “No one, and I mean no one, even knows where these meetings happened. Never mind who was in attendance — were these meetings even held in the Capital at all? For all we know this could have been a millisecond AI to AI data transfer.”
Rumors spread that Apple Cloud, which the government uses in limited capacity elsewhere, used a link array to detect and outperform the RFP metrics. Vice President Andrew Yang alludes to the possibility that humans effectively are, “out of the loop. We need to keep them in.”
Early Fall 2032
Humans as subsidiaries.
Claiming that because people house certain proprietary Apple code — as well as others’ private streams — in or on their bodies, Apple sues for the rights to people’s DNA. In effect, human bodies become DBAs for Apple’s ever-growing empire. Referencing his previous comments about the dangers of AI removing people from the chain of command, Vice President Andrew Yang states, “This is not what anyone meant by keeping humans in the loop.” While ZIYO covers the Vice President's statements, the Apple News algorithm all but ignores Yang in the final critical months of his presidential bid.
AppleCare grows its list of medical providers and facilities, forcing all Apple users to utilize Apple-approved doctors and services. In addition, all Apple medical providers must themselves use Apple AI in all aspects of their business: from billing to medical diagnosis and caregiving plans. Combined with inputs from its various initiatives (Apple Ed, streaming services, Apple Cloud, military contracts, etc.) Apple now has an unprecedented understanding of human life.
Apple owns you from cradle to grave.
Apple/Disney as Public Advocate
The inauguration of Trish Regan as President of the United States ushers in an unparalleled era of institutional decline in the Capital, with nearly every high-ranking government official openly calling for corporations to solve public policy issues. This is laissez-faire governance on a heretofore unknown scale. Apple answers the far-right’s lamentations of social decline and disconnection by developing community pods for users to interact with one another. ZIYO’s increasingly embittered news AI, Kite, calls the pods, “homeless encampments for Apple’s core constituency — losers.” The newly elected senator from Texas, billionaire Ryan Kaji, who self-funded his campaign, is one of three former kidfluencers to enter Congress this cycle.
“Think Different” reaches its zenith.
Apple endeavors to unify cooperative learning, freelance career paths, entertainment, wellness, and wish fulfillment into one neurofunctional augmented system.
It is the first phase of Apple’s attempt to replace traditional video-gaming with a pseudo-utopian LARP experience, with the attainment of happiness and spiritual fulfillment as the primary objectives. It’s positioned as Apple’s altruistic attempt to help ameliorate the suffering caused by the African Resource Wars, but, in actuality, Apple’s principal goal is to funnel most UBI payments to its platform.
Apple has become the tax collector once removed.
The world as a captured audience in a room with no doors.
Apple is now an impenetrable monopoly. Its revenues exceed the GDP of all but five countries in the world.
One possible future among many. Perhaps the aforementioned timeline is far-fetched and maybe even a tad dystopian-lite, yet it feels just as plausible as the seemingly improbable circumstances in which the planet now finds itself.
In any case, the future is coming whether we want it to or not; to imagine it is to help shape it.