Ap­ple Car

Gary Mar­shall goes pan­ning in the river of ru­mour for nuggets of knowl­edge

Mac Format - - ISPY -

On the face of it, an Ap­ple car is a bizarre idea. What does Ap­ple know about en­gines, and driv­e­trains, and brak­ing sys­tems? Ap­ple may have dropped the ‘Com­puter’ bit of its name, but ev­ery­thing it makes is a com­puter. It makes a com­puter that plays mu­sic. A com­puter that makes phone calls. A com­puter that fits on your wrist. A car is many things, but it isn’t a com­puter. Or is it? If you think of a car as a com­puter with wheels, the idea isn’t so bizarre af­ter all. Elec­tric cars aren’t about oily bits and spark plugs. They’re all about com­put­ers, and bat­ter­ies, and in­no­va­tive, light­weight con­struc­tion, and those are all things that Ap­ple is pretty good at. It might not have much ex­per­tise in mak­ing driv­e­trains or re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing sys­tems, but it can hire (and has hired) peo­ple who do. Wit­ness the on­go­ing poach­ing of Tesla em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing Tesla’s top re­cruiter. That’s a pretty big hint about what Ap­ple’s up to.

Why Ap­ple? Ap­ple isn’t a car com­pany, but it’s packed with car peo­ple. Jonathan Ive is a car nut who orig­i­nally wanted to be a car designer, and his friend and re­cent Ap­ple hire Marc New­son has de­signed cars such as the Ford 021C con­cept. One of Steve Jobs’ am­bi­tions was to take on Detroit with an Ap­ple ve­hi­cle. Eddy Cue is on the board of Fer­rari.

Why now? Partly it’s the tech – a Tesla wasn’t pos­si­ble a decade ago – and partly it’s the size of the op­por­tu­nity. By 2020, when the Ap­ple Car is ru­moured to launch, elec­tric cars could be sell­ing 7.5 mil­lion units per year. Add in con­nected cars (pre­dicted to hit 250 mil­lion units by 2020) and China’s fast-grow­ing luxury car mar­ket and there’s a lot of money to be made. Rather than mar­ket share, ex­pect Ap­ple to go where the money is.

An Ap­ple Car wouldn’t just be a car. Think of it as one of the few re­main­ing places where de­vices don’t have our at­ten­tion. The smarter our cars get and the less we have to do, the more apps we might want to mess around with. That’s an aw­ful lot of iTunes streams, Ap­ple Maps users, HomeKit con­nec­tions… CarPlay is a step to­wards that, but adop­tion de­pends on the whims of car firms. Ap­ple doesn’t like to de­pend on other com­pa­nies’ de­ci­sions.

Car mak­ers say it’s a bad idea –that the car busi­ness is tough and Ap­ple would be out of its depth. There’s no way Ap­ple could walk into this mar­ket and be­come a big player. We’re get­ting déjà vu. Phone mak­ers said that too.

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