They don’t do things for money, Apple. If we are to believe both their top executive and the chief designer, the world’s richest company only get into areas where an improved design can improve people’s lives. The money follows.
News came this week that Apple is working on a car. This should blow all our minds. They are totally out of their league – but they had never made a phone either, and look how that went. So I’ll assume most people think it is scuttlebutt. However, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal, which rarely prints Apple rumours that do not come true.
Until that happened, I wasn’t really believing this story. But now, I am prepared to run a bit wild with the idea – so I have made a brief case for why it could be plausible.
Apple only wants in if it can fix a problem. iPods because you can’t carry 100 CDs. Smartphones because feature phones could not handle the internet. iPads because books and newspapers and placemats were all boring.
Each solution starts and ends these solutions with good design.
So, are cars fatally flawed? Well, they sure need help. Fundamental help. Why are we still using combustion engines that still demand regular refuelling of unsustainable fuels shipped from Saudi Arabia?
Design. Italians used to own the space but nowadays a Ferrari has countless dials and baffling dashboard options. Aston Martins are even outclassing them.
Environmentally, cars are a curse – even hybrids – so an improvement on an eco level would bring benefits for the planet. And since Tim replaced Steve (well, you know) Apple has taken seriously its responsibility to tread lightly on the earth, spending more than $AU1Billion on a solar farm.
Financially, cars remain as popular as televisions or phones. Some people even have two. The margins have tightened but still no American brand is thriving. Even after massive bailouts of Detroit the Japanese are the only ones making hay.
But why bother? A few thoughts.
Control. Apple likes being in your pocket – a smartphone is a gateway drug. Before you know it you’re in the App Store snorting all kinds of apps and music you didn’t know existed. So if Apple built your car, it has a new ecosystem to control. And like the unrealised dreams of CarPlay, you can sync all number of devices in your car, and the tech in the dash – think Tesla not Toyota – would all be streamlined.
When cars are eventually self-driven, where will you suddenly have hours of more free time? In-car ApplePay sounds sweet to me.
Batteries – Apple don’t make them but have helped increase demand for reduced sizes and drive down the cost. This experience sets them up for improving car battery life. I don’t think they’d run recharge stations but they could control how they are built and how they operate, creating a seamless experience.
Elon Musk is known to have talked to Apple early on, he clearly thinks different. But they didn’t employ him. Why? Then he releases all his patents, one major hurdle for Apple-size players eager to take part.
So the electric car industry is new, growing, has a strong future, few competitors and the hurdles are lower than ever.
Can they make money? It’s not about that. But would it look amazing and would everyone want one and would it work beautifully and work with all your tech? Yes.
Then again, I could be wrong and maybe they will just buy Tesla.