My colleague Jay Yarow reports that Apple could be developing a car.
Something is definitely happening with Apple on the automotive/transportation front. Apple has established itself in the rapidly evolving vehicle infotainment-connectivity space with CarPlay, a technology that Apple debuted in — wait for it — a Ferrari.
There have been reports that Apple is hiring car people and creating some sort of secret car lab.
So let’s speculate that Apple is, indeed, creating a car.
Would it not be a terribly sexy set of wheels, a luxurious Apple take on a hot machine?
It should be.
Apple is full of guys who dig cars and may want to reinvent them. Guys on the Apple board, guys who design Apple’s products — Jony Ive, Marc Newson — guys who run the business. These guys love hot cars: Ferraris, Aston Martins, Porsches, Bentleys. They want to design and build awesome cars that blow your mind!
I can’t tell you how many people like this who the auto industry has chewed up and spit out over the past 100 years.
Heck, the whole idea of creating in Tesla a brand-new shiny car company with revolutionary ideals nearly ended in tears for CEO Elon Musk, back in 2008. Everyone who wants to reinvent the industry comes at it from the point of view of a teenager who had a Ferrari or Porsche poster on his (almost always his) bedroom wall.
But the reality of the business is that while Ferrari, for example, makes wonderful cars and also tons of money, it’s a minuscule part of the global market. Just as Apple wants to sell millions and millions of iPhones and iPads, carmakers want to sell millions and millions of cars. And not hot cars, but boring cars: mass-market sedans, workhorse pickup trucks, and versatile SUVs.
I doubt that Cook and Ive and all the Apple guys with their Porsches and Ferraris want to grow up just so they can create an electric Toyota Corolla.
But they may have to!
Designer Newson — who has been working with Apple and is pals with Ive — has done some transportation design in the past. This is his vision for a jet:
Not really a hot jet. But if Apple did create a jet, it would probably look something this: a flying piece of art.
So would Apple create a car, the classic sense, or a very artful rolling technology platform?
I think the latter.
Why? Because there is a Google Car. I think it’s a real car and a huge threat to the auto industry.
It is 100% not hot, however.
This is the actual car of the future: small and driverless and something that Apple’s car lovers can appreciate at an intellectual level but would very much not like to drive. Or be driven in. It’s actually more of a node in a futuristic mobility system that treats your physical location as something to be overcome with very complex maps and extremely powerful artificial intelligence.
Apple is already way behind Google on the self-driving front and this looming revolution in mobility.
Meanwhile, there’s something called the “Open Automotive Alliance,” a consortium of major automotive companies and tech companies, but one tech company in particular.
You guessed it: Google.
The OAA’s goal is to support the advancement of the Android operating system in vehicles.
Android! Not CarPlay!
While I think that Google is truly a carmaker, others insist that the Google Car is really just a platform to extend self-driving technologies and Android-based applications.
So if Apple is building a car, my guess is that it’s to catch up with Google and catch up fast — not to disrupt the auto industry with a radically innovative product, along the lines of the iPhone, or to challenge Tesla.
The car-as-tech-platform, made-in-Silicon-Valley “cars” of the future suggests a whole new theory about getting around. Apple may very well want to be part of that evolution. And that could be why it’s hiring auto people.
And who knows, maybe they will create something hot. But I doubt it.
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